After a week of rain, Michelle Petix was hoping for a break in the clouds for Saturday's fifth annual Rotary Soap Box Derby. Against the odds, she got her wish and perfect racing conditions.
The derby was held in conjunction with the second annual Youth in Motion event at Decker Park in Oak Creek.
"Thank God the weather turned out like this," said Petix, the organizer of the soap box derby, as she lined up the racers on a wooden platform.
The soap box derby was held on a closed section of Main Street, and 15 participants raced to win the first-place prize, a trip to Akron, Ohio, for the National Soap Box Derby in July.
To compensate for the way Main Street is angled, each heat consisted of two races. After the first race of each two-car heat, the racers switched lanes for the second race. At the finish line, the time difference between the two races determined the winner.
Landen Mertz, 12, has raced the same car for four years, and this year, No. 211 paid off. Mertz won the soap box derby after racing Andru Kulas.
"It was great, and I can't wait to go to nationals," Mertz said.
Mertz's favorite part about the derby was being able to say he beat his sister, Morgan, when they raced each other.
"I am feeling good that I won," he said.
The Bye family had two sons who competed in the derby. Dan, 11, and Garrett, 8, were the official Bye family racers, but dad, Mike, and mom, Tracy, were there for support.
"I'm the pit crew," Tracy Bye said.
The Bye family spent the past two weeks and about 30 hours building the two cars the boys raced.
"Going off the ramp is the funnest part," Garrett said.
Garrett also said the cars were difficult to control because drivers can't turn them very much. Each car has a steering wheel, brakes and that's it.
Johnny Walker, the chief inspector for the race, said each car weighs about 67 pounds.
"This has been the smoothest derby yet," Walker said. "It does get pretty competitive."
Walker has been involved with the soap box derby for the five years it has been in existence.
After the final race, several grudge matches were held for racers who wanted to race their brothers, sisters or friends for fun.
"They're out, and they want to have fun," Petix said.
After the derby, and just down the road, Youth in Motion festivities were under way in Decker Park.
This year's Youth in Motion event featured the local band Loose Change, a barbecue, the Steamboat Car Club and several booths that featured educational material for the children who attended.
Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman was glad to have the events in Oak Creek this year and hopes they return next year.
"This is a good family thing, and there needs to be more of those," Rodeman said.
As the families entered Decker Park, each child received a card that they could use to get stickers from the booths after each presentation. After the event, there was a drawing for prizes such as a bike, a skateboard and gift certificates to local businesses.
One booth, "Death to Meth," sponsored by the Routt County Sheriff's Office, had a table full of rubbing alcohol, Sudafed, paint thinner, match boxes, Draino, acetone and other chemicals used to make methamphetamine.
Sheriff's investigator Dan Kelliher spoke to the children about the dangers of methamphetamine and how readily the materials can be bought.
"I got all of this stuff at Wal-Mart," he said, which made the crowd gasp.
"My job is to demonstrate how easily this stuff is made and how bad it is for you," Kelliher said.
Other booths included material about dental hygiene, alcohol awareness and financial issues.
Alice Klauzer of the Steam--boat Springs Rotary Club and a volunteer at the event said she was pleased with this year's event.
"It was a good turnout and we learned from the bumps we had the first time around," she said.
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