Story contributed by Kevin V. Hunt, a Scouting historian, author, camp director, blogger and speaker
About this time each year all over the country, an interesting phenomenon occurs as Pinewood Derby cars race down tracks again. It’s something that Cub Scouts live for and dream of for months before it happens.
This year I have a unique vantage point to the Pinewood Derby as five of my grandsons are all Cub Scouts whose engines are revved!
At a recent family dinner with three generations of my family all sitting around the table together, we swapped stories about past cars and races, and we even passed around some of my grandsons’ cars from the past few years and talked about how much work had gone into each of the entries.
A short time later, my wife and I got to attend the Pinewood Derby race for two of our grandsons, Brodey and Jett. Our daughter is the Cubmaster, and they had an interesting scenario for how they manage their Pinewood Derby.
All of the Cub Scout packs in their local church stake – or group of congregations – held their races on the same day. Each pack had its assigned block of time for their own races and awards.
They pooled resources to create a beautiful racing room as well as an awards presentation room – both decorated in race track décor. After each race, a new pack would gather in the awards room and leave the room just in time for the next pack to come in. It was a grand scheme!
Despite a valiant effort and some design help from JD, their engineer father, Brodey and Jett finished this year’s derby in last place. I asked Brodey how he felt about having the slowest car, and his answer surprised me.
“It was delicious!” he said. “They had a cake [from a bundt pan] decorated as a flat tire, and I got the ‘flat tire award,’ and the cake was all mine!”
Brodey also received the “Sportsmanship” certificate for having a good attitude in spite of his last-place finish.
Jett was excited about his “Superman” car, which got the certificate for the best paint job.
My grandson, Craig, built his first Pinewood Derby car last year.
“It was basically the shape of a wave,” he told me. “The front was tipped like a wave.”
His pack also invited family members to create their own cars. His sister, Savannah, raced a car in the shape of a piano, and younger brother, Jason, had a school bus car.
My grandson Tanner had a Pinewood Derby racer I like to call a “miracle car.” Why? Well, on a recent visit to our home, he showed me his car before he prepared to fly back home, and it was just a plain pine board, cut to shape. Yet, somehow in the ensuing 24-hours, Tanner and his dad miraculously created a scorpion-shaped car.
He had won first place last year, so instead of designing the car for speed this year, he said he was “going more for style.” To his surprise, he actually won five out of his six races this year!
My grandson, Blake, lives near our home so we were able to attend his first Pinewood Derby race just a couple of weeks ago.
“Dad and I designed the car,” Blake told me. “Then we went to uncle JD’s house, and he helped us cut it out. We sanded it, and dad and I painted it and put the stripes on it.”
His car won every race and tied the last one, but Blake received no more special recognition than any of the other boys in his pack. As with many Cub Scout packs, this one made unique certificates to present to each boy. No one said that his car was the fastest, but his certificate said it all: “Speed Demon.”
It’s been a fun adventure this year being a grandpa and sharing the Pinewood excitement with my five Cub Scout grandsons and their fathers. I kind of like this grandpa role – no making cars – just enjoying the races.
Scouting Wire would like to thank Kevin V. Hunt for submitting this story.