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New Berlin Soap Box Derby celebrates 50 years of racing

July 1, 2014

Register now for the 50th Annual New Berlin Soap Box Derby on Sept. 7 at Valley View Park, 5051 S Sunnyslope Road. in New Berlin.

Registration is open until Aug. 1 and is encouraged for all boys and girls between ages six and 16 and are New Berlin residents. Entry fee is $5 per driver, and each child will receive a commemorative T-shirt on the day of the event. Admission is free for all spectators.

Children are able to design, build, and race their own cars down a 1,000-foot-long, three-lane paved track. The bottom of the track is equipped with an electronic finish line system to determine race winners. Drivers can have their soap box sponsored by local businesses and race fans from around the United States.

Wheels, wheel brackets (axles) and steering wheels are provided for each driver after the car passes inspection and must be returned on race day. The steering wheel is the driver's to keep. Derby officials encourage families to make building the cars a team effort.

"It's an event that the family can look forward to," said Chris Lambach, commission chairman.

Drivers are broken down into three age classes, and the winning six drivers of each age class will race against each other to become class champions. The three class champions will race to determine the coveted champion of champions.

The Special Race for Special Kids class is celebrating a milestone of its own. This race class is open to individuals of any age with cognitive and physical challenges. Scout Troop 41 act as co-drivers in dual-control cars supplied by the commission. The S-class race began 30 years ago.

The awards night to celebrate all drivers is held two weeks after the derby. All drivers receive a commemorative plaque and a color photo of them in their car on race day. The top six drivers in each class also receive trophies and other prizes.

Originally started by the New Berlin Police Department in 1965, the derby started with small groups of racers using farm wagons as starting ramps. Today, the event averages 80 racers and is organized by a nonprofit group of volunteers known as The New Berlin Soap Box Derby Commission. These dedicated volunteers are committed to the growth and success of the derby and spend almost a full year planning the event.

To celebrate 50 years of racing, the commission has coordinated a few surprises, including a special event taking place the day before the race to thank and recognize previous racers and champions.

"I am really looking forward to seeing some of the past champions from the 70s that haven't seen the race in 20 or 30 years and seeing their expressions and (getting) their feedback on how far we have come," said Lambach.

Lambach, along with many other commission members, have been involved with the derby since the early 1970s.

"We are a good group of friends and we enjoy doing it," said fellow commissioner Tom Carpentier, the derby's registration chairman. "We really enjoy the smiles on the kids faces."

Register online at http://www.nbsoapboxderby.org/ or print, complete and mail the form found on the website. The site has race rules and sponsor information.

In honor of the 50th celebration, the commission is seeking photos of past races. Contact the commission via the derby websites to share any photos.

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