Home | Subscriptions | Classifieds | Submit News | Contact | Links | Jennings County Living
North Vernon Plain Dealer Sun | North Vernon, IN
"It Shines for All!"North Vernon, IndianaLocally Owned and Operated Since 1862
North Vernon, Indiana, weather forecast
weather sponsored by


Editor's Notebook
July 8, 2020

6/5/2012 7:37:00 AM
Soap box derby excitement
NV 500' proves to be Ďa blastí for both youngsters and adults
Spectators watch along Chestnut Street as Reece Bauguess leads Travis Wilson in the final heat of their age group in the NV 500'.
Spectators watch along Chestnut Street as Reece Bauguess leads Travis Wilson in the final heat of their age group in the NV 500'.
Randy Gilland, left, and Doug Boardman race soap box derby cars in one of the adult division heats at the NV 500'.
Randy Gilland, left, and Doug Boardman race soap box derby cars in one of the adult division heats at the NV 500'.
Reece Bauguess rated the experience of racing in the NV 500' at the very top of the scale.

"It was a whole lot of fun," said the 101/2-year-old North Vernon boy. "I'd rank it at a 10."

The NV 500' held Sat­urday, May 26, was the city's third annual soap box derby featuring cars made from wood, metal, ball bearings and other materials, probably including duct tape and bailing wire. The racers coasted down a hill on Chestnut Street two at a time, propelled only by gravity and reaching speeds of 22 miles per hour. North Vernon Police Officer Jeff Day measured the speeds by a radar gun

"I didn't get scared," Bauguess said after picking up the first-place trophy in the first-through-sixth grade age group. "I like speed."

The street was blocked off, of course, with protective rubber fencing erected on both sides of the road for the event. Spectators lined the track, most finding shade on a hot, sunny day underneath the trees along the course.

North Vernon's soap box derby track is 500 feet long - thus the name "NV 500'."

The title is also a tie-in with the Indy 500', which is held the same weekend. In fact, one of the cars paid tribute to North Vernon's ties to the Greatest Spec­tacle in Racing. The back of the No. 8 car has on it: "In memory of all our fallen drivers: Pat O'Connor, Wil­bur Shaw, Jim Hemmings."

Sponsored by the City of North Vernon and the Jennings County United Way, the NV 500' has quickly become a Memorial Day weekend tradition.

The Lord's Chapel holds a fish fry during the event. This year, Jennings County Youth Foundation members were part of the track crew that reset hay bales and helped racers at the bottom of the hill. After each run, North Vernon Fire Chief Rick McGill and Street Superintendent Rick Marksberry used motorized all-terrain vehicles to haul cars back up the hill.

The ramp, loaned by the Seymour Police De­partment's D.A.R.E. program, was manned by North Vernon Police and other volunteers. Police Chief James Webster announced the races.

Like Bauguess, Travis Wilson wasn't scared either, even though several times his car plowed into the bales of hay at the end of the course.

"Our brakes were not working that well," said Wilson, 12, of Hayden. "I crashed through the hay a couple of times. We had some steering problems, too, but that's OK."

Despite those minor problems, Wilson, who was driving the No. 16 Wilson Concrete car, finished second to Bauguess in that division.

"This was my first year to race in the soap box derby," Wilson said. "My first time going down the hill, I didn't know what to do. I got the hang of it quickly, though.

I came close to first. He got me at the very end."

Wilson's car was built by Ronnie Layman, a Wil­son Concrete employee, and its paint job included tributes to military veterans and POW-MIAs.

Bauguess, racing for the second year, was a member of Team Brad­shaw. Local construction contractor Wes Bradshaw owns two soap box derby cars that he has built with help from others.

"All my drivers and their parents came out and worked on the cars," he said. "It's almost like a little race shop. We have enough help that we might build another car or two for next year."

Keaton Douglas drove Bradshaw's 007 car to victory in the middle school-high school division. Morgan Webster, driving the North Vernon Police Department car, was second.

In the adult division, Randy Gilland drove the North Vernon Wastewater Department's Black Widow car to the title. Matt Stap­les was runner-up in the NVPD car.

Bradshaw's other car, 0007, failed to crack the top two in the adult division.

"Unlike our other car, our 0007 car was not built from a kit," Bradshaw said. "On a steeper hill, it would win every time."

Team Bradshaw gained three trophies since the 007 car was also voted crowd favorite. Last year, the team collected five trophies.

Bradshaw's secret?

"We block off a county road near my shop and practice," Bradshaw said. "Most of the drivers don't race until their first time off the ramp. Experience helps, especially since these are single-elimination heats."

Bradshaw thinks a permanent soap box derby track in North Vernon would be a good idea.

"I'd love to see that," he said. "We could hold races once a month or so during the summer when the kids are out of school."

At the NV 500', some of the cars were elaborately built with fancy paint jobs, others are relatively simple - all assembled to basic specifications.

There are occasional wrecks but thanks to safety features no injuries outside of a little road rash. The drivers wore helmets and racing gloves.

"There were some scuffs and tumbles, but no one got hurt," said Cheri Massey, United Way director. "I think everyone had a blast. This wasn't a big fundraiser for the United Way (nearly $500 was collected through $10 car registration and $2 per heat entry fees). Still, it is a worthwhile community event for the whole family."

Bauguess plans to race next May and so does Wil­son.

"I'm already looking forward to next year," Baug­uess said.

"I definitely will race again," Wilson added.

You can bet both will be fearless again as they race their cars down Chestnut Street.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, June 11, 2012
Article comment by: Janet Clerkin, JCYF

Thanks to the children who was so helpful in keeping the hay bales in place. It is such a joy to see children involved in helping Jennings County events be safe and successful. Thanks guys for all of your help.

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

Sawyer Pickett
IN Cov
Nat Head
House Web Advertising

ONTVtoday Banner

© 2012 North Vernon Plain Dealer and Sun
PO Box 988, 528 East O&M Ave
North Vernon, IN 47265
Telephone 812.346.3973
All images on this site are property of the North Vernon Plain Dealer and Sun and may not be reproduced without consent of the publisher.

Software © 1998-2020 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved