Soap Box Derby poised to unfold

MARTINS FERRY It’s nearly derby time again in the Purple City as the annual running of the Great Race, the city’s soap box derby, is set for its 21st running.

Action is slated to get under way Sunday at 10 a.m.

The national anthem will kick things off at 9:30 with racing set to follow shortly after atop Hanover Street.

Racers have been preparing diligently in recent months, tuning and returning their cars, decorating the shells and practicing their steering and brake work.

Nearly 30 drivers are slated to appear Sunday.

While that amount is somewhat less than the race rosters of 50 and 60 or more drivers in recent years, the competition still figures to be fierce.

Last weekend, drivers were able to get their first official test runs of race week when practice trials were held.

For the new drivers, it’s their first real opportunity to slip into their cars, get behind the wheel and gain a feel for how their derby cars handle.

Steering can take some getting used to, especially for the 8-year-olds signing up for the first time.

Fortunately, there are safety precautions in place, including barrels and hay, along with emergency crews on standby for Sunday’s race just in case any of the drivers get a little left of center.

For the experienced drivers, climbing back into their cars is like getting reacquainted with an old friend. It’s also a chance to make any last-minute adjustments or test any modifications they’ve made to their derby cars from the previous year.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week drivers met at the Martins Ferry School District’s bus garage for the annual car inspections.

Inspections went smoothly and the drivers waved goodbye to their cars as they were impounded prior to Sunday’s race.

The top four finishers in Sunday’s race will each receive a cash prize in descending amount.

The champion will also receive four one-day passes to King’s Island amusement park near Cincinnati while the runner-up will receive four one-day passes to The Wilds near Zanesville.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleader