Derby set to return to Oak Creek

Winners have a chance to earn trip to national competition in Ohio

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— After a successful Oak Creek debut last summer, the sixth annual Rotary Club Soap Box Derby will return to South Routt in the summer. Event organizers hope this year's derby will be bigger and better.

The move to Oak Creek was necessary because of increasing summer traffic on Steamboat Springs streets, where the derby was held during previous years. Oak Creek officials happily welcomed the event to their town, where it was held along Main Street.

"Everybody said it went very well, considering it went to a new venue," said Ben Northcutt of the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club. "The venue we had was becoming more difficult."

More than 15 children raced derby cars down the 600-foot course. This year's double-elimination format race is scheduled for June 10.

Last year, Landen Mertz won the derby with the same car he had raced for four years. Mertz's win earned him a trip to the National Soap Box Derby finals in Akron, Ohio, in July, where he finished in fourth place.

"We know that the kids can be competitive with the best in the country," Northcutt said.

The local Soap Box Derby features a variety of Youth in Motion activities for children and parents. There will be music, food and booths with educational materials designed to teach children life lessons. One of last year's booths allowed children to try on goggles that simulated the effects of alcohol and the dangers of driving drunk.

Northcutt said soap box derby participants learn patience, sportsmanship, how to take pride in something and how to win or lose. Sponsoring the derby is a great opportunity for the Rotary Club to serve the community and local youths, Northcutt said.

"It's a great day of working with kids and having them see the fruits of their efforts," Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said, adding that she wants more people to participate in this year's derby and related Youth in Motion activities.

"The main thing is getting kids interested in doing it," Rodeman said.

Typically, event organizers and the Rotary Club help interested children find sponsors so that everyone who wants to participate in the derby can race. The biggest participation cost is the car itself. It comes in a kit and can cost as much as $500 to $800.

"I think it's important to let them know that you can go to the businesses," Rodeman said. "You can go to five businesses and get $100 a piece,"

She also wants more people to be on the sidelines to cheer on the children and take part in an Oak Creek event that welcomes people from all of the surrounding communities.

"I think the adults get as big a kick out of it as the kids do," she said.

Rodeman said the derby is the newest community event that the town hosts, and she hopes there will be more events in the future. Two weeks after the derby, Oak Creek will host the Taste of South Routt.

"I'm always up for community events that not only bring people in our community together but also people from the rest of the region," Rodeman said.

Families interested in competing in the 2006 Soap Box Derby can e-mail John Mertz at johnmertz@GMalliance.net.

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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