Soap box derby races coming back to Bellefonte


BELLEFONTE — The Soap Box Derby is coming back to Bellefonte for another year.

This will be the third consecutive year races will be held in downtown Bellefonte.

“The first year, people were a little bit nervous, but we had a good turnout. The second year, things picked up and we actually wound up with a waiting list,” race director Alan Uhler told the Centre County commissioners at their meeting this week.

“The races have been so popular. People love the town, they love the setting,” Uhler continued.

This year’s races are set for the weekend of May 11-12. The races will take place from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Uhler said that 17 people have already registered for this year’s derby.

Last year, hundreds of soap box derby enthusiasts from across the Northeast took to the streets during April. There were a total of 36 participants in three separate divisions. The race course began on North Allegheny Street, just above Linn Street and continued to the finish line, just before Howard Street near the library. According to Uhler, the races will use that route again this year. Those streets will be closed during that time.

“The hill is really neat … the way it has a couple of drop offs,” Uhler said.

Uhler presented council members with a plaque thanking the borough for use of the streets.

Soap box derby races typically pit cars against each other, two at a time. Each pairing of two races consist of two runs down the hill with drivers trading wheels and lanes between the first and second runs to eliminate those variables.

According to Uhler, those who race not only have a good time, they learn a little something in the process.

“The soap box derby we run now is not the soap box derby of yesteryear. All the cars that run, they’re all kit cars. There are about 30 cars that we loan out and kids learn a lot of science, math and physics,” Uhler noted.

He said that students at Bald Eagle Area actively participate by building their own cars for the derby. Students in the Bellefonte Area School District have been invited to participate in the program as well.

This year, the races will fall on the same weekend as Mother’s Day and the Big Spring Festival. Uhler said he spoke with Sally Houser of Historic Bellefonte, Inc. and there was no objection to holding both events on the same weekend.

“She said she’s looking forward to working with us,” Uhler said.

Council unanimously approved those dates for the Soap Box Derby.

Uhler said that his group hopes to hold another race on the Sunday of the Historic Bellefonte Cruise.