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Go, speed racer, go! Local scout troops ready for Pinewood, Pine Car derbies

Local scouts gathered at M State last March for their annual Pinewood Derby. They were able to use a brand new, state-of-the-art track thanks to extra funds raised by Cub Scout Pack 605. (Submitted photo)1 / 5
Numerous pinewood cars, designed by local Cub Scouts, lined up for the start of last year's Pinewood Derby. This year's event is set for Monday, March 4 at M State Detroit Lakes, starting at 6 p.m. (Submitted photo)2 / 5
Girl Scouts Haydon King and Scarlet Lundberg show off their cars at their first-ever Pine Car Derby. The second annual event is set for Tuesday, March 5 at M State Detroit Lakes, starting at 6 p.m. (Submitted photo)3 / 5
Evi Loeffen was all smiles after winning a second-place trophy for the Daisies at the Girl Scouts' inaugural Pine Car Derby in 2018. (Submitted photo) 4 / 5
Pine cars designed by local Girl Scouts lined up for competition at their first-ever Pine Car Derby in Detroit Lakes. This year's derby is set for Tuesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. (Submitted photo)5 / 5

A long standing Cub Scout tradition, the Pinewood Derby, returns to Detroit Lakes tonight (Monday, March 4) — and for the second year in a row, the local Girl Scouts will be following that event up with their own Pine Car Derby on Tuesday, March 5.

Both events will be held on the campus of M State Detroit Lakes.

Race time for Cub Scouts Pack 605 will be at 6 p.m., according to local Pinewood Derby coordinator Todd Simison.

"The Pinewood Derby is one of the largest events that the Scout kids look forward to each year," Simison said, adding that it is a scouting tradition that extends all the way back to 1953, when the first derby was organized by Cub Scout Pack Master Don Murphy in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

"The Pinewood Derby is a really great thing for the Scouts," Simison continued, adding that the process of crafting a miniature car out of a block of pine wood, a set of plastic wheels and four nails — the standard building kit for a derby car — teaches them valuable skills, as they try out various techniques for making their car go as fast, and look as good, as possible.

"They have to cut the car (out of the block of wood), shape the car, paint the car and then there's certain modifications they can do to make it more aerodynamic, like smoothing out the wheels to make them roll better, and making sure the car is as close to 5 ounces as possible... that's very important," he said.

After the derby is concluded, awards are given to the top three fastest cars in each of the participating Cub Scout dens, or age categories, along with an overall award to the top three cars of the entire pack, who advance to the regional competition in Fargo.

"There will also be awards given for 'best in show,' to the cars that are most unique and stand out from the rest," said Simison. "So some of these kids are into making something that goes really, really fast, and others are into making something completely unique."

He added that creating the cars is intended to be something fathers and sons — or mothers and sons, or grandparents and grandsons — can do together, as a family.

"The adults aren't supposed to build it for the kid, and yet they aren't supposed to let the kid do it all themselves either," he said. "They're supposed to build it together."

Simison should know — his own son Carson is a past winner of not only the local derby, but the regional one as well. He said that about 50 local Cub Scouts are expected to compete in Monday's event, and the public is welcome to come and cheer them on, free of charge.

Tuesday's Pine Car Derby, also slated to be held at M State, is just the second annual event hosted by the Detroit Lakes Girl Scouts.

"Pinewood Derby is copyrighted by the Cub Scouts, so we had to choose a different name," explained Amanda Erickson, coordinator for the Girl Scouts event.

But everything else, from the racing track used to the location where the event is being staged, is basically the same.

"The track is really state of the art," Erickson said. "We really appreciate the Cub Scouts letting us use it.

"A lot of our girls have brothers who are in the Cub Scouts and they asked me if we could do one," she continued, "so last year we approached the Cub Scouts and asked to partner up with them to host our own races. They were happy to do it."

Just like the Cub Scouts, there will be first, second and third place trophy winners in the different age categories, as well as a "best in show" competition for the most unique and attractively designed cars.

The start time for Tuesday's event is also 6 p.m., though Erickson said they will start checking in cars at about 4:30 p.m.

"We also have another small Cub Scout pack that will be racing with us on Tuesday," she added, though the events will be held separately.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454