Soapbox derby may return to downtown Bremerton

On Friday, Sept. 5, in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk event in downtown Bremerton, there will be an informational exhibit by Kitsap Soap Box Derby Association

Soapbox derby races may return to downtown Bremerton.

It just made sense.

When Michael Barry, president of the Kitsap Soap Box Derby Association, and Laura Kneib, owner of the F.R.O.G. Soap Company, thought about bringing soap box derby back to downtown Bremerton, having an exhibition in front of her soap store seemed like the perfect place.

“Because I have a soap shop and he runs the soap box derby… I mean what better combination?,” said Kneib.

So, after a bit of planning, the two have come up with a time, date and place.

On Friday, Sept. 5, in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk event in downtown Bremerton, there will be an informational exhibit by Kitsap Soap Box Derby Association. From about 5 to 8 p.m. Barry will be on hand near F.R.O.G. Soap at 504 Fifth St. Barry plans to have a couple of soapbox derby cars for folks to see and some of the kids who drive them will be there to talk to others who may want to join.

According to Barry, there were soapbox derby events in downtown Bremerton on Fourth Street from about 2003 until 2008 or 2009.

“The association began in Bremerton,” he said. “We had our races on the hill on Fourth Street, before the movie theater went in. All the local businesses would participate and we’d close the street on Saturdays and Sundays for the races. People would come from all over to watch.”

For several years the races happened without any issues and the city supported them, he said. But as the club grew and younger kids began to race, they needed smoother surfaces for the younger kids to race on.

“It’s all about the racer’s skill and with the rougher roads, and the brick crossings in the middle of the block, we had to find another location,” he said.

The club was originally sponsored by the Silverdale Sunrise Rotary and so they moved to Silverdale and then, eventually to Poulsbo, where they race now.

Currently, they are a nonprofit and have about 42 active members, each with their own soapbox car. They are a part of Region I competition and race against kids from Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Racers are from 7 to 18 years old and race in three categories, stock, super stock and master drivers, based on age.

The racing season begins in April and lasts through September with regional competition and then nationals following that. The world competition happens this year in Akron, Ohio in October.

For the Sept. 5 event in downtown Bremerton, it’s Barry’s hope that parents and kids interested in soapbox derby will come out and find out about the sport which originally got its name because the non-motorized cars that operate based on gravity were made of soap boxes.

“We want to interact with the Bremerton community and find out if there’s an interest in bringing soap box races back to downtown Bremerton,” he said. “And then we’ll begin looking at what location would be best for the races.”

It could be Fourth or Fifth Street, or somewhere else.

“All we really need are hills, and we’ve got lots of them around here,” Barry said. “We need room to put the cars at the top of a hill and then a way to get them back to the top of the hill after they race.”

Barry got into soapbox racing years ago because of his daughters, who are now 13 and 18 years old. His daughters will be at event on Sept. 5. The Admiral Theatre will allow soap box cars to park at the theater parking.

“We just want to give soapbox derby another chance in downtown Bremerton,” said Kneib, of F.R.O.G. soap. “The derby is a great activity for families. If I was a kid, I’d want to do it.

“Who knows, maybe by next year there will be derby races in Bremerton,” she said. “This is a good start.”

For more information, call Barry at 360-340-2249, or Kneib at 360-337-0934.


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