Pinewood derbies are a winter tradition in Third Place Commons, and they appear like clockwork in our calendar. Just as regular are questions from people who have no idea what this event is, so with the help of Wikipedia, this is our answer: a pinewood derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America. Cub Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits containing a block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles. Finished cars must use all pieces in the kit, cannot exceed a certain weight or length, and must fit on the track used by the pack.
As long as those criteria are met, each scout gets to use his imagination. This year, we saw racing candy bars, dragsters with flames carefully painted on the sides, and a bat mobile or two. By the time the scouts arrive at the derby, they have put hours into their creations. Of course, speed is rewarded during the races, but so is creativity. Everyone in the pack gets to vote for their favorite car.
On the morning of the event, scouting parents show up early to set up the track, and as might be expected, today’s tracks have come a long way from the heavy wooden ones of the 1950’s, when this event started. Our local Pack 850 invested in a sleek metal track a few years ago, one outfitted with digital timers for exact results. From the first heat for the youngest boys, cars whir down the track in groups of four. Scouts and parents cheer each other on through heats, and into the finals, until the winners are awarded trophies at the end. It is a good-natured event that leaves everyone looking forward to next year’s derby.
Packs 850 and 328 race at the end of January. Be sure to check our 2014 calendar so you can get a glimpse of cars speeding through Third Place Commons.