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New Pal races: Spills, thrills and sportsmanship


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Cub Master Tom Wilcher falls to the pavement after one of the cars crashed into him during its run. At one point, organizers moved the starting line down the hill because competitors were picking up too much speed.

(Kristy Deer / Daily Reporter)
Cub Master Tom Wilcher falls to the pavement after one of the cars crashed into him during its run. At one point, organizers moved the starting line down the hill because competitors were picking up too much speed. (Kristy Deer / Daily Reporter)

Alex Griffith (left) and Chase Stephens get ready for their downhill ride during the soap box derby meet in New Palestine. The event was held on the Bittner Road hill on Sunday.

(Kristy Deer / Daily Reporter)
Alex Griffith (left) and Chase Stephens get ready for their downhill ride during the soap box derby meet in New Palestine. The event was held on the Bittner Road hill on Sunday. (Kristy Deer / Daily Reporter)


NEW PALESTINE — The month of May in central Indiana means one thing: racing.

With that thought in mind, New Palestine Cub Scout officials organized their first soap box derby race; local Scouts gathered on the town’s biggest hill, on Bittner Road, to challenge each other.

“This is a good idea,” Cub Scout mom Erin Carrico said. “I’m really glad the other local troops are involved. Hopefully, we can do this as an annual race, because after all, it is the month of May in Indy.”

Cub Master Tom Wilcher, of Pack 254 from Sugar Creek Elementary School, said having the boys build their own cars and race them was a great learning experience for the youngsters.

“This was just something that we had never done before,” Wilcher said. “The idea that all the boys got to help in building their own cars and that each of them will get to ride in the car makes it lots of fun.”

The event also helped the youngsters learn about sportsmanship and competition in addition to bringing Cub Scout pack families together, organizers said.

“You can tell everybody is into it,” Wilcher said. “All the kids, their parents and their grandparents are here, and they’re involved.”    

The participating troops purchased the wheels and safety belts for the youngsters while parents helped the boys put the cars together.

“All the boys will get at least one ride down the hill, and we’ll just average out the winning time,” Wilcher said.  

The winning den with the best combined time earned a trip to nearby Frosty Boy for a free ice cream treat.

New Palestine Chamber of Commerce representative Caralee Griffith is also a Cub Scout mother and helped the packs get permission from town officials to hold the event in New Palestine on Bittner Road.

“We want this to be a really big event,” Griffith said. “We’d like to see this be something that happens every year, and the town was just so supportive of us helping us close the road.”  

Cub Scout Chase Stephens, a third-grader at Brandywine Elementary School and member of Pack 244, said he was able to test drive the car in the school’s parking lot after one of the pack’s dads helped the kids build it.

“To stop it, we had a little spring break that had a little foil on it where you had to pull it back to stop it,” Chase said.

His mother, Yvonne Stephens, said youngsters had to follow the Soap Box Derby rules when building their cars.

“The cars had to be a certain length and a style to be official,” she said.

With this being the first race, officials weren’t sure where the best starting point on Bittner Road would be. After some testing, they took the boys to the top of the hill and let them roll.

Unfortunately, after the first few races a couple of the riders had some trouble steering the cars down the hill and crashed them as they picked up speed. That caused organizers to move the starting point about midway down the hill, where the riders had a much easier time of it.

“It was fun,” Pack 254 member Joey Hall said. He won his race and slowly applied the break as he crossed the finish line as if he’d been driving for years.

“I’d rather ride from the top of the hill,” Pack 254 member Ben Palmer said. “I kind of liked the crashes.”

That was a view held by a few other scouts. 

“We didn’t get to go very fast,” Pack 254 member Zachy Au said.

Still, overall, he said, it was a fun pack project. “I liked it when we got to spray paint the car... But, it was hard to steer.”

That’s something Pack 254 member Jake Cooper found out about firsthand when he flipped his car after he’d picked up some speed coming down the hill.

“He’s O.K!” a race watcher yelled as people ran toward Jake to help him.

While he ended up with a pretty large scratch on his face, it was nothing a trip to Frosty Boy and a bandage couldn’t cure.

“He wants a bandage on his cheek,” Griffith said with a laugh as she ran back from her car with her first-aid kit in hand.

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