The Port Alberni Kinsmen Club will be holding its fourth annual Little Lightning in the Valley soapbox derby on Saturday, July 20.
This year will be bigger and better than ever, with Shaw TV broadcasting the event live both on Channel 4 and on YouTube.
“[Shaw] wanted to help out and get in on it,” explained Kinsman Mike Hadley. “It was always our vision to try and grow the event to where it’s not just a one-day thing.”
The first soapbox derby took place in 2016 on Upper Argyle Street, with 35 competitors and hundreds of spectators. In 2018, the event was moved to Lower Argyle and was opened up to ‘Tykes’ under the age of six.
The goal of the Kinsmen is to eventually make it a two-day event, hosting a race for adults as well as kids. This year, GP Excavating has built a cart and will be launched down Argyle Street on Saturday—giving viewers a glimpse of what an adult race could look like.
“We want to plant the seeds for next year and make people excited,” said Hadley.
There are some other changes for the fourth annual races, too. The Kinsmen have gone “all out” with the prizes, thanks to some help from local sponsors. There are 16 trophies to be won—including prizes for Straight Shooter, Best Cart, Best Costume and Hard Luck.
Jericho Road Church helped out this year with some cart workshops, opening their shop and volunteering their equipment to help participants build their carts. The church is hoping to provide the same services next year, as well.
But Kinsman Jason Ferguson said the biggest change is the look of the course. This year, the hay bales up and down Argyle Street will be lined with banners, sponsored by local businesses.
“We’re really trying to get that race course look,” Ferguson explained.
Port Alberni RCMP Speed Watch volunteers are also on board for the second year in a row and will be capturing and displaying speeds as participants race down the roadway.
But despite the changes, the Little Lightning in the Valley is staying true to its roots.
“It’s just a fun, straight shot right to the finish line,” said Hadley. “We’re going to try to do three to four runs this year.”
Other communities on Vancouver Island, such as Ucluelet, have expressed interest in starting their own soapbox derby event based on Port Alberni’s. This year, several volunteers from Ucluelet will be participating.
Hadley says the event is successful year after year due to a “hodge-podge army of volunteers.” Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Mike Hadley (call 250-734-6453 or email MikeAlberniKinsmen@gmail.com) or Jason Ferguson (call 250-731-4114 or email JayFerg85@gmail.com).
“There’s no such thing as too many volunteers,” Hadley joked.
The race begins at 11 a.m., with setup starting at 10 a.m. The track starts below Third Avenue and ends at the sidewalk near the train station, just before the industrial road. Spectators are welcome.