Soap Box Derby: Summertime tradition begins in Akron

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AKRON, Ohio -- It is a summertime tradition in Northeast Ohio with a competitive edge.

Four hundred boys and girls from throughout the United States, Canada and Japan are in town to compete in the FirstEnergy 82nd All-American Soap Box Derby.

Tanevaeh Buckner, 14, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, got the Derby racing bug at the tender age of 8.

“One day my grandfather said, 'Do you want to race?' And I said, 'Yes, sure; that would be fine' so I just started from there."

Tanevaeh now competes with the best of the best, putting their homemade gravity powered race cars to the test at Derby Downs.

Soap Box Derby president and CEO Mark Gerberrich said, “There’s 100 race cities across the country and you compete in your local race and qualify and then there’s a pointless almost like NASCAR where you're qualifying throughout the year and you’re on a rally schedule and you’re accumulating points and you qualify that way as well.”

Race week kicked off with the parade of champions in downtown Akron and opening ceremonies where each participant was introduced to the crowds.

For many families, the derby is a right of passage passed down from generation to generation.

Racer Elizabeth Johnson said, “My aunt, my uncle my brother and my other aunt they’re the ones that made you want to get into this as well? Yes.”

Parent Dawn Vincent said, “ The whole thing that Assigndesk for these kids is just phenomenal -- the whole week, all the events that we have to go to and it’s a lot of work but it’s so much fun.”

The Derby, not only a boost for Northeast Ohio economy but also for each racer, where thousands of dollars are at stake.

The goal now?

“Practice! Practicing my car, make sure my car is right and just be happy.”

Other race-related activities this week include preliminary races and the Super Kid Classic.

The Soap Box Derby championship race will be held on Saturday at Derby Downs, where $36,000 in college scholarship money will be up for grabs.

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