OSAWATOMIE — Leave it to “the Little Rascals.”
Nathaniel McGee said he always wanted to attend a Soap Box Derby, after seeing it featured on the TV show “The Little Rascals.”
McGee and dozens of other people got their wish on Saturday, June 1, when the only Soap Box Derby to take place in Kansas played out on Main Street in Osawatomie. Local youths from Trojan Elementary and Osawatomie Middle School tested their skills against experienced young drivers from Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb., Columbia, Mo., and other communities in the region.
The Osawatomie Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Kansas City Soap Box Derby group and the city of Osawatomie, hosted Tornado Alley Rally. The sanctioned All-American Soap Box Derby started at 12th and Main and rolled down the incline to 10th Street at the John Brown Memorial Park entrance.
Rolled might be an understatement to the novice drivers.
“It went way faster,” Olivia Seymour said of her car’s speed. “It was windy.”
Olivia’s brother, Cash, was the first Osawatomie driver to compete on Saturday when he took on Anna “Banana” Roth of the Kansas City club.
Olivia, a third-grader at Trojan Elementary, said racing was fun.
“I liked it, because I mostly was winning,” she said with a grin, as she waited at the top of the hill after winning her first heat of the day.
A sanctioned race means the top eight drivers can earn points toward qualifying for a trip to the world championships in Akron, Ohio.
Hitomi Lamirande, the chamber’s executive director who came up with the idea for a Soap Box Derby rally in Osawatomie, is no stranger to the sport. Her son, Kiyoshi, won the 2018 district championship in Kansas City, Mo., to qualify for the world championships in Akron. He started the day Saturday on a winning note.
So did novice driver Cooper Powell, a sixth-grader at OMS, who edged his opponent in his first race of the day by less than a second. In all the races that morning, only hundredths of a second separated the two cars.
“I think I saw my opponent out of the corner of my eye,” Cooper said of his first race. “It was a lot of fun. It was unbelievably fast.”
Cooper’s mom, Becky Powell, and Olivia and Cash’s mom, Andria Seymour, both said they would like to see the Tornado Alley Rally become an annual event in Osawatomie. Dozens of spectators, most in lawn chairs or sitting on retaining walls, lined the new sidewalks along the two-block course.
Nathaniel and Amanda McGee sat in the shade watching the races. Amanda, a fifth-grade teacher at Trojan Elementary, said she enjoyed seeing some of the kids she knows racing down the hill.
Tiffany Guss brought her nearly 2-year-old son, Colten, to watch the derby. She smiled and put her hand on his head.
“He’ll want to race next year.”