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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pinewood derbies keep Scouts racing 50 years

Friday, February 6, 2004

SIKESTON - If the Girl Scouts are known for the cookies, the Boy Scouts' single greatest claim to fame would have to be their pinewood derbies.

Since being adopted by the Scout's national council in 1954, pinewood derbies have been enjoyed by generations of scouts. Now in its 50th year, the event is still a favorite among Scouts.

"This is one of the biggest events," said Amanda Driskell, leader for Pack 44, one of the Sikeston area's Boy Scout packs, "but they're all fun."

For many Scouts, crafting the car is as big of a deal as the race itself.

On Jan. 24, the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse of Sikeston hosted a pinewood derby workshop day with over 100 Scouts from 20 area troops participating.

"It was a big event," said Barbara Campbell, human resources director for the Sikeston Lowe's. Scouts were able to bring in their kits or purchase them there at the store. "I was surprised that Lowe's actually keeps them in stock all year long," she said.

"We designed our cars," said Garett Larson, 7, a Tiger Cub with Sikeston Pack 44 who participated in the workshop. Garett said his car still isn't finished because he left early, but he did get the shape cut out.

"It's like a normal car but with a tail fin," he said, "but the tail fin's a little short."

Garett also has a paint job in mind: "Red, white and blue like the American flag," he said.

Campbell said the store's staff enjoyed watching the Scouts work on their cars and lending a hand with power tools. "It such it was such a successful event, we've decided to do it on an annual basis from now on," she said.

"They had fun - the boys really had fun," Driskell said of the workshop. "They are so excited about painting their cars - it's a big deal when they're 7."

When the annual races are held varies. "We're going to race them at our Blue and Gold Banquet Feb. 26," said Driskell.

"It can be any time they want but most of them do it as a winter event," said Scout-O-rama organizer Crystal Keho of Kennett. "Each pack usually runs their own, and then the Cherokee district comes together at the Scout-O-Rama and has a competition among everybody."

This year the Scout-O-Rama, which usually draws 80-100 participants from the Cherokee District, is scheduled for March 27 at Rone Hall located east of the Delta Center in Portageville, Keho said.

The Kennett pack will be holding their local derby soon, as well.

"We're still in the process of getting it scheduled - it will probably be in the first week of March," said Charlie Brown, the Kennett pack's leader. "They love it - they think it's great, a lot of fun - the Scouts get really excited about it."

Brown was surprised to hear it is the 50th anniversary for pinewood derbies. "I know I did it when I was a kid so it's been around awhile," Brown said.

While the basics have remain unchanged - carved blocks of pine rolling down a slope on nail-mounted wheels - things have changed some.

"The tracks have become much more sophisticated - they have electric timers and everything," Brown said. When the event began, judges simply eyed the line to determine winners. "It's much more precise now - it's NASCAR for Cub Scouts."

Pinewood derby car kits date back all the way to when Brown was Scout. "They just weren't as fancy as they are now," Brown said. "There are a few more accessories now than there was 50 years ago or even 20 years ago, for that matter...They can get designs off the Internet, stickers to decorate them with."

The time invested into a derby car varies. "It may be a month or a couple of weeks," Brown said. Some Scouts start working on their cars as early as November for races scheduled in February or March, he said.

"We just had a pinewood derby for the Scott City pack itself on Jan. 24," said Paul Boyd, a parent helper for the pack. "It's always big turnout - everybody loves pinewood derbies in Cub Scouts."

The Scott City pack is part of the Shawnee District, which will also be holding a districtwide derby March 6 at Kelso.