Derby days: Eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel

NEW PALESTINE — With his hands grasped tightly around the rope, Gavin Wilcher tried with all his might to steer the cart.

He was hoping to keep the derby car he helped build from crashing into the bales of hay lining Bittner Road.

Unfortunately, he was having little success.

Still, the youngster maneuvered the handmade cart down the big hill, as he tried to catch his opponent who had crossed the finish line well ahead of him.

“I don’t know what happened,” Gavin said. “I couldn’t get it working.”

Despite the steering issue, Gavin still managed a smile during the Second Cub Scout Derby on Sunday in New Palestine.

The event began last year when officials from Cub Scout Pack 254 organized an event they saw as a way for the kids to bond while learning lessons about construction, teamwork and good sportsmanship.

This year, the Scouts invited another Cub Scout pack, Troop 234, along with officials from the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department to join in the fun.

The derby expanded intoa community event, with friends, family members and residents gathering to cheer on the competitors.

“We had such a great time last year, and so did the town of New Palestine, so that’s why we brought it back,” Pack 254 leader Tom Wilcher said.

Nikko Loman said her 8-year-old son, Alex Loman, enjoyed the project.

She said it allowed the kids to learn something new; most had little experience with tools.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “All the kids loved helping, building and cutting out the cars.”

Pack 234 leader Jason Chesko said he liked bringing his group to an event because it brought local youths together.

“It was really exciting for the kids to see the real building process of the cars and the outcome,” he said. “It’s just exciting for all the families to be out here together and just have fun.”

Members of the sheriff’s department and township fire department built their own cars, too. The sheriff’s department’s wooden car had flashing lights and even chased after the cars the kids were driving as they raced down the hill.

“This is pretty serious stuff,” reserve deputy Blake Wampler said with a smile.

The sheriff’s riders also lined up against a car built by the firefighters from the fire department and raced each other down the hill to the delight of the Cub Scouts and patrons who lined the street to watch the races.

Event organizer Caralee Griffith said 12 carts were built for the event, and every Scout had a chance to get behind the wheel.

Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or