When the Eastern Maine Soap Box Derby’s board of directors decided not to hold a race in 2010, the Northern Maine derby invited those in the East to trek to Aroostook County to compete.
That will be the case again this summer as Northern Maine derby race directors have invited prospective Eastern Maine participants to race in Houlton for a chance to compete on the national stage.
“It’s good for our area to have people come in, just like the Bangor area hosting the basketball tournament and all those types of things,” said event director Chris Holmes
The 2011 edition of the race is set for June 18, with car inspection to be held in the Millar Civic Center adjacent to the park on June 17.
A double-elimination format will be in place this year, giving racers at least four trips down Derby Hill.
Participants from the Midcoast region are welcome too, as Holmes said that region will not hold a race in Camden this summer.
The winners in the stock and super stock classes will represent Maine in the All-American Soap Box Derby on July 23 in Akron, Ohio.
The Soap Box Derby, originated in 1934, features cars which are constructed by youths and then race down a hill.
Holmes said roughly 45 to 50 competitors raced in 2010, and with the Houlton race being the only one left in the state of Maine, he’s hoping for a large turnout this summer.
“We’ve got quite a few (signed up),” he said. “We’re hoping to have as many as we had last year. We’d be thrilled if there were more than that.”
Youths ages 8 to 17 as of June 18 of last year can participate, and the deadline for registration is May 14.
Houlton’s Derby Hill is located next to the Millar Civic Center near the high school, and the racers finish in the hockey arena’s parking lot.
The hill is a fairly steep one, Holmes said, with the stock and super stock cars topping out at 25 to 28 miles per hour.
Holmes said a “handful of racers” came up from the Greater Bangor area last year.
“I know we do have a few that are coming back this year,” he said.
In 2000, the Houlton derby was one of the largest in the state, averaging around 200 cars, but Holmes knows it can be tough to maintain sponsorship, especially given the state of the economy.
“It takes a lot of money to keep a car upgraded and inspect it,” he explained. “Often times the sponsors just decide they don’t want to re-invest in them.”
Participants can register by picking up a registration form at the Houlton Recrecation Department and returning it, along with the $30 entry fee, to NMSBD, PO Box 84, Houlton, ME, 04730.
Registration can also be done via email at Rec.firstname.lastname@example.org, with information in the subject line, or by calling 532-1310.
A tech day will also be held on May 14 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Derby Hill, which can be a guide in making sure one’s car is ready to pass inspection on race day.