Encouraging shouts of "Brake, brake, brake, brake!" rang out across the concourse as the young racers rolled their cars to a stop at the bottom of the hill on Saturday morning.
Spectators watched from the sidelines, seated under the shelter of tents and on lawn chairs just a few feet away from the action of the 14th annual Kiwanis Soap Box Derby. Several interested onlookers watched from their bicycles near the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library.
"We've had multiple races all day," said Chandler Ladd, a member of the Hopkinsville Kiwanis Club that hosts the derby races. "There have been lots of families here and spectators."
The annual races take place along Bethel Street in downtown Hopkinsville.
This year's derby attracted 65 youth who took part in the main event and six "super kids," i.e., special needs youngsters who took part in the races, said Annie Catron, the immediate past president of Kiwanis and a co-race director of the 2019 derby along with Amy Rains.
Catron said organizers were really excited about this year's event, which boasted great crowds, good weather and milder temperatures than at some of the races in the past.
"It really made for a great day of racing," she said. "It was a good-size derby."
Catron said she has high hopes for the event's top four winners.
Capturing first-place wins on Saturday were Alan Rader, in the derby's stock division; Audrey Rains, in super stock; NeeNee Buckner, in masters; and Ben Pace, in super kids; all four will go on to compete at the 82nd FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby from July 14 to July 20 in Akron, Ohio.
Catron noted that she would like to see a second World Championship trophy come back to Hopkinsville. Last year, 11-year-old Ashton Grace, a student at Millbrooke Elementary School, represented her community in Akron and captured the 2018 World Local Super Stock Champion title.
"We're just really excited to see our kids compete in July," Catron said, adding that a couple of the young racers have been in the derby for a while and have been to Akron before.
Saturday's racers had plenty of family and friends on hand to cheer for them, including Patty Carroll, whose granddaughter Jemma Carroll raced in the local derby's stock division.
Patty said she liked the healthy competition the races offer.
Lariah Baker said she and Jacob Newby had been at the races "since the very beginning" watching her brother and sister race. Sister Serenity Lewis won two heats despite difficulty with braking and her tendency to go through barriers. Baker's brother, J.J. Buckner, also won twice.
Baker said she likes seeing all the kids get together for the races.
"It's something to look forward to," she said. "I think it's really fun."
Sue Worden sat in a chair not far from the track, there to support two of her great-grandchildren, Will and Alan Rader, who were taking part in the annual derby races.
The two boys were doing really well, Worden said.
In the end, both captured wins.
In addition to Alan's first place in stock, Will won third in the same division.
Invited for the occasion by her family, Worden had come all the way from Peru, Indiana, to be a part of it.
"Oh, this is really neat," she said, as she watched the action.
Among the spectators, Tami Hedges arrived with grandsons, Nick and Jay Ash, noting that it was better than having them cooped up in the house on their PlayStation game console.
"I like it," said Hedges, who recently moved to Pembroke and was enjoying her first time at the Kiwanis derby this past weekend. "I like seeing the kids have fun."
Race organizer Brian Rains, who isn't a Kiwanian but works with the annual race, said he thought the 2019 derby did really well; he noted that the double elimination that is now a part of the derby gives the youth an opportunity to run the races,
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work their way back into the finals and have a chance to win the derby.
That's what happened this year to NeeNee Buckner, who lost initially to Grace but came back in the challenger's bracket to win the whole thing, Brian Rains said.
He particularly wanted to thank the Givens Group and the First Baptist Church Christian Life Center, who both provided facilities where the cars could be stored, he said.
Racers also utilized the church gym for practice sessions, Brian Rains said.
Catron thanked the derby's sponsors, who she said provide stipends to the winners and help support the first-place racers' trip in July to Akron.
Other 2019 winners, in addition to the Raders and the first place wins, include Noah Pulsinelli, second in the stock division; Conner Bledsoe, second, and Lane Loden, third, in super stock; Ashton Grace, second, and Judah Gilbert, third, in masters; and Courtney Planka, second, and Jadon Snorton, third, in super kids.
Soap Box Winners
Alan Rader, first
Noah Pulsinelli, second
Will Rader, third
Audrey Rains, first
Conner Bledsoe, second
Lane Loden, third
NeeNee Buckner, first
Ashton Grace, second
Judah Gilbert, third
Ben Pace, first
Courtney Planka, second
Jadon Snorton, third
Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.