This year’s Bowlby Bash provided a host of fun and unique booths to explore, with local goods and treats galore, along with plenty of activities for youngsters. From kettle corn and face-painting to sidewalk-chalk art and delectable root beer floats, the Bowlby Bash offered something for everyone. This year, the 16-year-old event got its original name back, after having enjoyed a brief stint as Summerfest in 2018.
One of the most anticipated parts of the Bowlby Bash celebration is the soap box derby. This year, eight derby racers were entered. The derby, sponsored by Greater Enterprise Main Streets (GEMS) was largely organized by Jorge Aguilar, Jr. There were two categories: Creative and Speedster. This year, all the vehicles were entered as speedsters. All were required to be inspected before being permitted to race. Rules for the cars included specific weight limits depending upon the age and weight of the driver. Derby racers driven by 8-12 year olds were required to be less than 250 pounds for the total weight of car and vehicle. Drivers 13 to 17 years of age could weigh in at a total of 350 pounds for car and driver. Vehicles with drivers ages 18 and older could total no more than 550 pounds.
“It’s all about keeping the downhill speed of the cars at a pace that drivers can control,” Aguilar said. “Younger and less experienced drivers really need to go slower to be sure they keep control.” The pre-race inspections focus on safety. One car, designed as a tricycle, with two wheels on the back and one small one on the front, was required to literally install training wheels on each side of the small front wheel to improve the vehicle’s stability. “It would just tip over too easily without them,” Aguilar said.
Other general rules—or at least expectations—are that the cars be hand-built, often from cast-off or salvaged parts. Baby stroller wheels are good. So are bicycle wheels and even wheels from garden carts and the game carts that hunters use to transport their deer out of the woods. All derby cars have to have brakes that work. In some, that’s bicycle caliper brakes. In others it’s a block that is applied to the wheel via a hand-lever. Steering designs include primitive, very simple rack and pinion designs as well as the wires that are more like boat steering. Aguilar’s creations include the VFW’s racer and lots of work on the Number 1 car. He added a number of extra touches to the VFW racer including rear view mirrors, and an ignition key. Of course, it doesn’t start anything, but it looks nice on the dash. For extra weight and stability, the car sports a slate floorboard. Aguilar’s work on the Number 1 car includes installing faux exhaust manifolds on the hood, and creating a compartment in the front that can hold additional weights.
No matter their age, the Bowlby Bash Derby drivers take their sport seriously. “I’m going to keep my trophy,” Aguilar, who drives in the adult, over age 18 division, said.