It starts with a simple seven-inch long raw block of pinewood, four nails and four wheels, but add a little work and a lot of imagination, and memories that can last a lifetime are formed.
Tuesday night at the Cub Scouts Pack 54 Pinewood Derby, 30 young men and their families and friends made some new memories to share and treasure not only with one another but also, perhaps in time, with their future sons and families.
“It really is the highlight of the year for the boys,” Frances Schultz said. “It’s such a good way to get the boys interacting with each other and it’s been time that my grandsons and I have that we can do something that we all really enjoy together.
“Not only do the scouts get to race but there is an open division that anyone can compete in,” Schultz added. “It gives some of us who didn’t have the chance to compete when we were younger the chance to now.”
Schultz and his grandsons, Robbie Bower and Braden Soverns, each built a car to race in the event.
“Robbie set the bar pretty high,” Schultz said. “Two years ago in the Tiger Division he won his pack race and placed first at the district competition. Last year, he really didn’t do that well here, but won second in the Wolf Division so he has a lot to live up to.
“It really doesn’t matter if he wins, the whole point is to have fun and spend time with his friends,” Schultz added.
According to Troy Turpin, committee chair for the event, that is the reason most members compete.
“We have been doing this for decades here in Sedalia,” Turpin said. “Most of the boys start when they first enter Cub Scouts and continue racing in the derbies until they age out.”
Boys between first through fifth grade may join the Cub Scouts and participate in the Pinewood Derby.
“It’s really incredible what they do with the few materials they are given,” Matt Johnson, troop Leader for Pack 54, said. “They don’t have to create a different car each year but I think it takes a little bit of the fun out of it if they don’t.”
The rules of the competition are simple: from the materials provided, the contestant must create a vehicle that cannot exceed five inches in length and must fit inside a standardized jig.
“Other than that the cars can really be whatever the boys want to make,” Johnson said. “We always have some really good ones and this year isn’t any different — we’ve got a Green Bay Packer’s football, a semi-truck and the Batmobile.
“We have gotten a little high-tech this year because we are running them on a new track,” Johnson added. “We’ve been saving for years and years to get this one and we are really proud of it.”
The 32-foot long track is made of PVC and aluminum and features a computerized software program that randomly orders the racers and their track position.
“We were finally able to retire our old wood track that was really in pretty bad shape,” Johnson said. “This one was about $1,000 including the software but it will last for years.”
Race officials tested the track Sunday night. Turpin said the average speed on the track was 2.8 seconds.
“Each car will race four times, once in each lane,” Turpin said. “Each pack has an overall winner and then we race to see who is the overall top finisher and we also give trophies for the most creative vehicle.
“The trophies this year are really unique,” Turpin continued. “Each year, each den has responsibilities that they need to complete and one of those is building something so the members in third grade took it upon themselves for their service project to create the trophies.”
In prior years, the contestants had been given ribbons for their awards. This year those who placed were awarded trophies made from tin cans adorned with Hot Wheels on the top.
Resembling the Piston Cup, the trophies were just another example of the imaginations at work from the members of Troop 54.
“If you look at what they can do with a wood block and how they can turn those into cars, why can’t they turn tin cans into trophies,” Turpin said. “It’s just a way they made something useful out of something that other people may overlook.”
All of the participants will have the opportunity to win another trophy Saturday, April 12 when the District Pinewood Derby is hosted at State Fair Community College.
The event is open to scouts throughout the area and more than 120 members are expected to participate.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484