Montague Soapbox Derby rides again; race set for Sept. 19

  • A contestant races in the 2013 Montague Soapbox Derby. The race is being held again this September for the first time in seven years. Staff file photo

  • A supporter sets off a confetti streamer “bomb” as John Stewart, of Lake Pleasant, completes his first heat in the 2013 Montague Soapbox Derby. The race is being held again this September for the first time in seven years. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2020 5:17:53 PM

TURNERS FALLS — After a seven-year hiatus, the popular Montague Soapbox Derby is being revived this year, this time as a fundraiser for the Montague Parks & Recreation Department.

The race, which originally ran from 2010 to 2013, is set for Saturday, Sept. 19, but early organizational work is beginning this month.

Traditionally, entrants raced in homemade “soapbox” carts down a course on First Street, starting on the hill that curls around Unity Park and then riding out as far as possible. Winning carts were ranked according to how far they could get, and awards were also given for the best designs.

The idea originally came from Mik Muller, who lived in Montague at the time but has since moved to Greenfield. He remembered racing in a soapbox derby as a kid at summer camp. While the other kids raced in modified wagons, Muller and a friend took apart a bicycle and built a cart from scratch.

“We absolutely killed the competition,” he recalled fondly. “Not even close.”

After talking about the idea with a few friends in Montague, he eventually organized the race as a fundraiser for Montague Community Television, where he was and still is a member of the governing board.

That first derby in 2010 drew about 1,600 spectators and had about 35 entrants, Muller said. In following years it drew as many as 55.

But after the fourth year, the MCTV board decided it should be devoting its energies to other projects more immediately relevant to running a public TV station, and withdrew from its role in coordinating the derby, Muller said. He shopped the idea around to other local organizations and town departments, but couldn’t find anyone to help organize it, and it fizzled out.

Then last fall, Muller got a call from Town Administrator Steve Ellis, who was interested in reviving the event.

This time it is being organized as a fundraiser for the town Parks and Recreation Department, Muller said. An organizing committee, which Muller is involved in, has been established, and expects to meet with the Selectboard on Monday, he said.

This year’s derby will likely be mostly the same as in previous years, Muller said — same course, same rules. All available information can be found at montaguesoapboxraces.com. He said registration forms will likely be available in February.

Muller said there will likely be one or two build parties, where derby veterans will give tips on building your own soapbox cart. Dates for these have not been determined yet.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.




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