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Girls Scout racers prepare for Powderpuff Derby

Girls Scouts work on the construction of their race cars during a workshop held days before the Scripps Ranch Powderpuff Derby. (courtesy photo)

Girls Scout racers prepare for Powderpuff Derby

By Kaila Mellos

Preparations for the annual Girl Scout Powderpuff Derby in Scripps Ranch is fully underway. As the 2023 races are set to take place at Dingeman Elementary School on Feb 11, the event has become a completely Girl Scout run event, and the O’Day family has taken responsibility for it for the past few years.

“This derby is modeled after the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby event that revolves around a little seven-inch block of wood that you turn into a car,” said Ben O’Day, the event organizer and a local father of three Girl Scouts.

“It’s entirely a Girl Scout event now. A few other parents and I have been running the event for probably around 20 years now, and I took it over about five years ago. We have really focused on this being an event that’s designed to let kids and parents learn how to use tools to build this car. It is not entirely about how fast you can make a car, but it’s also about the experience of actually working with tools, which most kids don’t get a chance to these days.

There are about 125 Girl Scouts who have registered and are expected to participate this year.

With the $15 registration, each Girl Scout receives a derby car set that they must use to build the car that competes in the race. Each set includes a wood block, wheels and nails that must be used. No pre-cut cars or other pieces purchased online will be allowed in the race, along with cars from previous years.

“The rules we have set are: you’re supposed to use your original block of wood and not purchase a car, kit, or anything else that’s already pre-made. Along with that, there are just a couple of little dimension requirements: use the size of the block of wood you have, plus a couple of inches higher, but you can’t go too much wider or too much more narrow,” O’Day said. “The design is completely up to the girls, and they can add as much of their own stuff as they want. We’ve had a few people that just go purchase something that looks like a derby car and try to use it, and that defeats the point of this entire experience. So, we just encourage them to use the original materials, have fun with it, add as much extra stuff, but just keep it under five ounces.”

This derby is also not only for Girl Scouts. Family and friends of a registered Girl Scout can participate in the events as well.

Once the registrant receives the kit, there are workshops that the Girl Scouts and family members can attend to get help with building and checking that the requirements are being met on their derby cars.

“The girls can come to the workshop with an idea. Some of them are very far-fetched ideas, but it’s fun to get to talk through that process with them. I generally help the parent if they need it. Otherwise, a parent’s doing that with them and helping using the tools. The reason the kids really like it and come to the workshops is they get to physically build something.”

There are four workshops that registrants can attend to build their cars: Workshop #1 is Jan. 28, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Workshop #2 is Jan. 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Workshop #3 is Feb. 5, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Workshop #4 is, Feb. 6, from 3 p.m.7 p.m.

The Girl Scouts and parents get to come up with and create design ideas that will wow the crowds at these workshops.

“I’m completely blown away by some of the designs and the finished products that come out of the kids and parents. It’s just phenomenal stuff,” O’Day said. “I’d say some of the most creative ones that we see are very realistic animals or food-themed cars. I think it would completely blow anyone away to see some of them. Some of them are just pure comedy, with how they make them as well. But I’d say very realistic food-themed cars have been a big trend.”

Once each car has been built and has passed the requirements, it is taken by O’Day and other volunteers until race day, when it will be raced in the specific heat it has been entered into. Three separate races are going on that day. Starting at noon, the race is open to friends and family. After that, at 1 p.m., the Daisies and Brownies race, followed by Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors at 2 p.m.

Within these races are specific categories based mainly on design. The design categories are best food theme, animal theme, sports theme, Girl Scout theme, international theme, and most creative design.

Along with these distinctions, there are multiple top-placing awards for speed. Furthermore, every Girl Scout who participates walks away with a patch.

The official registration date has passed, but O’Day will accept late registrations until the first few days of February through email at bpoday@gmail.com.

Girl Scouts, friends and family members watch a race during a previous Scripps Ranch Powderpuff Derby. (courtesy photo)