With no rain, the 2015 Soup Box Derby in Langley took place as planned Sunday, and organizers are chalking it up as an overwhelming success.
More than 20 cars participated with even more racers, public attendance was estimated to have numbered in the hundreds, no one was hurt and people up and down First Street were smiling and having a good time, according to John Lawson, president of the Langley Community Club.
“I think we had our biggest crowd ever,” Lawson said. “I’m not good at gauging crowds, but I’d guess there were 400 or 500 people there.”
“It was a great tribute to Tucker Stevens,” he said.
Stevens was a longtime organizer and champion of the derby. He died last year, and in honor of his efforts club members this year decided to dub the event the Tucker Stevens Memorial Race.
Lawson said he believes the memoriam likely helped draw crowds, but that the break in the weather helped too. Saturday brought a stiff summer windstorm and rain, and forecasts called for rain Sunday as well, but the clouds parted, racers bombed the Zippy Raceway down First Street to Anthes Avenue and the crowds cheered.
One of the undefeated racers was the South Beach Hook’r car, driven by Sandy Hook father and daughter team Ryan Haines and Jane Haines, 8. They beat every racer they faced.
While fame and glory went to the daring duo behind the wheel, much of the credit was owed to the “road crew” and designer/builder Dean “D-No” Patterson, they said. The car was a community affair, with Patterson working on the racer for about 10 months. It was a first, he said.
“I’ve raced motor cars before but nothing like this,” Patterson said.
Painted fire engine red and resembling an IndyCar, it did what he hoped it would — win. A pre-race trial clocked the racer at 32 mph.
There were several other undefeated teams as well, such as the The Free Range Chicks. Other competitors didn’t earn as many checkered flags, but were crowd pleasers nonetheless. Natasha Nichols, who drove the bumblebee racer for 2nd Street Hair Boutique, earned several mentions from the race announcer for her toothy smile.
“Over the past six years that I’ve even known about this, I’ve been working,” Nichols said. “It was fun. I would do it again for sure. We’ll probably be back next year with the same bee but we might do some modifications and maybe get some better rear wheels.”
A few event regulars also competed, such as Gary Piper in his flaming outhouse, the 93-year-old Peter Lawlor in The Whole Enchilada and the Village Pizzeria’s racer, which announcers said was the original winner from the first race in 1972.
Kathryn Stevens, Tucker Stevens’ widow, said it was an emotional day for her but was pleased with the turnout and the lengths the Langley Community Club went to honor her late husband. Along with dedicating this year’s event to him, official race shirts were made up with his name on the back.
“He would have been thrilled to be remembered like this,” she said.
“He put his heart and soul into this for 13 years,” she added.
Lawson said the event had about 10 sponsors, businesses around town that pay for the derby. In all, they raised about $4,000, which well covered expenses. The rest will be donated back to the community through a variety of club programs, from grants to contributions to non-profit groups, he said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referenced a race winner. The Soup Box Derby doesn’t have one champion; several participating teams finished undefeated.