It’s all downhill from here

Scouts kick fun into high gear at derby

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Fourteen-year-old Dylan Kuhnhenn drives the Summer Delights car, featuring a giant ice cream cone, down the raceway during Boy Scout Troop 33’s annual Soap Box Derby on Sunday in Takoma Park.

Takoma Park’s Boy Scout Troop 33 transformed a section of Birch Avenue near Old Town into a raceway Sunday for the group’s second-annual soap box derby.

This year’s derby included a curved course, a side-by-side straight course and obstacle course complete with water cannon-toting members of Cub Scout Pack 33.

Troop 33 Scoutmaster Dave Lanar said the soap box derby came about after some of his scouts said they missed the Cub Scout’s tradition of holding pinewood derbies, which use handmade miniature cars.

‘‘I was in a restaurant in downtown Takoma — Mark’s Kitchen — and there was a 1902 picture of young boys on a soap box riding the hills down near the old Wildwood resort,” Lanar said. ‘‘... The hills of Takoma Park are perfect for that.”

Lanar found steering mechanisms and wheels for the soap box racers on the Internet and he found local businesses to sponsor teams of Boy Scouts. The cars cost about $150, so the support of local businesses was important for a successful derby, he said. And the support also has served to make connections between the boys and their community.

‘‘We connect the community to the businesses, the old scouts to the younger scouts,” Lanar said, ‘‘and it’s the young kids with talented adults who know how to build something. To actually use the tools and learn how to construct something, it’s important for the boys to see that as they grow up.”

‘‘...Takoma is a nice little town — we have a really good community spirit here and wonderful supporters,” he said. ‘‘I know the businesses rely on people in this community, and I know the places downtown like Summer Delights and Mark’s Kitchen, these people are wonderful. Our boys love to go in there, and now they know the sponsors by name.”