Three-year-old Tommy Splinter watched with admiration as the older boys and their fathers tinkered with their race cars. He watched with particular admiration as his older brother Danny, eight, suited up to race car #27 Lockett Rocket.
And, when the opportunity availed itself, the Langley City toddler made a beeline for the empty car – leaped into the cockpit, fastened his seatbelt, and cranked the wheel back and forth – as if racing it on the track himself.
In fact, admitted his mother, young Tommy had been sitting in that same car, which was parked in the family garage – doing much the same thing – several times a day in the week leading up to race day.
He’s not yet old enough to actually race, but he’s looking forward to that day, said Mom.
On Sunday, more than 30 aspiring young race car drivers climbed behind the wheel and did careen down a side street of South Langley, in their quest for fame, glory, and a good time.
Despite menacing clouds, the weather held off long enough to let the 44th annual Family Soapbox Derby proceed this weekend. The event had to be postponed the Sunday previous due to wet roads and an imminent storm, confirmed one of the event organizers Bill Jenkins.
“The derby was completed without any rain, which pelted down shortly after the race was over and cleaned up,” he said.
There were a total of 31 boys, all between Grades 3 and 6 (roughly aged eight to 12), who participated in the racing that was organized by the Christian Service Brigade program at Langley’s Town + Field Church.
During the afternoon races, 26 homemade soapbox cars raced down a slope on 18th Avenue, just west of 200th Street.
“A bunch of the boys in our group make a soapbox car with their dads, and they get to race them,” ranger Scott Gallagher explained between rounds. Each boy, provided their car remained sound, was able to run four heats.
Lowering the flag and instructing racers when to let loose, Gallagher said he had a chance to check out each of the participating cars and was pretty impressed not only with their looks but their ability.
This year Micah Wolfe took first place in the A division, with first and second runner up going to Owen Siemens and Lucas Wasmuth.
Gabriel Cook took first place in the B division with first and second runner up going to Tobias Kadylak and Sawyer Jones.
Sawyer also took home an award for best paint job completed by a boy. And, Joshua Coulter took home an award for best designed newly constructed car.
“The derby was made possible due to the efforts of many volunteers and the goodwill of local residents,” said Jenkins, especially acknowledging the cooperation of neighbours in the area in allowing them to shut down to road for more than three hours.
“Organizers are quick to say that the best part is not the event itself,” he added, “But rather the fact that each boy spent many hours together with his father or another mentor designing, building, and painting their own car.”
Like many events throughout Langley, the derby was on hold for two years due to COVID.
Everyone, Jenkins said, was pretty excited to see the soapbox derby return.
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