Annual South Slope Soap Box Derby

Soap box derby returns to the Slope

The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

And they’re off: Hubert Dobler holds back eager racers at Park Slope’s annual soap box derby. Dobler co-organized the sprint, which sends entrants careening down 17th Street.
Focused: Emil Regl of Austria whizzed down the hill at this year’s derby, unable to spare a single iota of concentration for the assembled fans.
Teamwork: River Vanesse and Will Statman competed in South Slope’s fifth annual soap box derby.
Weeeee!: More than 45 kids ages seven to 15 raced their rides made out of recycled materials down the one-block route.
End zone: Race organizers may not have had a checkered flag, but that did nothing to dampen the thrills as jerry-rigged speedsters careened across the finish line.

They had the need for speed.

More than 45 kids took to the streets of South Slope in handcrafted vehicles for some old-fashioned road racing during the neighborhood’s annual Soap Box Derby on Saturday, put on by Open Source Gallery.

Contenders between the ages of 7 and 15 zoomed down inclined 17th Street on the one-block race route between Fifth and Sixth avenues for the all-American, Depression-era pastime in which motors are forbidden.

“It just gets better every year,” said artist Monika Wuhrer, creator of the neighborhood race that’s now in it’s fifth year. “The cars get better, the audience gets better — it was just really great. The kids really prepare for it.”

Wuhrer hosted weeks-long summer-camp building workshops at the 17th Street arts space prior to the competition, to help participants craft the do-it-yourself, gravity-powered racecars that are strictly made out of recycled materials like ironing boards, skateboards, stroller and bicycle parts, shelving units, and even vacuum cleaners.

“Every car has a completely different look and design,” said Wuhrer, who collects the parts for the handmade creative cars. “It’s very special that [the kids] are allowed to have the cars that they made themselves and that they are allowed to test out the constructions they made.”

A panel of judges rated each soap box based on design, originality, engineering, and, of course, speed, on a 1-to-5 scale. Thirteen-year-old Dany Sainz-Gootenberg of Cobble Hill took home the trophy for coming in first place overall.

But 11-year-old Jack Kerrigan, who managed to out-race the pack in his three-wheeled vehicle made out of wood and bike handlebars, crossed the finish line with the fastest time of 30 seconds.

“[Jack] said he avoided a drain that protruded from the ground and tried to hold his line in the middle, put his head down, and just kept going,” said Jack’s dad, Brian Kerrigan. “He absolutely loved it.”

The gravity-propelled summer sport, which drew dozens of spectators, also gave the adults a chance to race after the kids finished barreling down the street on the fun-filled day that doubled as a block party.

The idea of the Soap Box Derby originated in 1933 when a newspaper photographer named Myron Scott discovered some boys racing crate-cars down a hill in Dayton, Ohio. A week later, Scott invited the boys back for a bigger race that he put together, which drew a considerable crowd and tradition took off.

In 1934, the first official Soap Box Derby was held in Dayton.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 10:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Wow. I did not realize Park Slope had Brooklyn based, Soap Box car artisans.
Aug. 13, 2013, 8:12 am
o3 from bk says:
wait...recycled...repurposed ?

all that's lacking are kazoos, bushy beards, & PBR's ))

...and diehip!
Aug. 13, 2013, 8:41 am
ty from pps says:
You guys are a bunch of old d*cks. Jesus.
Aug. 13, 2013, 9:51 am
diehipster from Bludgeoning Beardos says:
To me the most incredible part of this story is the fact that actual kids participated in this and not some Shaggy from Scooby Doo lookalike latte slurping rent raisers who are partying to the max in Nieuw Breukelen deeeeeeeeeeeeeed.
Aug. 13, 2013, 10:46 am
Manposeur from brokelyn says:
This looks like fun. But the article did mention adult participation & impromptu block party - another reason for public drinking.
Aug. 13, 2013, 11:39 am
gary says:
@Pat I. and 03
may i ask exactly what you guys contribute to the neighborhood, besides your cynicism?
Aug. 13, 2013, 12:40 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Well when we had riots during a black out in the early 70's we stopped roving thugs from entering our homes.

When the hipsters started to replace people like us crime went up. So when an old lady got mugged instead of Zack walking by and doing something he would blow his rape whislte and yell "OPPRESSOR!!!"

Stuff like that. We were very hands on.

And before you brng up the old "you don't live here anymore" canard I still have a lot of family down there and visit often.
Aug. 13, 2013, 12:53 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Another thing Gary. We didn't have boards, collectives, activist groups, etc. If we saw a neighbor's kid shoplifting WE took the kid (or the shop owner) took the kid to his paretns - usually by the ear.

We looked out for each other. We didn't have to sign up, hold meetings, etc. We did it because it was the right thing to do.
Aug. 13, 2013, 12:56 pm
gary says:
i hope you are still "hands on" and policing your new neighborhood. good luck with all that.
Aug. 13, 2013, 1:18 pm
o3 from bk says:
gary - I work, pay my taxes, buy local, & give to charity. nuff said...

...sides providing a little humor to brighten ur daze ol boy ))
Aug. 13, 2013, 1:37 pm
Northside Ned from GPT says:
Pat I. is a loser who life passed by. :(
Aug. 13, 2013, 1:44 pm
gary says:
you weren't there, but i can assure you that none of the kids had beards, kazoos, or PBRs :)
it was a beautiful thing. maybe you'll attend next year and get a more accurate picture of what we in the south slope are all about.
Aug. 13, 2013, 1:52 pm
ty from pps says:
Wait... Pat. You're trying to say that crime is worse now than in the 70s? Or are you just saying, you prefer a city that requires hand-to-hand combat as a "normal" requirement?

You've gotta love the nostalgia for violence and urban decay.
Aug. 13, 2013, 2:46 pm
Maha Nhinga Shabazz from the Pentecost of Zion Ibrahim Congregation Muthah F'akkah Inshallah says:
Talkin' 'bout the shamefull mess y'all left here? Tryin' to tell me y'all have not PAID yo PENANCE fo' yo lowly shenanigans? Yo shifty assedness and mischief hath had y'all CAAAST OUT of the Garden of Eden. Oh I wag my finga at y'all I do. A shame ... what y'all hath squandered!
Aug. 13, 2013, 3:28 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
Wow. Wholesome article about kids having a soap-box derby in Brooklyn, and the nancies cannot find one positive thing to say about it. Not one thing.
Aug. 13, 2013, 5:25 pm
Carroll Garden says:
Come next year and put your wheels where your mouths are folks ! So much fun !
Aug. 14, 2013, 8:57 am
Rita Northhpole from New Jersey says:
When is the next street soap box derby in Brooklyn and where - any news?
June 11, 2014, 9:37 pm

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