Sunday, June 26, 2005
The winner of the first Youngstown derby 71 years ago took a ride down the hill.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's a family thing.
That's what most of the people around Saturday's Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby say about why they participate in the event.
But no family had more participation than Sam and Becky Ritenour of Hubbard, whose four daughters all raced on Saturday.
Christine, 16, and Kayla, 14, were in the Masters class, and Stephanie, 12, and Rebecca, 8, ran their cars in the Super Stock division.
"It's just a family weekend every time we race," Sam Ritenour said.
They've been doing this four years, and the girls said that traveling to different cities for the Soap Box Derby events and getting to meet people are the big reasons why they enjoy the event.
It's time-consuming but worth it, Ritenour said.
"We literally spent the entire week getting ready for today," he said.
First winner comes back
John Fraser says the car in which he won the first Youngstown Soap Box Derby was "pretty primitive."
"They used to ship oranges in wooden crates, so we used some of those, found some wheels and put a car together," said Fraser, 87, of Sebring, who finished first in the 1934 race.
The race was run down Gypsy Lane then, and Sebring remembers not having working brakes at the end.
Fraser took a ride down the Fifth Avenue course in an adult-sized car built for the occasion.
"It was a real honor and a lot of fun," he said. "Just like old times."
Racing with a purpose
Boys from the Rebecca Williams Community Center in Warren raced seven of the cars entered in the derby.
Tommy Lee Perry, a preventive coordinator at the children's center, was the "pit pal" for his grandson Juamone Perry, 11, who raced in the Super Stock class.
He said that what the kids get out of the participation in the derby goes beyond the competition.
"We can only do so much [at the center]," he said. "What this does is teach them more about having good manners, a good attitude and how to talk to people."
He said he's hoping that potential involvement of NASCAR in the Soap Box Derby may also create more opportunities for interaction of the derby with community groups.
The family involvement in the derby includes the carrying on of traditions. Saturday's racers were in many cases the children and grandchildren of past derby participants and winners.
Roy Shook Jr., the 1965 champion whose winning car was on display in the pit area, was there to cheer on his grandson Jarrod Shook, 15, of North Jackson.
Roy Shook's daughters, Shelly Colucci of Canfield and Sherry Pater of Boardman, also sat under a tent along Fifth Avenue to watch the action.
"It's a great thing for this to be passed on from generation to generation," Pater said. "More people ought to become involved."