In a call for champions, directors of the city's resurrected Soap Box Derby have announced a public meeting that will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 23 at the Community Arts Center.
With two cars on display, race director Jim Campbell, also the executive director of Hope Enterprises, said the meeting will provide a video demonstration of races, facts and a registration table for those interested in participating in this year's July 3 event.
While there is no cost to participate, those registering must be a resident of Lycoming County.
Len Otto of Williamsport raced in a soap-box car similar to the one he displays at right in 1952, when he was 12. He took second place that year. Today’s youths have the chance to compete in a soap box derby here this summer.
The meeting will help educate youths who may not know a lot about what a Soap Box Derby is and help provoke some attraction to the race, Campbell said.
Since its revival was first declared last July, Campbell said the Williamsport Soap Box Derby is undergoing development to raise sponsorships for car kits, a timing system, trophies, T-shirts, as well as seeking registrations.
So far, Campbell said directors have accumulated 36 sponsors and about a dozen registered racers generated by stations posted at various holiday festivities since last summer and the kids' First Friday event last fall.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Meeting for those interested in July 3 city Soap Box Derby
WHEN: 10 a.m. Jan. 23
WHERE: Community Arts Center
"So, there's plenty of room available," he added in reference to potential contestants.
The racing program is designed to hold 52 racers: 26 for the Stock Division and 26 for the Super Stock Division.
The Stock Division is for racers between the ages of 8 and 13 years old who are about 5 feet 3 inches tall and 125 pounds. The Super Stock Division is designed for those 10 to 17 years old, who are up to about 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.
The race will take place beginning on Market Street near Brandon Park and travel down the hill to Little League Boulevard. Local champions from each of the Stock and Super Stock divisions then will head to Akron, Ohio - the birthplace of the Soap Box Derby - to compete for scholarships and merchandise prizes in the annual All-American Soap Box Derby.
Each car kit sent in by Derby officials in Akron costs about $600, Campbell said, and will be assembled by each driver.
Campbell said 52 car kits are slated for purchase, and should registration numbers go beyond 52 racers, a lottery system will be put in place to assign each child to a car.
Construction clinics will be held at Pennsylvania College of Technology at an undetermined date, but Campbell said he hopes to have those under way by April or May, so racers can become acclimated to their vehicle and begin practicing soon after.
According to Campbell, contestants - who will race one-on-one - will have the opportunity to compete twice to ensure accuracy and fairness for the declared winner. After the first race, drivers will switch wheels and lanes to remove any possible detriments the other may have experienced during his or her original run.
Drivers also will be able to add a designated amount weight to their vehicle to equate themselves with their opponent.
Each car sent to Akron to compete will be deemed ineligible for use the following year, he said.
From 1941 to 1954 - with the exception of four years during World War II - the city held Soap Box Derby races, Campbell noted, adding the city claimed one first-place title, two second-place and one seventh-place spot at the championship race in the All-American Soap Box Derby.
According to the All-American Soap Box Derby's Web site, the youth racing program has run nationally since 1934.
The Williamsport Soap Box Derby is sponsored by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the City of Williamsport, Backyard Broadcasting and the Kiwanis Club of Williamsport.
For more information or to register for the Williamsport Soap Box Derby, visit www.williamsportsbd.org or call Campbell at 326-3745, ext. 1201.