The Soapbox Derby, sponsored by the Business Improvement District, returns for 2023 with sleeker, larger, faster car kits, organizers announced today.
The race will be at the same locations as last year -- Ellicott Street at Richmond, next to Centennial Park in Batavia -- on August 26.
Last year -- the first time a Soapbox Derby was held in Batavia in decades -- races were beset by wheels falling off and other mechanical issues.
In an effort to solve the wheel problem, organizers sought alternatives and met Mark Scuderi, president of the Greater Rochester Soap Box Derby. Scuderi has a warehouse of soapbox cars that are of the style and engineering of cars used throughout the state.
The cars are valued at $1,000 each but the BID will lease them for $100 each and they will arrive unassembled so children competitors and their families can still engage in putting the cars together.
"We did not want the cookie-cutter car that everyone just jumps in and races because this isn't about a race," said Shannon Maute, director of the BID. "It's not just about a race. It's about teaching skills. It's about bringing out the creative side and letting them have fun with their friends and their family. The kids can still be creative and still use tools and learn how to do brakes and tires and use power tools. Mark came up with a great solution. He gave us the shell of the car, so the kids will be able to decorate it however they want."
Unlike last year, there will be limits on how much customization competitors can do on the cars because the shells can't be modified.
But out of the gate -- the new electronic starting gate -- competitors will get faster cars, with brakes, and the track will go past Park Avenue with hay bales on Ellicott Avenue set up at Washington Avenue.
Chris Suozzi, VP of business development for GCEDC, said the derby will still meet the workforce development goals of exposing children to the challenge of building something. The racers get to use power tools, some for the first time, and make sure all of the pieces are installed properly.
The size of the field doubles this year, to 48 racers, with two age groups in competition -- 7 to 10 and 11 to 13.
The winners get their names inscribed on the Joseph Suozzi Memorial Plaque.
There are two opportunities to register. The first on Friday, June 2, during the Genesee County Youth Bureau Family Game Night at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena, from 5 to 7 p.m. The second registration opportunity is the next day from 10 a.m. to noon at Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles.
There is a $20 registration fee and sponsors are covering the lease cost of the cars. Sponsors include Alex's Place as lead sponsor, along with Graham Manufacturing, Western New York Concrete, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 46, along with any other sponsors that sign on to support the event.
"The BID Box Car Derby is one of my favorite events because it's for the kids," Maute said. "Seeing the smiles on their faces as they race down the street reminds me of the happiest moments of my childhood. It’s something that all of our business owners have, a memory that inspired them. So many people came out to join us last year and already want to help out this year. I think this is what we’re creating with this event, a community."
Also serving on the organizing committee are Lauren Becht, Lydia Schauf, Marian Pautler, Matt Gray, Jim Krencik, Gail Tenney, Sara Tenney, Jay Gsell, and John Roche.