Make that Soup Box speedy

OK, now it's time to get wheel serious.

A full decade after the last time weird gravity-powered cars made an appearance on Langley's First Street, it's time for the recovering hippies, shade-tree speed freaks and other racing buffs to get out their tools to start building their machines for the fifth-ever Soup Box Derby.

A fixture on South Whidbey in the 30 years since its first running in 1972, the Soup Box Derby is back again this fall for one of its intermittent appearances. Though technically a soap box derby-type race, the Soup Box Derby is focused primarily on fun and creativity. Scheduled for Sept. 14, this year's event promises to include both blazing-fast entries as well as vehicles that seem incapable of rolling.

Race organizers, including Langley Community Club president Tucker Stevens, want entrants to get started building their vehicles now -- or at least start thinking about what sort of vehicle they want to slap together a day or two before the race.

However, entrants should keep a few rules in mind as they bolt wheels and axles onto vehicle frames.

n Vehicles must be able to stop in less than 200 feet.

n Vehicles must be easily steered.

n Drivers and riders must wear helmets.

n Vehicles may only be gravity powered.

n Vehicles must be tested prior to the race.

Racers will compete in three categories: Children 7 and under, children 8-12, and age 13 and over.

To emphasize the derby's non-competitive nature, prizes will go to racers for a variety of reasons that have little to do with speed. Awards given out in past races have included honors for the most recyclable entry, the most edible, the most ecological and, yes, the fastest.

This year's race, which is sponsored by the Langley Community Club, brings back a racing tradition that started in 1972. The 2002 race will be held on the original race course, the hill on Langley's First Street. In addition to the racing, the derby will include a parade to showcase the handiwork of the contestants and their pit crews. The course will be lined with hay bales sponsored by local businesses.

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