Sage Witty works on this year’s soapbox car with brother Aris. Photo courtesy Witty Family.
By Mara Certic
High Street will be closed to all motorized traffic for a few hours on Sunday, June 8, to accommodate Sag Harbor’s favorite high-speed car race—the second annual Scout Soap Box Derby.
Over 40 girl, boy and cub scouts, ranging in age from 7 to 17, will take to the streets to race soapbox cars that they have spent hours designing, assembling and painting with help from their friends and families.
Cub Scout leader and Wolf Den mother Laurie Barone-Schaefer resurrected the 80-year-old tradition last year, in an effort to get children off the couch and into the great outdoors. “We need to get these kids back to basics,” she said. “Not driving virtual cars, we need them in those cars and experiencing it first hand.”
Second-grader and first-time racer Ryder Esposito will take to the streets in his brand new American flag car on Sunday. “My Dad, Mom and sister helped me build it,” he said. “We all thought of ideas. It’s red with blue stripes and white stars; it looks awesome!”
“I’m most excited to race my car down the hill at the derby,” he said. “I’m excited to show my friends and see their cars too!”
Last year’s runner-up Bryona Hayes will don her racer’s helmet again this weekend. The 9-year-old has decided to revamp last year’s car, changing it from a black with the name of her sponsor, “East End Fuel,” to a white car with sparkles.
She really enjoyed last year’s race, she said, and added that she “went pretty fast.” She has no real change in strategy this Sunday, she said, and will stick with her tried and tested tactics that won her a second-place trophy: “I’m just going to keep leaning forward,” she said.
Although the race begins on Sunday afternoon, the event really starts on Saturday when the cars will all be impounded at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, and a panel of judges will then determine the winners of six secondary prizes who will be awarded plaques after the races on Sunday, along with the first, second and third places trophies for two weight divisions.
On Saturday evening, scouts of all ages will convene at Long Beach for an informal gathering “to enjoy downtime together before the big race,” Ms. Barone-Schaefer said. Marshmallows will be roasted on the beach as the King and Queen of the Soap Box Derby are announced.
This year, the winners of an essay contest, entitled “What Scouting Means To Me” will be donned with crowns and sashes and honored during the parade down Main Street directly preceding the race.
The parade, which will begin on Main Street at 1 p.m., will include the fire department, local vintage cars and memories of friends past. This year’s event is dedicated in memory and honor of Katy Stewart, whose brother, Robert, will be competing in Sunday’s race. Katy’s Courage will have a pink beetle bug car in the parade and Katy’s friends will be walking along side it and throwing candy to the crowd. Last year’s derby was dedicated to Jordan Haerter, who was a member of troop 455 himself.
After the parade, the speed-racers will make their way down to High Street, whose residents they presented with preemptive thank you letters and coupons for hot dogs, snacks and drinks on Tuesday.
“We need them to get to know the people in our community,” said Ms. Barone-Schaefer. “And through this process, they’re meeting all these people. They would not usually have that opportunity otherwise.”
The children, she explained, met village officials when they accompanied her to a Sag Harbor Village Board meeting in March to seek approval for this year’s event.
“They know Chief Fabiano, where they wave and say hi to him when they see him on the street, they know Rusty from WLNG,” she added.
“It’s just a really fun day. It’s a day of community, a day of family and a day of old-fashioned fun.”
The Sag Harbor Scout Soap Box Derby will take place on High Street on Sunday, immediately following a 1 p.m. parade down Main Street. For more information visit sagharborderby.com