The Seymour DARE Soap Box Derby has become a tradition for several local families.
During Sunday’s ninth annual event, Seymour siblings Liberty Mahoney, 14, and William Mahoney, 9, each competed for the third time. Elliott Fraizer, 12, of Seymour was the fourth sibling in his family to race.
Other siblings and cousins raced against each other or one of their parents or grandparents just for fun.
They all had spent time together preparing their soap box derby cars for race day, and they were ready to place their cars on the starting ramp, glide down West Second Street and hope to cross the finish line first.
“It has been a very fun event. It’s a good event for the community,” said Shawn Mahoney, father of Liberty and William. “The time I have with them … if they are playing video games, you can’t interact with them very much. But this is something we can work with our hands and come out on a beautiful day and share together. Good memories.”
Proceeds from the event help Seymour’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which started in 1999 and teaches fifth-graders about drug awareness and gives them the skills they need to make good decisions. Officers Tim Toborg and Gilbert Carpenter are the Seymour instructors.
The soap box derby consists of two people racing at one time. The races are broken down by school grades, but racers can go up a class and face others older than them. There also are under-35 and open classes.
Liberty said that each year she has participated in the soap box derby she has used a different car. She outgrew the car she used last year, so she let William use it this year.
Instead of using derby wheels, they placed bicycle tires on the car this year.
“Derby wheels are expensive, so we just used bicycle wheels, and they worked perfectly fine,” said Liberty, an eighth-grader at Seymour Middle School.
She said she likes when it’s time to get on the starting ramp.
“You just hope that it will go and not wreck. That’s all you can really hope,” she said. “When you’re in the car, you kind of have to keep your head down. It just helps you go faster, and the more weight you have in your car, the faster it will go. You’ve just got to steer very lightly in your car and start braking when you get to the finish line. That’s about it.”
William, a third-grader at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, said he won his age group in his first time racing three years ago. That day, it was the seventh race of the seventh annual event, and it was on his seventh birthday.
On Sunday, he again won his age division.
“It’s just fun to race,” William said. “I try to go straight. If you’re swerving, it will take more time to get to the end.”
Elliott, a fifth-grader, said he has a collection of trophies from his five years of competing. He had a quick answer when asked why he continues to race.
“I was winning,” he said with a smile. “It was pretty fun, too.”
Elliott’s car has been used the past six years by either him or one of his three brothers.
Their father, Bob Fraizer, said the soap box derby has been a good family event over the years.
“It’s just something to do,” he said.
“It’s father-son time,” Elliott added.
This year, it also was a father-son activity for Jeremy Wischmeier of Seymour and his son, Wyatt Wischmeier, 10, a fifth-grader at Emerson Elementary School.
Wyatt was excited about competing for the first time in a car his father has had since 2008. Jeremy Wischmeier said it came as a kit, and the body is painted purple with a gray racing stripe down the center and has logos of corporate sponsors on it.
Jeremy Wischmeier is an engineering teacher at Seymour High School, and some of his students helped build it.
“The first year, we had corporate sponsors, so we had students in every category race the car. It has probably been in 25 different races over the years,” he said.
“Brothers and sisters and friends from the original group of students that built it want to come back and race,” he said. “One of the students came back when he was in college and raced it one year. It has just been kind of a community car that we’ve had.”
He said it hadn’t been raced in a couple of years, so he was glad Wyatt decided to compete for the first time.
“My friends and me were going to build a soap box derby car, and we were going to trick it out and stuff, but that never happened,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt added he had a good time racing and is ready to do it again next year.
“This is my second time actually being at a race,” he said, “and I’m kind of looking forward to doing it for a couple of years.”
Jeremy Wischmeier said the annual race is good for everyone involved.
“Some of the basic learning of putting together a car and the assembling of it and the hands-on skills of it, a lot of students don’t have otherwise,” he said. “It’s getting the family involved, having the parents and grandparents working together with the kids, getting them involved in a group activity.”
It was a grandfather-grandson activity for Russ Harrod of Scottsburg and Clayton Harrod, 10, a fifth-grader at Austin Elementary School.
The frame of Clayton’s car was made of inch-and-a-half plastic tubing, the sides were made from an old plastic sign, and they bought wheels for it and installed brakes. For the seat, Russ Harrod used one he had from his boat.
Clayton helped cut the tubing, drill holes for the seat and paint the car white. He also placed drug-free decals on the car, including one sticker that said, “Get hooked on fishing, not on drugs.”
Russ Harrod said his grandson worked hard on the car.
“He likes doing all kinds of things like that, so you’ve got to make it available to him,” Russ Harrod said.
“It’s fun,” Clayton said. “I guess I like it because you’re creating stuff, and I like to create different types of things.”
This was Clayton’s fourth year of racing. He won his age group last year and placed third among fourth- and fifth-graders Sunday. He took second place against middle school-age kids.
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Ninth annual Seymour DARE Soap Box Derby
(Note: Besides competing in their own grade level, participants may go up against older competitors.)
Kindergarten and Grade 1: 1-Avery Wilson, 2-Tyler Prince, 3-Cooper Elliott
Grades 2-3: 1-William Mahoney, 2-Jaidah Battice, 3-Blayke Chase
Grades 4-5: 1-Jesse Isaacs, 2-Aralyn Battice, 3-Clayton Harrod
Grades 6-8: 1-Jacob Rotert, 2-Clayton Harrod, 3-Eli Isaacs
Grades 9-12: 1-Macy Rotert, 2-Jesse Isaacs
Under 35: 1-Jacob Rotert, 2-Jaidah Battice, 3-Josslyn Burnside
Open: 1-Macy Rotert, 2-William Mahoney
Best in show: Roterts’ American rocket