There’s more than one kind of Derby in Kentucky this month. This week we’re at Phil Moore Park in Bowling Green telling the history of the BB&T All-American Soap Box Derby. Coming up here in a couple weeks, 2018 is the 21st Derby year.
According to the National Soap Box Derby website, the idea behind the Soap Box Derby comes from Dayton, Ohio. In the summer of 1933, a newspaper photographer named Myron Scott was out on assignment and found a group of boys racing homemade cars.
After pitching the idea for a race to Chevrolet, the company agreed to sponsor the first official All-American Soap Box Derby in Dayton in 1934. The race moved to Akron in 1935 because of its central location and hills. Minus a four-year hiatus because of World War II, Akron’s been the home of Soap Box Derby ever since.
The Derby was only open to male racers for its first few decades. The first race allowing females was in 1971.
Bowling Green’s had a Soap Box Derby history since 1938. It only took three years for the Derby culture to travel south from Akron. The steep and treacherous hill on College Street is where the races first started, running from the top of the hill to downtown Bowling Green.
The race took a break for several decades until 1998 when the Kiwanis Club decided to reorganize it. When it relaunched, it was the largest new race in the history of the National Soap Box Derby organization with 77 drivers.
Bowling Green’s All-American Soap Box Derby race grew to be the third largest local race in the world with over 130 racers. Held on the track at Phil Moore Park, it’s still the world’s largest double elimination race.
The BB&T All-American Soap Box Derby runs May 18-19 at Phil Moore Park. Spectators are welcome to check out the custom homemade soap box cars celebrating over 80 years of history.
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