Soap Box Derby: A July 4th tradition in Conshohocken

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. (WPVI) -- Competitors climbed into their cars to continue a Conshohocken Fourth of July tradition: the Soap Box Derby down Fayette Street.

James Harper's daughter was competing for the first time.

"She was interested so here I am 30 years later," Harper laughed. "My dad did this in the '60s; he won I think. He went to Akron, Ohio. It's just something for the family to keep doing."

The cars are unpowered and handmade. They start at the top of the hill and rely on gravity to take them down.

Many of the first-timers focus on the basics. The more you compete, the more you learn.

"Don't put on the brakes until you're done," advised 9-year-old Liv Harper.

Parker Zeiders added, "Go towards the cones and stay straight."

Twelve-year-old Joey McKelvey explained, "It feels slow at first, but the more you go down it gets faster."

According to 15-year-old Lizzie Maxwell, "You want to try to stay as straight as possible. Try not to wiggle. Down the hill at 7th Avenue kind of kicks you out so you try to stay between the white line on the road and the cones - that's kind of like the fast lane."

Drivers can put their own touches on their cars, built from a kit of materials.

Conshohocken Soap Box Derby Assistant Director Leo Costello told Action News, "There's some science and physics involved as well as the mechanics of building the car."

He added, "The cars come in and get a complete inspection. The child and car get weighed, we get an official weight. And then we hold the cars at the community center."

While winning is fun, it's the family time that keeps many coming back, like Glen Smith, who was cheering on his nephew.

"When I was a kid, my mom used to bring us up here to watch. Then we'd go to a picnic, then we'd go to fireworks. So it's always been a Conshy thing," Smith said.

The winners of each division will compete later this month in Ohio.
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