Soapbox derby back in Bernardston; race set for June 28

  • A supporter sets off a confetti streamer “bomb” as John Stewart, of Lake Pleasant, completes his first heat in the fourth annual Montague Soapbox Derby. A soapbox derby is being planned in Bernardston this year, set for Sunday, June 28. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/24/2020 4:47:12 PM

BERNARDSTON — After an eight-year hiatus, the Bernardston Soapbox Derby is returning to raise money for the Recreation Department.

This year’s derby is officially scheduled for Sunday, June 28, with the first race starting at noon. With the proceeds from entry fees, the Recreation Department hopes to buy a new electronic scoreboard for the Bernardston Elementary School gymnasium, which is expected to cost roughly $5,000.

Race Director Mik Muller — who also organized a race in Montague, which is being revived on Sept. 19 after a seven-year hiatus — and Assistant Director Clayton Cardin received the blessing of the Selectboard last month to resurrect the race.

“We’re organizing a straight up, legit soapbox derby,” Cardin said.

The Bernardston Soapbox Committee — made up of Muller, Cardin, Jennifer Stennes and Andrew Easton — is looking for sponsors to help underwrite this year’s event, and there will be vending opportunities for local businesses on race day. The event is free to attend, but it costs $25 to enter the race, which is open to ages 8 and up. Applications will be accepted starting April 1.

In 2012, the town held a soapbox derby on Huckle Hill Road in conjunction with Bernardston’s 250th anniversary. For this year’s course, racers will start on Eden Trail, which merges with West Mountain Road and ends near South Street. The final straightaway will be lined with cheering fans and vendors.

Racers will have staggered starting points, with the Kid Class racers (ages 8 to 12) starting partway down the hill for a 0.3-mile course. The Teen Class racers (ages 13 to 19) will begin a bit higher up for a 0.4-mile course. The Adult Class racers (ages 20 and up) at the top of the hill will have a 0.6-mile course. The hard right where Eden Trail merges with West Mountain Road can see racers traveling at speeds up to 50 mph.

“It will be a short, fast and intense race,” Cardin said.

Racers will go in age order, from youngest to oldest, going through each division. There will be two qualifying heats, going down the hill in pairs side by side. For each heat, racers will trade lanes so they get one heat in the left lane and one in the right. Both racers’ run times will be added together for a total race time.

According to the full race rules, available at bernardstonsoapboxderby.com, all vehicles must be handmade. Use any materials available to put the rig together, but keep in mind it will need to pass a weight and safety inspection. Any kits or prefabricated vehicles will be disqualified. Additionally, vehicles cannot be powered by any means other than gravity, must have a floor, have working brakes and employ a hand-operated steering mechanism. Protective headgear is required.

Each vehicle must be no more than 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. There are no height restrictions. The vehicle must weigh less than 250 pounds in the Kid Class, 350 pounds in the Teen Class and 450 pounds in the Adult Class. All weights include the driver’s weight.

“We encourage you to be as creative, fun and tasteful as possible when building your cart,” the Bernardston Soapbox Committee writes on its website. “Many racers will come up with a theme for their cart and pit crew, while others just might want a cart built for speed.”

The Bernardston Soapbox Committee is also looking for volunteers, both for race day and for its committee, which plans to meet a dozen times between now and June 28. The first official meeting will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Antonio’s II in Bernardston.

To get on the mailing list for frequent updates on race preparation, fill out the form at bernardstonsoapboxderby.com/contact.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the person in the photo.


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