Derby Night at the Ballpark
In 1933, newsman Myron Scott of Dayton, Ohio noticed a group of boys racing their homemade cars. It immediately caught his attention. He copyrighted the name “Soap Box Derby” and went looking for a company to sponsor a national program. Chevrolet agreed and the Soap Box Derby was born.
The event was a wild success. In 1936, a permanent track was built in Akron, Ohio. With the exception of a four-year hiatus during World War II, the Soap Box Derby has run continuously. Until 1971, the rules stated that only boys could compete. That year, girls began racing as well.
On this date in 1954, the cry in Fargo-Moorhead was “Take me out to the ballgame!” But the focus was on the Soap Box Derby, for it was Soap Box Derby Night at the Fargo-Moorhead Twins baseball game. The participants, along with the sponsors and management of the Derby, would be the honored guests. The Twins had sent out letters to the racers inviting them to the game. In addition to free admission, the Twins offered the racers free hot dogs, pop, and peanuts. In turn, the sponsors of the race planned to honor the batboys in a ceremony before the game. The batboys were presented with racing helmets and Soap Box Derby T-shirts.
The 1954 Fargo Soap Box Derby promised to be the biggest Derby ever held in the city. There were 161 entries. The previous record was 123 in 1949. Every car had to be completed by July 10 for the preliminary inspection. Trucks would be sent out to pick up the cars, take them to inspection, and then return them to the racers’ homes. The inspection was held two weeks prior to the race to give the contestants time to make any necessary adjustments. The inspection was followed by the annual Soap Box Derby picnic at Lindenwood Park. Fourteen towns in North Dakota held derbies, with the winners competing to see who would advance to the finals.
The Derby is still held in North Dakota. The finals were held in Valley City earlier this month, with the top racers in the Super Stock and Stock divisions earning the right to compete in Akron next month.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Fargo Forum. “Derby Night at Ball Park.” Fargo, ND. 27 June, 1954.
NDTourism. “North Dakota Soap Box Derby.” "http://www.ndtourism.com/events/north-dakota-soap-box-derby" http://www.ndtourism.com/events/north-dakota-soap-box-derby Accessed 6 May, 2017.