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Local Soap Box Derby race set for Saturday

The Owensboro Lions Club is hosting its annual local Soap Box Derby race this Saturday at the club’s track at Ben Hawes Park.

This double-elimination race consists of three classes — stock, super stock and masters and includes participants from ages 7 to 21.

Racing begins at 9 a.m. until a winner from each division is decided sometime in the afternoon.

“The winners in each of the divisions will get an automatic bid to the national championships held in Akron, Ohio,” said Josh Meyer, race director of the Owensboro Lions Club Soap Box Derby.

Meyer explained that this particular race is defined as a “local race,” meaning that the Ben Hawes track is the closest Soap Box Derby track to each participant.

“So, these races will have mostly kids from the Owensboro and Daviess County area, but we’ll occasionally get a kid from Evansville or a surrounding county,” Meyer said.

Winners in each class will receive the distinction of being the area champion going into the Akron, Ohio championship race held in mid-July.

“This is a really special event for the Owensboro Lions Club,” said Bill Cooper, president of the Owensboro Lions Club.

“It really is a family affair, and I think that’s what makes the event the most special for the club.”

Cooper said that the Soap Box Derby races tend to involve the entire family.

“Parents, grandparents, uncles, nephews and kids will all work together building the cars and practicing for the race,” Cooper said.

“And then, they’re all here, together, on the day of the race to support each other. It’s great that the Lions Club can help promote family togetherness, especially in this age.”

Cooper also stressed that the area Soap Box Derby community is a tight-knit group.

“Everyone enjoys getting together, spending time with each other and getting to know one another,” Cooper said.

Meyer said that around 25 racers have signed up for Saturday’s event which is down from previous years.

“Before the pandemic we could have 40 or 50 drivers signed up,” Meyer said. “I don’t know if it’s just taking some time for everyone to bounce back from the pandemic or if families have moved on to other commitments since the Soap Box Derby can be an investment with time and money, but we’d love to get more kids out here participating.”

Meyer said that if any family is interested in participating, the Lions Club has cars for use during open track practice sessions, which help racers gain experience running the course before competitions.

“Anyone interested can just give me a call and I’d be happy to meet them out at the track and introduce them to the Soap Box Derby,” he said.

The Lions Club also hosts rally races throughout the season at the Ben Hawes track.

“Rally races are open to kids from all over,” Meyer explained. “These races allow the kids to earn points. Those points can then qualify racers to the Akron national championships.”

Meyer said that participants from all over the country travel to the Ben Hawes track to earn points because the track is one of the best and fastest in the country.

“That’s what the drivers tell us, at least,” Meyer laughed.

Meyer said that kids from New York, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and even Washington state have traveled here to experience the Ben Hawes track.

Cooper said that the event is a fundraiser for the Owensboro Lions Club, but, more importantly, the event encourages families to get out into the community and spend time with each other.

“As a club, we love that we can promote the family time it takes to participate in the races. Those interactions are priceless,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said that the more money raised by the Lions Club, the more funds the club has to put back into the Owensboro community.

“The club helps fund the winners’ trips to Akron for nationals to help relieve some of the family’s financial burdens to the competition,” Cooper said.

Cooper said that the club is always looking for more volunteers to help at the event.

“We can always use volunteers to help on race days,” Cooper said. “We need people to help organize the racers, help with registrations, taking times and more.”

Meyer also encouraged community members to come out on Saturday to cheer on the kids and witness the excitement of the Soap Box Derby for themselves.

More information about Saturday’s races can be found on the Owensboro Lions Club’s Soap Box Derby website, www.soapboxderby.org/owensboro-lions-club.aspx.

In the event of rain on Saturday, races will be moved to Sunday, June 9.