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soapbox derby

BID Boxcar Derby shows off the 'hearts and souls' of 44 participants

By Julia Ferrini
soapbox derby

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.

soapbox derby
soapbox derby
soapbox derby
soapbox derby
soapbox derby
soapbox derby
Joseph Barone, with his mom Jessica Barone, went undefeated in the second annual Batavia BID Boxcar Derby Saturday on Ellicott Avenue in Batavia.
Photo by Julia Ferrini.
soapbox derby
Isaiah Hojnacki with Shannon Maute, BID executive director. The seven-year-old Darien resident took First Place in the second annual Batavia BID Boxcar Derby Saturday on Ellicott Avenue in Batavia.
Photo by Julia Ferrini.
soapbox derby
Catherine Moon with Shannon Maute, BID executive director. The seven-year-old Batavian was presented the "Most Creative" trophy for her "cheetah" designed derby car in the second annual Batavia BID Boxcar Derby Saturday on Ellicott Avenue in Batavia. According to mom and dad, Stacy and Eric, the young girl loves animals. Her “whole room is a jungle.”
Photo by Julia Ferrini. 

New car kits unveiled for return of BID's Soapbox Derby

By Howard B. Owens
boxcar derby 2023
Three of the Soapbox Derby organizers -- Jim Krencik, Shannon Maute, and Chris Suozzi -- with examples of the new soapbox cars that racers will put together and decorate for the 2023 race.

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.

boxcar derby 2023
boxcar derby 2023

Alexander Cub Scouts unveil new track for annual pinewood derby

By Howard B. Owens

Alexander Cub Scout Pack 650 has been holding pinewood derbies for who knows how many years, but this year was a little different.

The scouts collected more than 20,000 bottles and cans and raised $1,000 toward a new $1,500 three-lane racetrack with all the bells and whistles, and the track was dedicated to the memory of Burton Bigsby.

Bigsby is the late husband of Melinda Bigsby. The former den leader died following a long battle with cancer. His son, Jonathan, is now a Boy Scout in Troop 650 and was the official starter for today's races.

Pack 650 had 28 scouts and Cub Master Jason Davis said all of the scouts and families are very active in the pack.

Participants in the race are given a block of pinewood and instructions on how to cut it into a proper racer. There is a five-ounce weight limit, except in the unlimited division, in which cars can weigh up to a pound.

The event teaches the scouts about sportsmanship along with the craftsmanship of making something, Davis said.

"The race teaches them a little of the skills they'll use later in life," Davis said.

And the secret to winning? Davis said, graphite our axles, hit the weight limit and build a well-balanced car.

Donations that helped pay for the track came from Batavia Police Benevolent Association, Crystal Clear Pools, Select Collision, Harrington's Produce and Alexander Troop 650.

Here are the winners and awards:

Tiger Scouts
1st Place -- Bradley Begiers
2nd Place -- Matthew Wirth
3rd Place -- Paul Schmitt Jr.

Wolf Scouts
1st Place -- Jay Cogdill
2nd Place -- Zachary Salemi
3rd Place -- Caleb Nichols
Bear Scouts
1st Place -- Matthew Jasen
2nd Place -- Vincent Prebeck
3rd Place -- Shawn Calmes

Webelos 1
1st Place -- Jackson Staba
2nd Place -- MacNeil Ruston
3rd Place -- Colton Judd

Webelos 2
1st Place -- Johnathan Worthington
2nd Place -- JT McCarthy

Unlimited 1 pound cars
1st Place -- Cooper Davis
2nd Place -- Jett Davis
3rd Place -- Noah Bruggman
4th Place -- Jay Cogdill

Special Awards
Best Paint Job -- Matthew Jasen
Unusual Design -- Noah Bruggman
Judges Favorite -- Austin Ruston
Fastest Looking -- Carter Edmonds
Scouts Favorite -- Cooper Davis
Most Kid Involved -- James Strang

Participation Super Racers
Carter Edmonds, Jaden Snyder, Oscar Staba, Lukas Ladd, Matthew Cecere, Austin Ruston, James Strang, Regan McPhee, Justin Bennett, Dominic Lamitina, Noah Bruggman.

To purchase print copies of the photos, click here.

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