By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
Cub Scouts from all over Moapa Valley gathered on Saturday for an annual Cub Scout classic: the Pinewood Derby.
This event is the biggest car race of the year, at least for the Cub Scout set. It is a head-to-head race to see whose homemade woodblock-fashioned car is the fastest.
Each Cub Scout is given a kit containing a block of wood, a set of plastic wheels, and four nails to function as axles. Each boy has the opportunity to work with an adult and change his block of wood into a work of art that is also, hopefully, lightning fast.
The race has evolved from its humble beginnings 66 years ago. It is serious business, governed by fairly restrictive rules to make it as fair as possible for everyone. Each competitors finished product must weigh no more 5 ounces and meet minimum and maximum height and width requirements to ensure that it will fit on the track and run smoothly.
Despite the rules, an amazing amount of creativity is present every year. There are cars that look like, well, cars. But there are also those made to look like buses, limos, rockets, or whatever the Scout dreams up. One year there was even a bathtub shaped car that is still talked about today.
Each local Cub Scout Pack had its own awards ceremony after the races, and creativity is often rewarded.
The races are coordinated each year by J.D. and Erin Cornwall with the help of a few loyal friends that give up a day each year to help the races run smoothly.
Several years ago J.D. Cornwall volunteered to build a Pinewood Derby track for an activity being planned by his LDS Ward. Time passed, however, and Cornwall ran out of time to finish the track. So he decided just to buy one for the activity. Once he had the track, though, it seemed a shame to just let it sit and get dusty. So he volunteered his time and equipment to local Cub Scout Packs who wanted to have the race. Eventually that got very time consuming. So the one-day mega-event was born.
For the past ten years, the Cornwalls have set up their equipment at the LDS Logandale Stake Center on one Friday evening in the spring each year. The next day is devoted to kids and pinewood derby cars.
Races are done by pack, with the first ones beginning at 7 am. The races run without break through the day until 1:45 pm. At that point, the top four winners from each pack come back for a final race-off to determine the overall winners.
The first four overall winners are presented with trophies. An additional award is given to the top design of the year. Trophies and awards are purchased and donated by the Cornwalls, and Overton NAPA Auto Parts provides a ballcap for each Cub Scout participating in the races. So no Scout goes home empty-handed.
The state-of-the-art track is completely computerized with a laser finish. Times are immediately recorded by the computer at the end of each race. Every car races four times with a chance on each of the four tracks and given an overall composite score. All cars are checked at the beginning for compliance with the rules and then given over to the officials so that no tampering goes on between races.
“This is definitely a lot of work so it is a labor of love,” said Erin Cornwall. “But we really do love to do it. When we started, I didn’t even know what the Pinewood Derby was, but I definitely do now. We really want it to be a good experience for the boys.”
This year produced four lightning-fast winners in the overall race. First place went to Carter Davis; second to Troy Whitney; third to Zack Kelly; and fourth place went to Josh Linford. The best design award went to Lane Briggs.
Regardless of who wins or loses, though, all the boys seem to have a great time. Hal Thompson, 9, placed fourth in his pack and was very excited to get to go on to the final race in the afternoon.
“I like the race and I liked building my car with my dad,” Thompson said. “I designed it myself and it has a stripe down the middle. It’s been a fun day.”
His mother, Carolyn, agrees that it is a good experience. “I think it is a fun way for boys to learn to participate and learn sportsmanship,” she said. “The Cornwalls do such a great job with this event. It makes it really nice.”
James Dalley, 10, had a great-looking car that he was eager to race. “My dad helped me build my car, but I designed it myself,” Dalley said. “I painted it gold because I wanted to win.”
Dalley was supported by a whole family of cheerleaders, including his grandpa Bevan Dalley. “This is such a fun thing to come watch and I love supporting my grandson,” Bevan said. “It’s important to us because it’s important to them.”
Young Jack Wheeler won first place in his pack. While he was hesitant to share his winning secret at first, he finally concluded, “I guess my winning secret is that my dad helped me.”
The event is funded by the Cornwalls, who greatly appreciate any donations to offset costs. They also give thanks to Kiley and Melaina Bradshaw, Chris Lundell, and Joe Perez for their many years helping out and volunteering with the event.
“We love to see the excitement in the boys’ faces,” Erin said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to learn to compete and to learn sportsmanship in a fun way.”