Portland Adult Soapbox Derby Weekend!

Would Culture Shock be doing its job of keenly observing art and life in Portland if we didn’t mention that the 2009 Portland Adult Soapbox Derby is this Saturday (August 22, 2009)?

Since 1996, racers have been speeding down the twisty roads that flank Portland’s own volcano, Mt. Tabor, risking life, limb and dignity. What began as an impromptu guerilla event seems to have matured--though just a tiny bit. While there are now rules and a $100 entry fee to defray costs, it’s still a rambunctious affair. Fortunately, it has not taken on the stink of big corporate sponsorship; while PBR and New Deal Vodka have logos on the flyer, most of the sponsors are local.

The event rulebook mandates that vehicles have no fewer than three wheels making contact to the roadway (no maximum is specified), and that gravity is the sole power source. Vehicles must have functional brakes (the organizers clearly state "no Fred Flintstone brakes"). Builders are allowed to spend no more than $300 on each car. Perhaps most importantly, "no pyrotechnics, fire, or fireworks are allowed in the park or as part of any car." Water and water balloons are considered acceptable weapons for deployment against other cars.

On the registration form, entrants are asked to state a preference as follows:

Our car is on the side of (check one) . . .
Art: ___ Science: ___

The racing starts with preliminary heats at 10:00. One fan recommends going early in the day if you want to see the more “colorful” and wacky cars – by the end of the day, only the fast cars are left in the competition.

For this event Portland Parks has made an exception to its standard “no alcohol” policy by allowing the organizers to set up a “beer garden.” You can bring wine and beer (no kegs) and consume your choice of refreshing beverage within ten feet of the race course. A map of the course and spectator areas is available at the event's website.

I haven't decided whether to put this on my own cultural calendar for the weekend; however, Portland's drinking water reservoirs are on Mt. Tabor and might need to be protected by the Miniscule Blue Helmets. *

* As of this afternoon, Blue Helmets have landed on the Eastbank Esplanade, the Oregon Coast, the Pearl District and Timberline Lodge. One is on his way to Alaska.


culturejock said...

That was great fun... thanks for the reminder!

Chadrick said...

We got video of a nasty crash at the 2009 soapbox derby - check it out here:


MightyToyCannon said...

CultureJock -- sorry we missed you that races. It was quite a crowd and we were moving around quite a bit. It was a glorious Portland summer day and everyone seemed to be having fun without being obnoxious.

Ace Fan -- I was wondering whether there would be any nasty crashes. The spectators stand right on the edge of the road for almost the entire course (they're barred from an area by a gnarly hairpin turn), so not much room for error. Plus, the drivers don't get much of a chance to practice or get the feel of their cars. The crash caught on video is pretty much what I would have expected to see--a little bobble that cascades out of control. Thanks for posting the link.

MightyToyCannon said...

Another video link for a Soapbox Derby recap here: