Sleekly painted derby cars -- all 44 of them -- had personalities befitting their child drivers, from cheetahs and police cars to a super flash, and all in a bid to win during the second annual Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) Boxcar Derby on Ellicott Avenue Saturday.
The event has grown from last year into something that derby committee member Jim Krencik could hardly describe, he said.
“It was bigger, faster, better, any adjective you can think of. This was a huge success,” Krencik said. “We’re so excited for our 44 racers. I think the way the race was set up, the speed they went; these kids had the thrill of their lives.”
The soapbox derby-style cars came in two parts: one that resembles a surfboard, which has all the mechanicals on it, and the other part, the shell of the car itself, according to Krencik. Then, the kids assembled the vehicles “almost, kind of the same way you were fabricating something, installing the wheels and the wheel pins.”
The derby cars are “powered” by a slight slope and gravity, with the aid of “leaning forward” to give gravity a helping hand and “a bit of ducking their head down to pick up speed,” Krencik said. Each car came with a brake the children could push to slow them down, he said.
“You saw some of the kids kind of flying off the start, so you see the care that went into building them," he said. "Tightening up the vehicle really made a difference.”
Made with a type of fiberglass and hard plastic shell, the kids had about a month and a half to decorate and do what they wanted with their car, he said. Afterward, build days allowed the kids to learn how to put the cars together.
“It was great. We had so much fun,” said Shannon Maute, executive director of BID. “The kids were so cute. We had little ones, we had like three-year-olds with the power drills drilling in the wheels. It was so cute.”
Part of the idea behind using those power tools is to introduce kids to skilled trades, which can offer "hugely rewarding" careers, Krencik said.
“You see kids who are 19 years old getting into apprenticeships making 30-40-50-bucks-an-hour right out of a training program,” he said.
“Really, the kids, they don’t realize it. So if this was the thing that sparked their inspiration, they are going to have such a good life because they are going to have a step ahead of every kid who was ‘too cool’ for the trades," he said.
It was especially rewarding to see those creations representing their drivers and rolling past the finish line, Krencik said.
“You just see the cars coming in, you see so many great designs,” he said “That’s the excitement. It’s not just ‘okay, I’m painting my car blue or red’, they are putting their personalities onto these boxcars."
Maute agreed. The kids put their "hearts and souls" into these boxcars, she said.
“They took pride in that and that’s what we love,” Maute said. “And we talk about it and talk about it, but until you see it, you do not understand how fabulous these kids are.
“They’ve been talking about it for weeks and then when they got here … I think that they could not have imagined how big it was going to be, so it was pretty fantastic," she said. "And the whole goal was to create memories, and I think that definitely, that we succeeded.”
BID sponsored the event with the Greater Rochester Soapbox Derby as partner and security, plus additional sponsors Alex’s Place, Graham Manufacturing, Western New York Concrete, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 46.
According to organizers, many of the cars will be going to Oakfield for its boxcar derby to be held next weekend for its Labor Daze festival. Afterwards, the derby cars will be kept in storage until next year's derby.
Photos by Photo by Julia Ferrini.