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Saturday started quite early for Tullahoma’s Parks and Recreation Department. For the 13th consecutive year, the recreation department hosted its annual Soap Box Derby.
The race down the long hill on West Lincoln Street is a qualifier for the All-American Soap Box Derby, which is entering its 75th season. The four winners from Tullahoma’s race on Saturday each move on to Akron, Ohio, where they will get the chance to represent the city in the international Soap Box Derby event.
“It’s a great chance for them to go up and represent Tullahoma in the international race,” said Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department director Kurt Glick. “This is a great event for our community.”
The annual race has become a staple for the city each June, and it takes an assortment of folks to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
“We use three departments,” Glick said. “We use the fire department, public works and the parks and recreation department. We have all hands on deck.”
Travis Crago is among the large crew working to help make the Soap Box Derby a success. Crago, 16, is spending the summer working with the Tullahoma recreation department. This weekend was his first to work at the derby, though he competed in the event for two or three years.
The race itself begins between 7 and 8 a.m., but Crago said he was up way before then, getting West Lincoln Street prepared for the race.
“I clocked in a 2:45 a.m. and got out here about 3:15,” said Crago, while sitting on one of the many bales of hay at the end of the track that help protect the drivers.
Crago, who was helping remove the derby cars from the end of the track after each heat, admitted that he was working on about 2 1/2 hours of sleep. While 13 may be unlucky to some, it was perfect on Saturday. With 48 drivers signed in to compete, they were greeted with perhaps the most ideal weather in the city’s derby history.
Crago said he scarcely remembers when he was competing in the event, but it was fun nonetheless.
“Yeah, at the time it was,” he said. “We pretty much hung out up there (at the top of hill) until they called us out and then we went down the hill. I remember we all got to eat pizza.”
While utilizing a number of city employees throughout the day to pull off the event, there are many one-day employees who help as well. Glick said employees, or special volunteers, must be 15 years old to begin working the derby.
For anyone wanting to enter the race next season, Glick said sign-ups begin typically in April. Anyone interested can go online to <www.aasbd.org> to find more information about purchasing and building a car.
“You can also call the parks department at 455-1121 for information,” added Glick. “Some cars are donated by area businesses. You can call up and get on the waiting list and get involved. It’s a great event to be involved with.”
See Wednesday’s edition of The Tullahoma News for a complete wrap-up of the 13th annual Soap Box Derby.
By ROBERT HOLMAN, Sports Editor (email@example.com)