Cub Scouts race Pinewood Derby cars in the mall
A group of 8-year-old Cub Scouts geeked out in front of the “Most Original Car Showcase” table Saturday, leaning over a familiar-looking silver set of miniature wheels.
“Ohmigod! It’s the DeLorean!” Sean Horrigan gasped. “That’s so cool! ‘Back to the Future’! Look, it’s going to drive off the table, vroommmmmm!”
The annual Boy Scouts of America tradition, the Pinewood Derby, has had Cub Scouts designing their own race cars since 1953. With a little help from their parents and mentors, the top competitors from Durham’s 19 Cub Scout packs faced off in the district race Saturday.
The long wooden racetrack collected a crowd between Pretzel Twister and Shoe Dept. at Northgate Mall, as parents and their scouts in uniform waited for nerve-wracking trophy announcements and fun race countdowns.
Surrounding the DeLorean only as big as Marty McFly’s hand were cars detailed with Nestlé Crunch bar wrappings or eagle figurines. Others were designed to mirror an Amtrak car or New York City hot dog stand.
The announcer read miniature biographies of each scout into a microphone, introducing each car creator’s likes and dislikes. “He likes science and doesn’t like writing.” “He likes the Carolina Panthers.”
Horrigan, a Wolf Cub representing Pack 412 that meets at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church, called his car the “Road Killer,” which was crafted with mini machine guns.
His father, Joe Horrigan, said his son painted and designed it, and he put the wheels on for him.
“It’s all about trying the best they can at this age to have fun and not get too deep in the competitive aspect of it,” Joe said.
Another crowd favorite was the “Monster Found!” car, which included three live crickets in a plastic box with holes. The boy behind the design was 8-year-old Thomas Nason.
“I just put them in my hand and dropped them in the cup,” Nason said of the crickets and his “zoo” car idea. “I kind of came up with it in my brain.”
Dad Tommy Nason said his son worked on his car through Christmas. His son is in the Bear Den of Durham Pack 495, the same pack Tommy joined as a child.
The pack just celebrated its 50th anniversary, Tommy said, so some of the old ribbons and banners they found had his name on them, and he can now share that history with his son.
“It gives us time to spend together,” Tommy said of the annual Pinewood Derby. “It teaches him to listen and we have to work as a team.”
Nine-year-old Edward Moore waited by his mom in his Bear Cub Scout navy uniform. His camouflage car was entered into the “Most Beautiful Car Showcase,” which he designed based on his grandfather’s Army experience.
Last year, Moore said, he placed second in the fastest car category. This year, he’s looking around and gaining ideas for Pinewood Derby 2015.
“I like the one with the joker,” he said, pointing to the table, “with the cards on it.”
At the Cub Scout information table Saturday, 7-year-old Caleb Woodall helped pass out pack lists and Boy Scouts of America bumper stickers. He said his favorite car looked like the Titanic, and his design was inspired by Rainbow Loom, a trend where children make bracelets out of little plastic rainbow loops.
His father, Bert, grew up in the Scouts. He now serves as assistant den leader for Caleb’s group, the Wolf Cubs of Pack 424, which meets at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Bert still has his old Pinewood Derby cars, which were painted blue with a yellow stripe.
“It means a lot,” Bert said of the father-son derby bond. “I get emotional about Scouts.”