Economy Slows Down Soap Box Derby to a Stop

Murray, KY – This month would have marked the Rotary Club's tenth annual All American Soap Box Derby. Police would have blocked off fourth through sixth streets, so crowds could gather along the sidewalks to cheer children piloting their sleek cars down the gentle slope Main Street. Typically, the soap box derby raises money for local organizations and sees some thirty to forty kids compete each year. The winner gets the chance to compete in an international competition in Akron, Ohio. This year, however, a lack of volunteers and sponsors prompted the club to cancel the race.

Murray residents Jim and Tracy Gilson have been building cars and volunteering for the race since its inception.

"I just think it's just a good family thing. Good husband, wife and child, they're together they're working on the cars I think we've lost that with the family I think families need to be together more and that's why we started nine years ago and helping them and did it every year," says Jim.

The Gilsons know the event is expensive and takes a lot of hard work but Tracy says it's worth it.

"You know with the economic times the way they are it's sad that when something that involves kids gets cut. It builds a lot of comradery between children they learn how to interact well together to have good sportsmanship it just teaches them a whole wealth of good values that they can take through the rest of their life. It's a lot of fun too," says Tracy.

Rotary President Lance Allison says the club put the event on hold because they would need to invest in new ramps and equipment in a time where sponsorships and volunteers are scarce.

"When you start looking into an economy of fundraising dollars, sponsorship monies that it takes to run an event.You have to decide is it going to be in the best interest to spend our time and resources for this event that affects thirty to forty kids or is there another place where we can put it that's going to affect a greater number of children or families," says Lance.

The Rotary club plans to form a committee deciding whether or not to continue hosting the derby or to put efforts somewhere else. He says most people he's talked to understand why the derby was cancelled this year, but some have expressed disappointment.

Murray Big Brothers Big Sisters Director Suzy Crook says the organization already misses the derby. Last year they had eleven kids in the program. She says the derby helps kids get involved in a community event and above all teaches them sportsmanship.

"You're actually racing yourself and not the person you down the ramp with So they're encouraged through the soap box derby organization to actually shake hands at the bottom of the hill and walk back up together. The cars are brought up by helpers but the kids walk up together and that's been something that's really exciting to watch," says Suzy.

Lance Allison says that while the Rotary Club looks at the feasibility of having another derby, the organization wants to find a signature event to raise money they could give back to the community.

"If it can be done we'll do it again but if we can't find the resources that we need then unfortunately it will just have to be one of those things that it was a nice event while it lasted but it's time to move on," says Lance.

Whether or not the soap box derby runs its course in Murray again is up in the air. Economy willing, many like the Gilsons hope Murray's Main Street will see the competition return.