Those kid and parent-built racers won’t be blazing down the hill at Faurot Park with nostalgic runs this summer.
Steve Skinner sure hopes they’ll be back next year, but the Lima Soap Box Derby won’t be under his watch. He decided to step down as the race director after 10 years at the helm and more than 15 years volunteering with the event that started its Lima run in 1936.
“I’m going to miss it,” Skinner said. “I decided to step down and let someone else try to do it if they want to. If not, we’ll make sure we get it going again.”
Back in January, the group’s board decided to scrap the 2022 edition of the Lima Soap Box Derby. The event takes six months of planning, Skinner said.
“Back when we decided back in January, COVID was still quite a big thing,” he said.
It’s the same reason the event didn’t happen in 2020 and 2021.
The event at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and North Shore Drive remained quite a draw. In its most recent run, in June 2019, there were 29 racers with its 69th edition. That was up from the year before.
It’s a youth activity unlike any other. Each racer is required to build a soap box derby car from scratch or a kit. Many children in the three divisions from the ages of 7 to 20 made lifetime memories building a car with a parent or trusted adult. Each four-wheel vehicle must pass a final inspection prior to the race, not exceeding a certain weight between the weight of the car and its racer.
The interest remains. With Lima’s race gone, area racers are allowed to compete at other cities’ events. Last year, 11-year-old Autumn Stechschulte of Columbus Grove won the Stock Division at the North Central Ohio Soap Box Derby in Mansfield. She advanced to the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron. She won her heat with a 28.832 second run down that hill but lost her head-to-head race in the second round by a mere 0.014 seconds to the eventual fourth-place finisher.
Ultimately, watching the kids made it worthwhile for Skinner for all those years.
“It was fun watching the kids and seeing their reaction,” he said.
He never raced in the derby as a child, but he remembered watching his dad and his younger brother work on a car and his brother compete. Eventually, his own daughter tried out the sport.
Organizing the annual event meant lining up sponsors and making sure everything was ready for those trips down Henry J. Hawk Memorial Hill in Faurot Park. This is the time of year when things usually picked up if there was a race.
“When the derby comes closer is when it becomes a little hectic,” Skinner said. “That’s when it takes all your time and you’re trying to get everything ready.”
Still, he remains optimistic the event hasn’t had its last sprint down that hill. He’s hopeful someone will step up. People can learn more about helping out through the event’s Facebook page, facebook.com/LimaSoapBoxDerby.