Kids race down the hill at annual Soap Box Derby

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania -- Every year on Independence Day, the streets of Conshohocken are rip-roaring with kids rolling in soap box cars.

"My brother and my cousins have been doing this, so I've been able to watch," said 8-year-old Matthew Justice.

Justice's dad helped him build a personalized soap box car outfitted with his name and the silhouette of Pikachu, a popular character from the Pokemon franchise. His whole family was decked in red, white, and blue t-shirts and called themselves, "The Justice League."

"There's nothing more independent than going down the hill on your own," said Matthew's father, Joe. Their family has been participating in the annual Conshohocken Soap Box Derby since 2006.

The annual tradition, now in its 69th year, has deep roots in the riverside borough of Montgomery County. Race director Mark Marine has been branching out a family tree of racers for more than two decades.

"It's a family event. You gotta be here all day. Everybody's involved," he said.

However, nobody was involved last year. The event hit the brakes in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Believe me, I was heartbroken," said Marine. "So, this is exciting. It should be a good race."

Today, roughly 40 children competed in one-on-one races with homemade soap box cars. Those with the best overall times will be considered to make the trip to Akron, Ohio, for the national tournament during the week of July 20.

"It's as American as apple pie," said former racer Bo Donovan about the Conshohocken event, which takes place on the 4th of July each year. "The kids learn how to use tools, they learn how to win, they learn how to lose."

Donovan raced as a teenager in the 1980s and met his wife through the competition. They would go on to raise children that participated in the derby as well.

"It means a lot to the town, it means a lot to my family," he said. "It's a sign of better things. We're just here gathering and having fun like everything used to be."