Christopher Rosacker

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June 6, 2013
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Engines revving for Nevada City Soap Box Derby

A trophy and a wheeled contraption greet visitors of Plaza Tire and Auto Service in Nevada City’s Seven Hills business district.

The vehicle is Plaza Tire’s 2012 entry into the second annual Nevada City Soap Box Derby, which won the trophy for fastest contestant. Both were placed prominently there ahead of the third annual derby race day taking place June 22.

“I’m feeling good about this year’s race,” said organizer Rich Bodine.

In addition to moving the race back a week from Father’s Day weekend to reduce the strain on Nevada City’s municipal staff, this year’s race will offer no shortage of changes from its two previous incarnations. Numerous tweaks to the race proceedings, the race route itself and stipulations on entries were adopted to increase efficiency, as well as safety, Bodine said.

In addition to the more than 40 teams of entrants, the derby entices several thousand people to head to Pioneer Park and Nimrod Street with activities for kids, games, a dozen food booths and other offerings. One of the more popular non-race attractions is the open gate to the park’s swimming pool for children. The Nevada City Chamber of Commerce also staffs a beer booth for adults, as long as they aren’t race drivers.

Funds raised from the burgeoning festival go to Pioneer Park. Bodine has estimated that the 2012 races raised at least $15,000 — triple the first year’s total. While the first year’s $5,000 went toward a bocce ball court, last year’s funds remain unallocated. The bulk of the most recent fund, $10,000, was originally slated for repairs to the park’s lower baseball field, which is prone to flooding. However, that allocation was incumbent upon a match from the county that was not approved.

Some of the funds have instead gone to increased safety measures, such as the purchase of race track barriers that can be used in other Nevada City events, Bodine said.

“Most of the funds are still waiting to be used,” he said.

Last year’s race was interrupted by an accident when one derby car crashed near the finish line and struck two people, sending one person to the hospital.

That injured volunteer, Justin Thacker, who was treated and released the same day, not only asked to race again this year, he also supported the derby by driving one in both the Fourth of July parade and the Constitution Day parade in September, Bodine reported.

This year’s major sponsor is Markertek, a video broadcasting equipment distributor, Bodine said. AJA Video, a previous supporter, is back as another major sponsor, Bodine said, along with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Dignity Health Systems, which are covering the cost of more than 500 hay bales along the race route.

“While some sponsorship amounts have diminished, the derby has tremendous support from the community,” Bodine said, noting that last year’s race was facilitated by a cadre of more than 100 volunteers.

“We can always use more,” Bodine said.

In the three weeks until the race, derby vehicles are becoming increasingly more visible. They will be on display at this Saturday’s third annual Nevada City Foreign Car Show, Wine Stroll and Pub Crawl from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the historic town’s downtown district. Many of the vehicles will also be put to the test Sunday at an undisclosed location to ensure vehicles and their drivers are inspected and ready for racing day.

The race will begin at noon and last until around 6 p.m. June 22 along Nimrod Street in Nevada City. For information, visit

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated Jun 6, 2013 01:26AM Published Jun 7, 2013 11:54PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.