Soap Box Derby takes me back

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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On the pages of this edition of the Folsom Telegraph you will be reading about a great new event coming to the community of Folsom – our very own sanctioned Soap Box Derby. I personally can’t wait to see this new event unfold in person.

A few months ago, I was sitting in Karen Holmes office at her bakery when she told me of the plans to bring the sport of Soap Box racing to Folsom and the conversation became truly fun.  Anyone who knows Karen knows she has a love of community, kids and she has a true love of, yes, car racing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I too have a career background in the sport of auto racing. That background includes many years of announcing at local Saturday night tracks as doing publicity for various venues all the way up to working for championship caliber NASCAR teams at the regional level and beyond. For several years I worked as a publicist for a NASCAR Development Team under the management of the legendry Richard Childress, so it’s safe to say I trekked the ranks from grassroots to what many consider the peak of the sport. I never actually drove a car and this column will explain why.

Although I stepped away from the day-to-day career in that industry to return to the world of community journalism about five years ago, I still have a passion for the sport of racing and the need for speed. That passion started long ago when I was just a tike and spent much of my spare time with my friends doing what boys do – putting wheels on random things and finding ways to make those things go faster.

Nothing says hometown better than a good old-fashioned Soap Box Derby as I was surely not the only kid doing such activities growing up. Seeing this event come together for the city of Folsom makes me wish I was a little kid again and able to join the fun in the community.

When I was a youngster, we didn’t have a sanctioned event like this come to town. Instead, we took to the street and invented our own event. We made makeshift race cars from just about anything we could, wagons, moving dollies, you name it. If it had wheels, we found a way to make it faster.

One contraption vividly stands out in my memory as a kid. My best friend’s parents participated in dog shows. My best friend also had a custom-built flattop redwood wagon. It didn’t take long for us to find a way to strap that kennel on to that wagon and take to the street. But before you go contacting the area animal activists on me, I need to let you know that no animals were harmed in our activities. That’s because the dog was never put in the cage and sent down the hill. We did it ourselves.

That’s right. One of us would climb into the wire cage and grasped the handle of the wagon that protruded through the bars. The other, would do the deed of “latching” the cage shut before giving this beautiful rig a shove down the street on its way on a death defying journey. The run always resulted in a spectacular crash at the end of the street as the handle of the wagon barely moved being shoved between those bars and brakes weren’t something we saw as an important component. Helmets weren’t anywhere in our head or on them as well, after all, that dog kennel was a sturdy roll cage, right?

Once one of us would make our spectacular crash landing, the other would run to the scene, open the cage and pull us from the wreckage and celebrate the success of, well, I guess we were celebrating the fast we lived. Looking back, I can’t believe we did those types of things, and that was just one such activity.

Another notable feat involved laying on metal Tonka trucks and riding them down that same steep street like a street luge, only to fly off and face plant on my father’s lawn. He would usually come out and tell us to stop tearing up the lawn, yet I never remember him looking into what we were actually doing before we reached the lawn? Probably because it was so insane he never would have imagined us doing such a thing and never knew how we cheated death nearly every day during the summer.

In our teen years, we moved to motorized daredevil feats. When my friend’s grandmother bought him a gas-powered go kart, let’s just say our level of crazy antics increased, but we performed them well because of our grass-roots knowledge of physics, as I like to say.

Next weekend, you aren’t going to see kids like us with a dog kennel strapped to a wagon. You are going to see youngsters and teens in prestige, well-engineered Soap Box racers. However, the moxie and the passion within each of those youngsters is nothing different from what we had as kids, they seek the thrill of competition and victory and possess a true need for speed.

On Oct. 13 and 14, I encourage everyone to come out to Folsom’s Historic District and line Sutter Street to show your support for this unique event. Folsom may be growing big, but we still have a very special “hometown” community here in our city. This event will add to that unique trait and surely be one to remember and possibly return for years to come. Come out and join us next week and see the article by Senior Reporter Rachel Zirin in today’s edition for all the details.

Bill Sullivan is the associate publisher of Gold Country Media. He can be reached at