A Tradition of Speed

There are plenty of reasons why people come out to the Soap Box Derby. Sometimes it’s about family; sometimes it’s about traditional crafts and ingenuity. Sometimes it’s just about speed and bolts and teasing an aerodynamically slippery wooden box to reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour under the slightest tug from gravity.

At the end of June, the Salem Soap Box Derby Association hosted the 62nd annual All American Local Championship at Bush’s Pasture Park, site of a rare and pristine track that runs alongside Willamette University’s McCulloch Stadium.

For several days, the place transformed as competitors aged 7 to 17 pushed each other to sit tighter, gaze straighter and coast faster. Parents, cheering on, saw the event as a way to pass down the values of perseverance, sportsmanship and hard work.

Photos by Frank Miller. Intro by Erik Schmidt.

Kyle Huffman 8, Chris Huffman father
Kyle Huffman 8, Chris Huffman father
Val Lawhorn
Evett Barnes
Haley Lawhorn 10 and Tammy Barnes
Mica Grohn and Dallas Chesire, 12
Dallas Cheshire, 12
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Marke Werhmeister and daughter Ma 14
Flynne Mayne 9
vNakia DeLaRosa 8
Morgan Helfrich 8
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Jarritt Youngers
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Sebastian Holmes 9
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On the morning of Saturday, June 22, the Soap Box Derby track at Bush's Pasture Park was the site of a flurry of activity as youths and their families arrived to set up for the next day's races.

Volunteers assemble a tent that would cover participants' cars until the next day.

Chris Huffman helps his son, Taylor Huffman, 11, prepare his racer.

Taylor Huffman puts a wheel on his car.

Val Lawhorn decorates her daughter's car.

A wheel on the racer of Haley Lawhorn, 10.

Evett Barnes checks the alignment on her daughter's car.

A giraffe adorns the car of Aleiah Barnes, 7.

Tammy Barnes (left) and Haley Lawhorn finish decorating a racer.

Mica Grohn helps Dallas Cheshire, 12, assemble his racer.

Dallas Cheshire adjusts his racer's braking mechanism.

The derby track transformed again on Sunday, June 23, as young people competed in a full day of races.

Previous years' champions, like Mikayla Sadler, 11, sported jackets celebrating their wins.

Felix Roldan (left) and Felix Roldan Jr. move Haley Lawhorn's car from storage prior to the race.

Mark Wehrmeister and his daughter, Maj Wehrmeister, 14.

Flynn Mayne, 9, fills out paperwork before the event.

Makayla Emery, 11 (left), and Nakia DeLaRosa, 8

Morgan Helfrich, 8, checks his car at the base of the hill before the race.

Competitors join a parade from the base of the hill up to the start line on the day of the races.

Jarritt Youngers adorned himself with flags at the parade. Youngers was the 2013 Super Stock Local Champ.

Robbie McClaran leads the pledge of allegiance.

Brittnea Lawhorn gets into her racer at the start line.

Brittnea Lawhorn lies flat in her car before the race.

Tucker McClaran, 16 (center), with her sister Aubrey McClaran, 12, and their father, Robbie McClaran.

Haley Lawhorn, 10, races down the track.

Sebastian Holmes, 9, at the start line.

Flynn Mayne, 9, checks out his competitors. This was his first Soap Box Derby event.

Kallan Wehrmeister, 12, prepares to race. She was the 2013 Stock Local Champ.

Nakia DeLaRosa, 8, gets encouragement before starting a race.

Thom Wegner talks with his grandson, Morgan Helfrich, 8, before a race.

Xavyr Anderson, 10, encountered a squirrel on the track after crossing the finish line.

Dylan Anderson, 9, with his co-pilot, Brittnea Lawhorn. Anderson, who has Down syndrome, won first place in the Super Kids event for children with special needs.