On your mark: Racers hit the hills for soapbox derby

By: 
Neil Patrick Healy

Taylor Thomas the driver for “Kartabatic,” enters the race with pushers Jared White, left, and Joe Barrett Saturday morning at the second annual Creek To Peak Mountain Soap Box Derby Hosted by Creek To Peak.

“Bud Knight” racer K.J. Hunter of Deer Lodge.

Rodney Hunter of the Dirty Danglers of Deer Lodge driving.

Spectators of the soapbox derby get an up-close view of Rodney Hunter of the Dirty Danglers of Deer Lodge, collide with the hay bales.

For team “4oh6,” momentum was not in their favor on the turn yet pushing to the finish line is acceptable.

LEFT:
The racer for team “Dilly Dilly Down the Hilly” lifts his hands in triumph as he crosses the finish line.

Enterprise photos by

NATE HOWARD

Adirt hill covered in snow on Myers Lane outside of Livingston was the site of a unique event: a soapbox derby.

Participants built their cars from anything they could — parts of a riding lawn mower, two old bikes found on Craigslist, or anything else laying around — and spent three heats racing down a few hundred yards to the finish line. Twelve teams, with names like Dilly Dilly Down the Hilly, Bud Knights, Cake Eaters, Nut Sweat Adventures and the Dirty Danglers, competed for a $500 first prize and a plaque.

The idea for the derby came when Frank Gazella Jr., founder of Creek to Peak — an online outdoor gear supplier based out of Bozeman — was looking for a way to promote his new brand. He and a friend, Seth Schonewill, were searching for an inventive way to promote and the idea of the soapbox derby came to be. When they were looking for a place to host it, Livingston proved to be a good fit.

“We were looking for a course and Myers Lane came across the radar and it was the perfect course,” Gazella. “We asked the people in the immediate area and the city of Livingston if it would be possible and they, with open arms, embraced our idea and made it happen.”

Last year was the first year, with only three teams participating. One year later, the number of entries quadrupled and the total number of people who attended the event were over 350.

“The event went amazing,” Gazella said.

Some highlights included multiple crashes, screeching turns, thrilling finishes and carts that just couldn’t build enough speed to roll all the way through, so they had to use their feet to waddle their way to the finish line, or “Fred Flintstone-ing it,” as the announcers called it.

Gazella said that the event was for more than just self-promotion. His company was also able to raise money for Park High School’s student project called “The Ranger’s Station,” where the students of Park High are building a mobile coffee cart.

The event was a good time for those who went, and the popularity already seems to be spreading.

“I think it’s great,” said Ken Brenna, a Livingston local who raced under the team name “Brenna’s 62. “They had three cars last year and 12 this year, so I think it’ll be good and it’ll get better. I talked to people that are here and they said, ‘I want to do that next year.’ You won’t see any old two-wheel drive four-wheelers laying around with no motors in them. Someone will build them into a soapbox derby car.”

Ryan Early, a Bozeman resident who is a frequent visitor to Livingston, was one of the racers who had multiple crashes in the races. He also looks forward to next year’s race.

“I think it’s really catching on,” he said. “People are really excited.”

Gazella is excited for the direction the races have taken while also reviling in the success that they’ve had so far.

“We wanted to create something fun and we wanted to do something in Montana before, so that in itself was huge,” he said. “We accomplished that.”

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