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April 4, 2017 – Soap box derbies aren’t just for kids: Hampton will have its first Adult Soap Box Derby race this summer down the Booker T. Washington Memorial Bridge on Settlers Landing Road.
The race is the brainchild of restaurateur Carlyle Bland – who also spearheaded such events downtown as the Rolling of the Bulls, drag races and waiter races; and Slide the City. The soap box derby was big when he was young, said Bland, and “I always wanted to do it.”
The race will be sponsored by the Downtown Hampton Development Partnership, of which Bland is president.
The adult version will be a little more flexible in terms of materials and design. “It’s totally open, whatever your imagination is,” Bland said. “We will have an arts division as well, which should showcase creativity.”
Participants will make their own cars, with some advice from Langley Speedway, which will also help with the race. The Peninsula Jaycees – which also were involved in the youth version of the derby during its local heyday in the ’60s and ’70s – will offer a volunteer crew. (The Peninsula Soap Box Derby's history gets a shout-out in the “Hidden Figures” movie.)
The city is contributing $10,000 from the “Love Your City” grant fund, designed to spur creative events that provide fun activities for residents and visitors.
Soap box derby drivers must be 18, but the construction and race are family-friendly. The race will be Aug. 5, and details and entry forms will be at http://www.downtownhampton.com as they become available.
The city is also helping to fund a daylong festival with entertainment provided by young musicians from the Academy of Rock Music. The Mill Point Park concert is also a fundraiser for its sponsor, Eggleston, which provides opportunities to people with disabilities. The city’s grant of $2,725 will help pay for security, audio equipment and supplies. The $10 admission for the May 13 event will raise money to help the organization buy a wheelchair-accessible van.