soap box racer in action in Werfen, Salzburg/Austria

The need for speed - Soapbox race in Werfen

Werfen/Austria (2013). – Remember the time when kids in soap boxes raced down the streets?
The tradition of soapbox races is a very cool one and reaches far back to the beginning of the last century, depending on the country also even further. The soap boxes from 
earlier years were handmade gravity-powered vehicles without a motor, originally
made out of discarded wooden soap crates and roller-skate wheels. Today the “cars”
are constructed with metal and fiberglass and designed for the need to speed.
In the Austrian village of Werfen in Salzburg members of the local traditional music band revitalized the tradition of soap box racing in the past year with the intent to create a fun event
not only for the kids but for the whole village. The second annual soap box race was again
a great success. And it was more than just fun for the participants and spectators,
it was also proof that old traditions still have room in our modern society.
Soap box racer in action in Werfen, Salzburg/Austria
It needs some very active dads and moms, lots of creativity and spare time of course as well as very enthusiastic, adventurous and brave kids to bring a tradition like a soapbox race back from the old days. It's hard enough to convince the kids from today that there is also a real life next to the virtual one, but to actually get them to spend days in the garage or basement and building something with their bare hands, that I assume normally requires hypnosis. Not so in Werfen, a small town in the Pongau District, in the Austrian state of Salzburg. There you'll still find this kind of people who live a modern life but still care for and practice their traditions. And you'll find there the kind of kids who are still one with nature, brave, fearless and adventurous in real life and not only when playing a virtual game. Great setup to revive again one of the most fun activities from the last century.  But not only kids and their moms and dads were participating in Werfen's 2. Soapbox city race, people and groups of all ages and also from other cities came with incredibly cool vehicles to put them to the tricky velocity test. 

Soapbox races go back in history until the beginning of the last century. What started 1904 in the German town of Oberursel, close to Frankfurt, developed in the United States in the Thirties from a fun kids activity to a real competition with even World Championships. The name for the self-made kid's cars, the soapbox, goes back to an American newspaper photographer who took a picture of a boy who was building his car with used wooden packaging material from companies which ship cheese or soap in it. Why the photographer in his story for the newspaper rather to soap boxes referred than to "Cheese boxes" might remain a mystery for good. 

Even though winning the race was the goal of every participant in Werfen, the fun factor still was more important. Some of the soapbox builders deserved to win the race not because they were the fastest racer on this downhill course on the main street, but because they had to build incredible cool vehicles. There was, for example, a tree car to see, a huge Viking ship, a house on wheels or a racing carrot and not to forget a cook pot racer. In Werfen kids and adults raced for the highest speed, the winner reached about 25 miles/hour (40 km/h), measured on a certain point at the track. Even though not every racer actually had the chance to win this fun event due to the composition of their vehicle, they all were winners anyway for their creativity, bravery and for their effort to bring something back which was almost forgotten. 
Pushing the soap box racer at the start in Werfen, Salzburg/Austria
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