Pinewood Derby set for Friday, Saturday

Cub Scouts from Ohio and West Virginia packs in the Two Chiefs District of the Ohio River Valley Council headquartered in Wheeling are gearing up for what is an annual tradition – the Pinewood Derby.

It will be held at the Fort Steuben Mall’s center court on Friday and Saturday and involve about 175 Tigers, Wolves, Bears and Webelos from 16 Cub Scout packs in the district, which includes New Manchester, Weirton, Follansbee and Wellsburg in West Virginia and Cadiz, Flushing, Freeport, Bloomingdale, Richmond, Wintersville, Steubenville, Toronto and Martins Ferry in Ohio.

Setup for the derby gets under way Friday afternoon, according to Joe Kovaleski, longtime Pinewood Derby chairman.

That will be done in time for races Friday that run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. – the adult races that are open to Boy Scouts or their family members or family members of Cub Scouts racing on Saturday.

The Friday night adult races have two classes and generally attract any where from 30 to 40 participants.

One class is the stock race, which Kovaleski said follows the same rules as the Cub Scouts’ Saturday races.

The other class is the hot rod class where two rules apply – a car has to weigh 5 ounces and follow specific dimensions.

Six trophies will be awarded in each of those classes Friday, according to Kovaleski.

“A lot of the Cub Scouts when they move up (to Boy Scouts), they are enthused yet from racing as Cub Scouts, so they will join in the adult race,” Kovaleski said.

The Friday races serve a dual purpose – not just fun for the competing adults, but a chance as well to test the tracks for the big Saturday racing event that gets under way at 9 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m.

“Usually we do preliminary heats all morning long and break for lunch, then run all of the final heats,” Kovaleski said of the Saturday schedule. With triple elimination the order of the day, the Cub Scouts in grades one through five get to race their cars “a good many times,” Kovaleski said.

“It makes for a little bit more fun,” he said.

Final races begin around 4 p.m. Saturday to ultimately produce the six final racers who are presented trophies. They also receive gift cards courtesy of the Fort Steuben Mall.

The Pinewood Derby has been a part of Kovaleski’s life for nearly 22 years, and he has served as event chairman for at least 20 of them.

The event has teaching value, he said.

“They learn what competition is all about,” Kovaleski said.

The Cub Scouts also learn how to build a car, working with the help of a parent. “There is usually a good eight hours’ worth of work that goes into it in most cases,” Kovaleski said.

Saturday’s events also will include a Scout show to showcase troops from around the area and their projects.

The first Pinewood Derby was held on May 15, 1953, in California, the brainchild of Donald Murphy, a Cubmaster looking for a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a close father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship through competition. Today, more than 1 million Cub Scouts participate nationwide in Pinewood Derby competitions.