Langley’s annual Soup Box Derby is, literally, a free-wheeling celebration of creativity and zaniness. Aside from wheeled vehicles powered by gravity, Soup Box has little in common with its distant cousin, the standardized and competitive Soap Box Derby racers.
Held annually for 46 years, the Soup Box Derby on First Street features what organizers call “some of the wackiest and speediest” conveyances with wheels that can go down a hill. “Racers” register at 8 a.m. this Sunday at the U.S. Bank parking lot at First and Anthes. The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon, down the hill on First at Park Avenue. Everyone is welcome, and there is no admission fee.
“The derby was first run in 1972 by employees of the long-closed Soup Coop, along with other community members,” says John Lawson, secretary of the Langley Community Club.
“The unconventional name of this favorite community event matches the unconventional vehicles and drivers. The Soup Box Derby has only one purpose, fun and entertainment for participants and spectators. Every participant gets a handmade trophy.”
Soup Box Derby is presented by the Community Club and the Langley Main Street Association. Lawson says about 50 to 60 business sponsors pay for the event. The derby generates about $5,000 to benefit South Whidbey civic activities, such as Good Cheer, the School Garden Project and Generation Park in Langley. Years ago, Lawson says, derby proceeds paid for the first computer in the Langley Police Department.
“The Soup Box Derby vehicles are pushed up the hill and propelled strictly by gravity going down. There’s no starting ramp and push starting isn’t allowed,” Lawson explains. “The vehicles must have steering and brakes, but otherwise everything is left to the imagination of the builders. Helmets and shoes are required for drivers.”
Lawson reminds spectators to stay off the straw bales on the course. The bales are only for the protection of the drivers and those watching.
Lawson emphasizes the event is not about speed or performance.
“However, preliminary heat winners are paired for final ‘races’ where ‘grudge matches’ are the norm,” he says, “and bragging rights become important. But in the end, it’s all about having fun.”
Those building and driving the vehicles are strongly encouraged to use their ingenuity, creativity, and perhaps a little Langley weirdness in construction and operation of the derby cars in what has been described as the wildest race on the island.