By Kristin Bednarski
More than a dozen soap box cars could be seen racing down Locust Street in Milford Oct. 13 for the first annual soap box derby in the city.
The Milford Gravity Grand Prix was hosted by Cincinnati Soap Box Derby, a youth-development organization for children age 7-17 years old.
“As a kid, I participated in soap box derbies,” Lu Mays, a member of the Milford Parks and Recreation Committee, said.
Mays said they were trying to come up with ideas for events that would involve community members and he suggested a soap box derby.
“Everyone got on board,” Mays said.
He said Milford officials worked with the Cincinnati Soap Box Derby to plan the event.
“We used satellite to find eligible streets in the area,” Mays said.
He said once they compiled a list of streets that met elevation and length requirements, they ended up selecting Locust Street right in downtown Milford.
“We wanted to attract people to downtown Milford,” Mays said.
Mays said soap box derbies are a great opportunity to get parents and children involved in the community.
“It is good family time and good engineering experience,” Mays said.
Paul Sheffer, a member of Cincinnati Soap Box Derby who helped organize the event, said their organization is sanctioned by the All American Soap Box Derby.
Sheffer said the All American Soap Box Derby is a championship event that is held in Akron, Ohio each year, and the organization provides many opportunities for children including scholarships.
Sheffer said the soap box derby in Milford will be the last local race Cincinnati Soap Box Derby will have this season.
At the Milford Gravity Grand Prix, there were both stock and super stock cars and participants were able to rent cars if they did not have their own.
Some children at the event were racing for the first time, while others have been involved with the sport for several years.
“Peter loves cars and his New Year’s resolution was to be a better driver,” Chris Wilke, of Pleasant Ridge, said about his 7-year-old son.
Wilke said he told his son he wasn’t even old enough to drive, and that led to their involvement with Cincinnati Soap Box Derby.
“It’s a blast,” Wilke said. “Everyone is always helping each other out, there is great spirit.”
Matt Overbeck, of Anderson Township, also got his son, James, involved with the sport, which has been a part of the family for years.
“This is the first year he was old enough to participate,” Overbeck said.
James Overbeck said he has fun racing soap box cars.
“I like to go off the ramps,” Overbeck said.
Hannah Schweinefus, a 17-year-old Milford resident, said she recently aged out of the sport, but spent many years racing and helping with soap box derbies.
“It’s really good for sportsmanship,” Schweinefus said.
Schweinefus said she made a lot of friends through the sport. She said she also learned how to be a helpful and friendly competitor because many of her races were against those same friends.
“It’s more than just racing,” Schweinefus said. “It’s a community.”
Mays said they hope to make the Milford Gravity Grand Prix a fixture on the calendar, but will discuss the event’s success after it is over.
For more information about Cincinnati Soap Box Derby, visit www.cincinnatisoapboxderby.com.