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It’s PowderPuff Derby time again

Scripps Ranch Girl Scouts, families and friends await a race during a previous Powder Puff Derby race day. (courtesy of Ben O’Day)

It’s Powder Puff Derby time again

By Kaila Mellos

Preparations for the annual Girl Scout tradition of racing homemade derby cars are underway, with Ben O’Day leading the effort again this year in Scripps Ranch. The Girl Scouts are working hard to finish their cars for the Powder Puff Pinewood Derby, with race day set for March 16 at Dingeman Elementary School.

“I think one of the best parts about it is not racing their car; it’s the experience of building it, and that’s been the core of the event for many years,” O’Day said.

About 120 Girl Scouts have registered and are expected to participate this year.

With the $15 registration fee, 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.

“Our rules remain the same. Girls are supposed to use the original block of wood supplied with registration and not purchase a car, kit, or anything else that’s pre-made. Along with that, there are just a couple of 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 narrower,” O’Day said. “The design is completely up to the girls. They can add as much of their own stuff as they want. We’ve had a few people purchase something that looks like a derby car and try to use it, which defeats the point of this entire experience. So, we encourage them to use the original materials, have fun with it, add as much extra stuff, but keep it under five ounces.”

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. There are three workshops that registrants can attend to build their cars this year: Saturday, March 2; Sunday, March 3; and Sunday, March 10.

“My favorite part of the event continues to be that this is a parent-with-a-kid event,” O’Day said. “Parents get to come to our workshops and learn how to use tools and supervise their kids using tools.”

Once each car has been built and has passed the requirements during one of two check-in dates – March 12 or March 13 – they are safely stored by O’Day and other volunteers until race day begins.

“We keep the cars, and we bring them all to the race day to have them all displayed. Lots of pictures are taken, and then we do back-to-back races,” O’Day said. 

Within these races are specific categories based mainly on design. The design categories are best food theme, animal theme, sports theme, Girl Scout theme, most creative design – and a recent addition this year – best Disney theme.

Along with these distinctions, there are multiple top-placing awards for speed. Furthermore, every Girl Scout who participates walks away with a patch. Another fun thing that has been added this year is a recycled trophy program.

“We’ve been giving out trophies for years, and my family and several other families that have been doing this forever have a ton of trophies. As our kids age out, we hate that many of those get trashed over the years or just stuffed in boxes never to be seen again,” O’Day said. “This year, we’re doing a trial to see how many recycled derby trophies we can collect, and so far, we’ve collected almost enough that we
don’t have to buy any new trophies.”

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

Powder Puff Derby racers are lined up for a past race day event. (courtesy of Ben O’Day)