By Kathryn G. Menu
Above: A historic photograph showing a soap box derby on High Street in Sag Harbor in the 1950s. Below: The Sag Harbor Cub Scouts Pack 455 earns approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, Tuesday night.
The annual Pinewood Derby in Sag Harbor is a scouting tradition in Sag Harbor, and for Laurie Barone-Schaeffer, expanding opportunities for her Cub Scout den is a constant priority.
In this case, they are going to need some bigger cars.
Barone-Schaefer and assistant Cub Scout leader Geraldine Merola were given the go-ahead at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting for a plan they have been working on for months — to resurrect the Sag Harbor Soap Box Derby.
Held traditionally on High Street, Barone-Schaefer said her goal was to bring a historic event tied closely to the bonds of community and family back to Sag Harbor.
The Sag Harbor Soap Box Derby will be held on Sunday, June 30, starting with a parade down Main Street to the American Legion Hall at 1 p.m., featuring the racers and their cars, followed by the derby.
Afterwards racers and their families will meet for a Sag Harbor Fireman’s barbeque at Havens Beach, where Schaefer hopes the cars will be displayed along with vintage automobiles owned by local families and antique fire trucks from the Sag Harbor Firehouse Museum.
Ultimately, said Schaefer in a separate interview on Tuesday morning, the derby is aimed at bringing people together in times when the Internet, video games and television can have a polarizing impact on families, and especially children.
“This promotes tradition, history, bonding time between family members, and its teaching our scouts how to work hard, getting them out from behind these video games and giving them the kind of experience kids really need in life,” she said. “It is also bringing the community together for an old fashioned event.”
The soapbox derby has been officially run in communities across the country since 1933, after a Dayton, Ohio newspaper photographer, Myron Scott, arranged an informal race between 19 boys.
The first All-American race was held in Ohio the following year and continues to this day, featuring racers from across the country at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio.
In Sag Harbor, photographs dating back to the 1950s and 1960s show racers gathered on High Street, and as recently as two decades ago derby races were held annually at the Bridgehampton Race Circuit.
This event, said Barone-Schaefer, will be a scouting event, open to Sag Harbor Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. They will race in five divisions based on age and children as young as six and as old as 18 are encouraged to participate.
A single adult division race is open to the public at large for racers 16 years and older. Barone-Schaefer said she hopes local merchants, the village, and volunteer groups will enter racers in the event.
At least 13 racers are expected from the Cub Scout Pack 455, and Barone-Schaefer said the Sag Harbor Boy Scout and Girl Scouts, as well as the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, have also expressed an interest in getting involved.
“We want to promote scouting and really bring it back as a great experience for kids that is also tied to community service,” said Barone-Schaefer. “We are getting involved with Jordan’s Initiative and creating care packages for troops overseas. We look at local businesses, like Mecox Bay Dairy, where the den learned how cheese is made and about farm life. They are headed to Deep Hollow Ranch and to the Cradle of Aviation for a sleepover to learn about astronomy and aviation.”
“In the age of Velcro shoes, these kids are learning to tie knots,” she said. “We have to get back to basics.”