Cub Scouts, start your engines!
City’s Pinewood Derby a big hit with youngsters, adults alike
WOONSOCKET — In an era of smart phones, tablets, laptops, and video game consoles, all it takes to captivate Cub Scout Pack 2 is a block of wood and an imagination.
Boys and girls from the city-based Cub Scout pack gathered together on Saturday afternoon to find out who had the fastest miniature race car at the pack’s Pinewood Derby at Holy Family Church on South Main Street.
For Cubmaster McKayla Ivins, the day offered scouts from kindergarten through fifth grade an opportunity to show off their creativity in a competitive forum that was a throwback to yesteryear.
“The kids get a block of wood, they take it home and cut it into whatever shape, they paint it whatever color they want … It’s something that’s been happening for a really long time and it’s definitely something the kids look forward to,” Ivins said.
The scouts are given their blocks of wood in December and they have about two months to find that creative spark that will transform that shapeless slab into something that is unique to them. Among the various race car shapes and styles on display at Saturday’s derby included vehicles that resembled food – including carrots, watermelon, and blocks of cheese – to those that paid tribute to slices of Americana from Wonder Woman to the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
“The kids love it … You can tell by their faces how excited they are,” Ivins said in the minutes leading up
to the afternoon’s first race. “You notice it when we start the races. It’s a great way to get away from the technology.”
While the Pinewood Derby celebrates a throwback to an era in which the most modern form of technology was perhaps a push-button telephone, the track itself is outfitted with some 21st century gizmos and gadgets to calculate the fastest car. k A computer creates the heats, during which four cars take to the track, and sensors at the end of the track tabulate which racer had the fastest time, thus creating new heats for the advancing vehicles. This new track was obtained thanks in large part to a $1,000 grant from the state and Woontsocket’s state representatives – Michael Morin, Stephen M. Casey, and Robert D. Phillips.
“Last year, the track kind of fizzled out,” Ivins said of the previous track the Cub Scout Pack was using. “It was on its last legs. But we have a new track this year.”
Among the pre-teen youths using the track on Saturday were local scouts Tyler Burgess, 10, and Sam Marcotte, 11. Both are aging out of the Cub Scouts, which meant Saturday was the last year they’d be racing in the Pinewood Derby.
Burgess said the inspiration for his car – one that resembled the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard” – came from watching the automotive adventure television show “Roadkill.” On one particular episode, the stars of the program repaired a 1969 Dodge Charger, which inspired Burgess to put his creativity to work.
The bright orange shade of paint made his car stand out among the two dozen or so that were racing on Saturday.
“It’s just for fun,” he said. “The best part is creating the cars. It took about a week.”
Burgess said he came in second place last year – Marcotte finished in first – and he said he was hoping that his “last run” as a Cub Scout would end in him bringing home the top prize.
Marcotte, meanwhile, painted a car to resemble a watermelon wedge – a dark red hue with black polka dots representing the seeds found in the melon. Marcotte worked on the pinewood race car for about two days, saying the best part of the entire experience is “spending time with my friends and racing.”
“The Pack really is a family…” Ivins said. “It’s a diverse group of kids. We know their personalities and we have a great bunch of kids, a wide range of boys and girls.”