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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: It is All In the Community and the Lube at the Annual Soap Box Derby 2017 in Okotoks, Alberta


We checked in at the annual Okotoks Soap Box Derby to see how a community came together to build something, compete, race downhill, fall off, crash, repair, get back up, win (or lose) and have fun doing it all on a Saturday in early Summer 2017, and doing it for a good cause. 

I know what you are thinking. "You must be joking!" There are so many contradictions in the sentence above that it is unbelievable how an organization can still pull it off in today's world, let alone get away with it for almost three decades in a small Alberta town going by the name of Okotoks.


Where do kids still build things with Dad, Grandpa, Uncle or Aunty? Surely, they can buy one at Walmart or a super duper one at Costco? 

Why on earth are kids encouraged to compete? In today's world, there should be no need to compete. Resources should be shared and redistributed equally, so everyone gets a chance. Doing something as dangerous as racing down a street at 35+ km/h is totally irresponsible. Doing it with sneakers, costumes or short pants, and only a helmet for protection is negligence on the parents' part. 

Someone should do something! Is there no bylaw or regulation that can stop it? And then there is the "uber-evil" of declaring somebody a winner. How dare they! Think of the emotional trauma of all the losers and the future medical expenditure for dealing with ongoing depression and the resulting low self-esteem.

Soap Box Racing

We are so glad that there is a Soap Box Derby in Okotoks. This is the world in which we want to live.

We want to be in a world where people are encouraged to make things. Where kids work with family and friends and innovate to compete, learn, adjust and win. The world, where calculated risk-taking is encouraged, and winners are celebrated. We love being part of a community where people come together to build things, compete, win (or lose), learn, celebrate and support each other.

The event is open to youth ages 8-14. A part of the entry fees is donated to a charitable cause in the town. Local businesses like Carstar Okotoks stepped in with matching donations. According to Mark Kharfan, the organizer, soap box car kits are available for purchase to keep the baseline fair between competitor. 

The package typically consists of the standard soap box derby cart and all the instructions that come with it. There are wheels, the mechanisms, the steering, and a four by four sheet of plywood. Cars are made with a lot of creativity and ingenuity to get them faster down the hill. The trick is in aerodynamics, weight reduction, and lubrication. For others, it is all about the style of arriving at the finishing line. Usually, there are between 85 to 120 participants. This year didn't disappoint.


We were lucky with the amazing weather for the event. No one was seriously injured, and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun. The organization and orchestration of the races ran like a well-oiled machine.

Okotoks is an amazing community. We are glad we could share the day with them. We are pleased that old-school values are still part of their world, and ours.

Hendrik van Wyk
Fast Cowboy

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The Team

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