Wellesley Village will once again be a hive of activity on Labour Day for the annual fishing derby and soap box classic.
The day will kick off with the fishing derby at the Wellesley pond, hosted by the Wellesley and District Lions Club. Trophies will be awarded for the biggest fish and the smallest fish caught. All fish are released back into the pond. The first angler to catch a tagged fish will receive $150, and all participating children will be eligible to win prizes from the prize table. There are five trophies for children and one for adults.
“Local businesses have donated the prizes, and we hope that we will have enough for every child who enters,” organizer and Wellesley councilor Peter van der Maas said.
Soap box drivers from as young as eight years old and up will race down Nafziger Road that afternoon, hoping to beat their competitors, or take home a trophy for most creative or best in show.
“It’s a great way to end your summer on a high note. It involves all ages and it gives parents an opportunity if they want to work for the summer with a project for kids with a soap box,” organizer Wendy Sauder said.
Put on by the Wellesley Board of Trade, the soap box classic draws hundreds of spectators each year. The first year they did it there were 69 drivers. Last year they had 25 cars and 45 drivers.
“What amazes me is how far away [they come from]. This year I have an entry form from Innerkip, I have one from Cambridge, Kitchener,” Sauder said.
There are four age categories; 8-10, 11-13, 14-17, and 18 and up. Their oldest driver to date was 86.
“What’s fun is I’ll see kids that are seven and they come up to me with these big eyes and they go next year I’m going to be old enough to drive. And that keeps me going every year,” Sauder said.
Woodstock and Shakespeare would be the next closest places to enter a soap box derby. Wellesley borrows the starting ramp from the Shakespeare race organizers.
Most of the soap box kits come from a place in Peterborough called Way Cool Kits. Sauder said it has everything they need, except the wheels. She notes most people have upgraded to a z-glass wheel, which is a fast wheel for soap box cars.
“In the beginning we didn’t know how to start it and we approached businesses in town with an option to buy this kit, decorate it for their business for advertising and then it’s a good way to get staff kids involved,” Sauder said. “Over the course of the years some of the businesses, they don’t have staff with kids the right age so they say use our car. And that’s where I take kids that don’t have a soap box car to drive and I put them into these cars.”
This gives kids the opportunity to drive who wouldn’t necessarily be able to because they don’t have a car. If a child doesn’t have a car, they’ll set them up with a car from a local business, first come first serve. She estimates they have 15 of them.
The kit comes with all the wood pieces of the car, sanded and ready for paint. She says it takes around four hours to put together, but they’re sturdy.
“The first year I was blown away by the paint jobs,” Sauder said. “They were like regular car paint jobs. We do have trophies for most creative and what we call best in show. And each year we have two people that judge them, keep them a secret, and then they get awards. The same car doesn’t win the same award more than once.”
When the drivers finish the race at the bottom of the hill they slow the car down in what could only be described as the most Canadian way of braking. A lever is attached to a hockey puck which touches the ground, slowing them down without damaging the road.
“It’s very effective if the kids remember to hit it,” Sauder said.
The road will be lined with straw bales and a double layer of them at the end to make it as safe as possible. She says in their 11 years no one’s been hurt. All drivers must wear a properly fitted CSA-approved helmet.
Police will be on scene again with speed radar guns to track the speed of the cars.
“Kids are going quite fast. I think the highest speed last year was 41 kilometres an hour. They’re moving,” Sauder says with a laugh.
She’s still looking for volunteers, specifically people with four wheelers to pull the cars in trailers up the hill. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anglers can register for the fishing derby on the day of, Sept. 7, at 9 a.m. at the Wellesley Pond. The competition starts at 10 a.m. Tickets are $7, which includes entry in the derby, a drink, and a hot dog. The soap box classic kicks off at 2 p.m. at the top of Nafziger Road across from First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, with registration at 1 p.m.