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Air horn sounds at Magnolia Soap Box Derby in Macon signaling day-filled family fun

Sights and Sounds from the Magnolia Soap Box Derby

The annual Magnolia Soap Box Derby turned a Macon street on Saturday into a race track for high school students. The event also featured races for adults, live entertainment and food vendors.
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The annual Magnolia Soap Box Derby turned a Macon street on Saturday into a race track for high school students. The event also featured races for adults, live entertainment and food vendors.

The announcer counted down: three, two, one.

The air horn sounded.

And the high school driver was off in a team-built car down a closed-off Macon street Saturday for the annual Magnolia Soap Box Derby.

Correll Person, 17, helped build Central High School’s racing machine for the Gravity Racing Challenge for the descent down Magnolia Street.

Person said he gained an understanding of where the parts went and how each contributed to the car’s ability to race.

“It’s a new experience,” said Person, who added that he’d like to help build another soap box car and encouraged others to give it a try.

In all, 15 high school and after-school programs participated in the race.

“They get to learn about building the car itself,” said Brant Freeman, executive co-director for the Magnolia Soap Box Derby. “They also get to be part of a team.

“There are some kids out there who don’t play football or basketball or baseball or soccer, so, maybe they don’t always get the team experience. By doing this as a team and racing as a team, I think it’s a good experience for them.”

The students also apply science, engineering, technology and math skills to the build the cars.

“All of the cars start off the same,” Freeman said. “They come in boxes. They’ve got to assemble the whole thing. But every one of them is the same kit.”

What can impact how fast the car makes the descent is how well it’s built based upon following instructions, he said.

“The ones that are put together really well, they usually do really well,” Freeman said. “Of course, the kids get to paint their cars however they want.”

The soap box derby also included Kids Big Wheel, Professional Division and Shade Tree Division races. Children raced about 75 feet on Big Wheels for the sheer fun of it, including Freeman’s 8-year-old son, Tyler.

The Professional Division drew adults with a need for speed.

“These guys are really, really going for speed, and they, a lot of the times, spend quite a bit of money on their builds trying to shave tenths of seconds off their time,” Freeman said.

The Shade Tree Division was for community-built cars that might be known for their look more than their speed.

Centenary United Methodist Church built a car that actually looks like a box of soap. Fatty’s Pizza races a car that looks like a slice of pizza.

Chris Wimberly of Macon said he and some friends put together at the last minute their Optimus Prime car named after a fictional character in the science-fiction, action films based on the Transformers toy franchise.

The entry, which was kept under wraps until race time in the Shade Tree Division, was designed to transform by extending it’s length, Wimberly said.

Freeman, who owns Freeman Cabinets, set aside driving his Freeman Cab made out of cabinets in the Shade Tree Division to help run the operation of the soap box derby and let a team member take the wheel.

“I do miss being able to race because once you go down that hill one time, you’re ready to go back up and do it over and over again,” he said. “It’s really exhilarating.”

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