Annual pinewood derby rolls through Vaughn


Hugh McMillan

Members of Boy Scouts of America Pack 222 pose for a group shot before the beginning of their recent Pinewood Derby races at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. Photo by Hugh McMillan, KP News

Last month, the Key Peninsula Lions-sponsored Boy Scout Pack 222 rolled into the Key Peninsula Civic Center.

The place was abuzz with fun and excitement. Kids and their parents were seen shuffling into position in a multitude of body contortions, yelling, urging their homemade vehicles to accelerate down a ramp.

This year, Pack 222's derby was professionally created, elaborate and technically designed.

For as long as scouting has been around, groups of kids have looked forward to this annual competition to see how their crafted wooden cars fared with others.

The scouts’ cars race down a long ramp with four slotted tracks.

The ramp is elevated at the start gate end before the cars are released down a sloping track where gravity –– the motivating power –– swishes them about 50 feet where they bump to a stop at track's end, often with a whack.

This group’s finish line was different. The end was scientifically cushioned in such a way that the cars lined up in the order in which they finished. The results of each race were then projected on the ceiling, with computerized exact times electronically announced.

Nowadays, organizers said that almost every vehicle is made from a Boy Scouts of America kit.

In the past, they were carved out of chunks of wood on which wheels were mounted. Today's cars are assembled by the cubs, frequently with the help of an adult, almost always dad.

They are decorated and painted in whatever way the kids wish. They must meet weight standards and other details of the regulated contest rules.

Pack 222 spokesman Billie Bowen was there, and was just as fired up as most in the gym. Excitement was in the air, cars lined up on a display table in the KP Civic Center for all to admire.

“The Pack 222 boys have been working hard designing patterns, putting the cars out on build day, sanding, painting and adding finishing touches,” Bowen said.

Siblings and parents also worked on their cars, as there were also sibling and adult races.

Bowen said there were sharks and Batman and Hulk-themed cars.

“Some were hot dogs and classic race cars painted in the most awesome colors. The pride in the boys’ faces as they show off their cars is obvious and great to see,” he said.

The goal behind the Pinewood Derby races is to have fun. Each car races four times, and as the cars race down the track, kids and adults alike cheer and congratulate each racer no matter what order they place, he said.

"The derby is more than about just winning. It’s a time for children to learn sportsmanship and to develop a lasting relationship with an adult role model. As in all aspects of scouting, the Pinewood Derby help boys develop skills, confidence and self-esteem,” Bowen said.