Cart-building workshops herald return of soapbox racing in Franklin County

  • Mik Muller, from left, Ben Mailloux, Fabricio Yunga, Ivy Muller and her dog Bjorn, and Dan Piasecki stand outside the Half Pint Homes shop during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. The Greenfield race will be held on Sunday, Sept. 12, and the Montague race on Sunday, Sept. 19. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Ivy Muller takes a ride on her 10-year-old soapbox cart Poison Ivy with a push from her father Mik Muller during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Ben Mailloux, left, goes over parts of a soapbox car with Fabricio Yunga, outside the Half Pint Homes shop during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Dan Piasecki inflates the tires on a soapbox car during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Dan Piasecki inflates the tires on a soapbox car during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Dan Piasecki tests out a soapbox car with Mik Muller during a building workshop held Sunday for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Posters for the upcoming Greenfield and Montague soapbox races that will be held on Sept. 12 and 19. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2021 3:27:17 PM

GREENFIELD — In preparation for the return of soapbox racing in Franklin County, race organizer Mik Muller held cart-building workshops over the weekend.

September marks the revival of gravity racing in the region, with the county’s last soapbox derby held in 2013 in Turners Falls. While the first four years of Franklin County’s soapbox races from 2010 to 2013 raised money for Montague Community Television (MCTV), the upcoming races in Greenfield and Turners Falls will benefit a new skate park and parks and recreation scholarship funds, respectively. Muller said refocusing fundraising efforts toward causes that might better invest prospective racers might help revitalize the sport he loves.

In the parking lot behind Greenfield’s City Hall on Sunday, Muller and carpenter Ben Mailloux worked on a cart with the fundraising goals in mind. The “Hawk,” a wooden, triangular-shaped cart with scooter parts at the helm, was being built specifically for Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center so that they could promote their business while raising money for a Greenfield skate park. Parked next to it was the distinctly different “Poison Ivy,” Muller’s daughter’s decade-old cart, which exhibited the range of possibilities available for cart customization.

“It’s an engineering problem, for sure,” Muller said. “The races I like to bring together are DIY. What do you have in your garage?”

Muller said he wants these upcoming races to solely have custom carts in attendance. In the past, he’s seen carts ranging from a brakeless shopping cart to a large wire spool converted into a one-wheel vehicle.

“I say be experimental, but you have to understand how to support your vehicle,” Muller said.

Muller’s weekend workshops on Saturday and Sunday in Turners Falls and Greenfield, respectively, were intended to assist with the creative process. Having witnessed years of trial and error at soapbox races, Muller gave some basic guidelines for good building techniques, such as using triangle shapes for structural support and adopting a three-wheel design for ease of construction. Additionally, he noted some baseline requirements for qualifying carts, such as working brakes, an adequate steering system, reasonable stability, a floor, and a frame within 8 feet by 4 feet (with the ideal dimensions being 6 feet by 3 feet). Drivers will be required to wear a helmet, gloves, elbow pads and closed-toe shoes.

Muller said the return of soapbox racing in Greenfield makes sense when considering the skate park cause, hypothesizing that building and racing carts might tap into a similar thrill. He hopes the similar vein will garner more interest in the sport, and in the process, make more money for the skate park.

“Finding the right cause will get people passionate about (the races). The skate park is a needed recreational opportunity for Greenfield,” Muller said. “If it’s a fundraiser that people can get behind, you get more.”

Muller said his goal is to have this year’s revival of soapbox racing catalyze the universal rejuvenation of the sport. In 2022, Bernardston will hold its own race to grow soapbox derbies’ presence in Franklin County.

“It can bring people together,” Mailloux said. “It gives something fun to do.”

“It’s my goal to bring this sport back to not only Franklin County, but everywhere,” Muller said. “It’s American. ... I think you could heal the country.”

Both races are sponsored by Greenfield Savings Bank. The Greenfield soapbox races will take place on Sunday, Sept. 12, at noon on Nash’s Mill Road. The entry fee is $30. Rules, entry forms and other information can be found at greenfieldsoapboxraces.com.

The Turners Falls soapbox races will take place on Sunday, Sept. 19, at noon at the Unity Park hill on First St. The entry fee is $25. Rules, entry forms and other information can be found at montaguesoapboxraces.com.

Advance registration is preferred or both races.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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