A Shark. A Spongebob. A GI Joe. Even an Ice Cream Sandwich. Though the designs were dramatically different, the goal was the same: to hold your own on Pinewood Derby Day, a decades-old tradition that took place this past Saturday at The Methodist Church of Medina.
The wooden car racing competition involved two packs: 28 and 35, four of whom from each group would be eligible to go on to the next level, the district finals. Weigh in began at 11 AM, a strict protocol ensuring that no car exceeded 5 ounces. The wooden car kits had been passed out one month prior as little more than wooden blocks, which the children and their parents worked together to whittle down, shave, sand, and paint. Wheels and axles, also included in the kit, were also shaved down and dusted with graphite. Some competitors then added weights to give their cars added momentum. But once weigh-in commenced and a final graphite dusting was done, it was time to submit their cars for competition.
After a reminder from Cubmaster Mike Reese to respect the space, and following a quick rundown of the rules, the young men were off and racing, scrambling to collect their cars from Leader Melissa Wozniak when each group of four was announced.
Beginning with Pack 35's youngest charges competing, the Tigers, the children were ready to race, lining up their cars by fours and then timing the consecutive heats. Each group released their cars down the aligned aluminum track and were rewarded seconds later with an instant digital reading of that race's result. One of the day's hosts, Misty Reese, then carefully logged results, a meticulous role necessary for determining finalists who would qualify to go on to the finals, hosted this coming April 23rd in Batavia by the region's umbrella group, the Iroquois Boy Scouts Council of America.
Past competitors Bobby Vidovich, Jackson Caldwell, and Chris Caldwell shared their collective wisdom about the sport, which, while they were in the role of observer now, they've participated in themselves nearly half a dozen times. Chris, the elder brother and now a full-fledged Boy Scout, had been to finals twice as a younger cub. "You can't be upset if you lose," he shared. "Plus…when you go to finals, don't feel bad if you don't place. People win by just milliseconds," he explained wisely.
Brand new racer Luke Duffina, 7, talked about what he liked best about the derby: "Being with my dad," he said shyly. Any advice for kids next year? I asked. "Give yourself lots of time," he offered. "And…the tires are the hardest part," he concluded. (More than a dozen dads concurred.)
Of his two boys' simple but successful cars, Ric Jones explained, "We knew we wanted to add something for weight. My dad found some old lead ingots that had once belonged to my great-grandpa Crittendon. We melted those down in a tin can, drilled a hole in the bottom of the cars, and poured the lead in a hole we had drilled together." He smiled. "We're all convinced the boys' great, great granddad had a hand in things today."
Scout Leader Mike Gray of Pack 35 shared his thoughts, too.
"Weren't you talking about last year's race and sort of laughing about how things went wrong?" I asked him. "Laughing?" said Gray. "Are you kidding me? I was crying!" he joked. "No, but seriously...you know, we're all new at this. Some of us, yeah, we didn't know our first year out how to do this...But listen, this isn't about winning. It's all about bonding with your son. Seeing all the kids come together this way, the two packs doing this together...that's what makes it worthwhile."
Cubmaster for Pack 35 John Dieter agreed: "It's a great time, and the kids get so much out of it. It's one of my very favorite days all year."
Asked to share their advice for parents competing for the first time, Cubmaster Reese of Pack 28 offered this: "Well, there's a wealth of information online. You can do your research and find all sorts of ideas." His wife Misty added, "But you've gotta have fun more than worry about the technical side," she cautioned. "That's what it's really about."
Parent David Reese (no relation) of Pack 35 agreed: "It's definitely about the fun. Joey did such a great job-he liked making his shark car so much, the other kids [siblings] got involved, and they each made one, too."
Other families did the same: Medina's race concluded with a good natured "siblings' race" in which children-girls and boys-who were related to a scout got to race their own cars down the track.
The family atmosphere permeated the event. Grandparents, friends, and family were all present to watch and cheer on as the children raced. And by day's end, eight children were contenders for the finals: Nicholas Reese, Joe Brueckner, Brandon Brueckner, and Maxime Pilon of Pack 28, and River Jones, Ryder Jones, Brayden Lewis, and Colton Smith of Pack 35 will go on to race in Batavia in April.
Any Medina-area boys who would like to get involved in cub scouts to participate in future events can contact either Mike Reese of Pack 28, at [email protected], or they can contact John Dieter of Pack 35 at [email protected].