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Peter and Karen Parker spend time and money traveling around the Southeast with their children in pursuit of family fun. But sightseeing isn’t their goal. They want to race like the wind.
The Parkers and their three children — Isaac, 10, Vicky 14, and Christy, 16 — are soap box derby enthusiasts. This month, their passion reaches a pitch as the Parker children participate in two national races.
“We are making memories,” explained Karen Parker, a teacher at York One Academy.
Isaac, a Griggs Road Elementary School fifth-grader — who has done the most racing of the family — qualified to race this weekend in the 75th anniversary of the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
Vicky will also race in an Akron competition for special needs children. The Parkers said she qualified for the Akron race — in which she will ride in a two-seat car with an assigned driver — by winning a local SuperKids competition in Georgia with her brother, who raced with her.
After the Akron event, both Isaac and Christy plan to race in the National Derby Rally in Bowling Green, Ky.
Soap box derby racing involves gravity-powered cars that the racers build from kits.
Peter Parker, a quality control specialist with Wells Fargo, said Isaac has been racing in the Carolinas, Virginia, Florida and Georgia since last fall. They have been involved in a soap box derby chapter in Huntersville, N.C.
“It’s a family thing — everyone does it together,” said Isaac. “It’s a lot of fun being with your own family.”
Parker, whose father was in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Japan, said he first saw a soap box derby race there. He decided to get involved when Isaac was old enough.
But it soon became a family project, he said.
“I really like it,” said Christy, a rising junior at Clover High School, who competes in a master’s car, in which the driver is positioned flat on his or her back. “It was kind of scary at first, but after you adjust, it’s a lot of fun.”
Isaac competes in a different class, called a stock car, in which the driver hunches over in the car. Kits used to make the cars run over $500 in cost, plus another $100 for wheels, Parker said.
Parker said the hobby has involved a learning curve.
“We just started and we didn’t know anything,” he said. “Some people are very competitive, and they won’t tell you anything, but there are other people who will give you help.”
But he said they have seen results.
“You make decisions, you make adjustments to the car,” he said. “At first, we were just basically winging it. But different places we’ve gone, we’ve tried different things and we’ve seen results.”
He said one challenge is that soap box derby racing is little known in the Carolinas, and there are few nearby places to race. It’s more popular in Ohio and surrounding states, he said.
Parker said he doesn’t know of any other children in the York County area who are involved. However, he said local enthusiasts would like to encourage more people to participate.
And though it’s nice to win a soap box derby race, Karen Parker said the family tries to keep the focus of the project on learning, going different places and having fun as a family.
“It’s a challenge to try to keep the kids focused and not get upset if they happen not to win,” she said. “You give them encouragement. If you win, it’s nice, but if you don’t win, it’s Ok. It’s a learning experience.”