Bft flyingmachine Bft bicycle Bft kid
Bigsprings banner

Racing in the Street: Bellefonte Soap Box Derby Promises Thrills


218 Fetzer Rd Howard, Pennsylvania 16841

Dubois Soap Box Derby


Visit website

By Serge Bielanko

The Central Pa Soap Box Derby is bringing the 2nd Annual Bellefonte Rally to Double Drop Hill this weekend for two days of racing and smiles. In many ways it's a return to a bygone era. Once upon a time soap box racing was an annual thing here, but eventually- like so many things anymore- kids lost interest.

Still, sometimes what goes around comes around.

Rapidly rising interest in soap box car building and competition among Centre County kids and parents the last few years have led to the renaissance of these homemade gravity-powered cars in a big way. And this weekend a bunch of young racers between the ages of 7-14 are headed here, to Allegheny Street to prove it.

One fellow who doesn't need any convincing that Soap Box Fever is back is local dad, Alan Uhler. A few years ago Uhler's three kids got interested in the derby that their dad used to race in when he was their age. So Uhler dug around and found out that the nearest Soap Box Derby Chapter was over in DuBois. So to DuBois they went. That was all it took really: the Bellefonte Soap Box Derby flame had been re-lit.

"All three of my kids were interested in racing. Then within a few weeks of involving my kids, several of their friends became interested," Uhler recounts. "Therefore in the span of about 4 weeks I went from involving my three kids to running a team of 8 kids in the DuBois Area Soap Box Derby annual race."

Nowadays he's is the race director and proud to be helping to this family-oriented style of racing back to his hometown. He's not alone though.

"With the help of many dedicated race families and local support from businesses, Bellefonte Borough Council, the Bellefonte Cruise, the Milesburg American Legion, and the Bald Eagle Area School District, we have grown," Uhler says. "We've gone from a one race organization to holding five each year."

Oh and by the way, in case you've never seen a Soap Box Derby competition, you should know that this isn't a case of kids whipping together some kind of ramshackle Little Rascals car out of whatever odds and ends they can find laying around the garage. Oh no no no. See, the true beauty of all of this lies in the commitment and hard work behind the scenes. Young people involved in soap box racing spend countless hours working with their parents or mentors learning how to build a car according extremely specific specs. Then they learn to drive them… often down steep hills where speeds can reach just under 30mph.  

"These kids are not racing in cobbled together cars with stolen baby buggy wheels," Uhler explains. "They are racing highly refined gravity cars fighting off a competitive edge of often as little as a few thousandths of a second over two runs down the hill, once in each lane."

That sort of sounds like something your own kids are going to want to see with their very own eyes.

Who knows, right? Maybe next year that'll be them out there speeding down Double Drop Hill.

How cool would that be?

Central Pa Soap Box Derby Bellefonte Rally, Saturday April 14th and Sunday April 15th. 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Allegheny Street will be closed to traffic from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm on Saturday April 14, and from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday April 15th. There will also be NO PARKING on Allegheny Street between Linn Street and Howard street beginning at 7:00 am on Saturday April 14th until approximate 6:00 pm on Sunday April 15th. The Central PA Soap Box Derby thanks you for your understanding and patience. All are invited all to join and watch the race. Admission is free and concessions are available on site, provided by the Bellefonte Logan Fire Company.

Experience More of Bellefonte in the Story Archive

View Archive >