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High Speeds and High Spirits at APEGNB Soap Box Derby


The Saint John Soap Box Derby on Cranston Avenue was well attended May 26, with 35 teams registered in the event. Over 140 races took place over the course of the day! Even Saint John Mayor Don Darling got in on the fun racing CBC host Hance Coburne down the hill to the finish line. Mayor Darling won and then raced opposite Jennifer Carhart, the principal at Princess Elizabeth School.

“The soap box derby has been held for seven years, and every year it grows bigger and better with more teams participating,” says Deborah Lawton, a representative from Lily Lake Pavilion, “All the funds that are raised here today, with this one-day activity, give back to more than 20 schools in the greater Saint John community throughout the school year.”  

“This is a huge family day in Saint John, which sees hundreds of folks out at Cranston Avenue, and it never disappoints,” says Deborah Fisher, PALS Coordinator. “We had 35 cars take part this year, and of those, 23 were school cars. Each of the cars has a sponsor, and those sponsorships enable the children and the pit crews to have a wonderful day, and also do some preparation beforehand at the schools which is lots of fun.” 

Presented by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGNB) Saint John Branch, the derby is a major source of funding for the PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools) in the Park program. The program is hosted in partnership by the Lily Lake Pavilion, the City of Saint John Naturalist Program, PALS and the Anglophone School District – South. In total, approximately 1700 students participate in the PALS in the Park program each year.  


“Through the PALS organization and our partners through Rockwood Park we’ll develop a bit of a menu that the children and their teachers can work together to select their activities from,” said Lawton. She adds that some of the co-curricular activities the classes can choose from include a guided trip to the zoo, yoga, photography, geocaching, rock-climbing, or adventure games. “Then they spend an hour with the Rockwood Park Naturalist and they actually learn more about Rockwood Park, about the flora and the fauna.”

“Sponsoring schools taking part in the derby is important to JDI, because the children get to have a great experience with this event, but then they also get to participate in the PALS in the Park program later on,” Fisher says, “The activities they get to participate in with that program will supplement and support their school curriculum.”

Throughout the derby, each team competed in a minimum of two races, totaling four runs down the hill. If they moved on, the teams got to compete in more races, and the overall winners earned a spot to compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship Race held in Ohio.  

This year, a new addition to the event was a police timer at the bottom of the hill that would tell the racers how fast they were going. The cars reached speeds of 36 km/hour!  

“It’s a super exciting day for the kids – they get to go fast!” says Tanya Horgan, one of the APEGNB co-chairs of the event.  She notes that one of the engineering aspects of the event is that the cars are gravity-powered, and the participants get to experience how fast they can go without a motor.  

“It’s a simple design, but the simple design actually gets to show the kids the pulleys, gets to show the brakes, all the different levers – so it’s really nice to be able to see that in motion,” Horgan says. 

JDI PALS partners sponsored 5 cars in the event this year, with many other PALS partners, businesses, and groups sponsoring the 30 other derby cars.

• Millidgeville North School – J.D. Irving, Limited 

• Centennial School – Atlantic Towing, co-sponsored by Mariner Partners 

• Saint Rose School – NB Southern Railway

• Glen Falls School – Irving Paper 

• Seaside Park Elementary School (The ‘Ottermobile’) – Irving Pulp & Paper 

“For the kids, it was wonderful. It was an exciting day for them, and it was an exciting week leading up to the actual activity,” says Matthew Bedard, Principal at Millidgeville North School. “The kids enjoyed themselves tremendously – they got hands on activity in being involved with the car and decorating the car, being a part of the pit crew, and, of course, the driver was over the moon with excitement. Overall it was a fantastic experience for all the kids to be involved in something like this.”  

“The sponsorship from JDI made this whole event possible for us here at Millidgeville. It was our first time involved with the Soap Box Derby and we couldn’t have been more pleased with the support we had from JDI.” Bedard says. 

Congratulations to this year’s top contestants: 

Top Four Stock Division:

1. Lakewood Heights School (driver: Evan Sherwood), sponsored by Shur-fit Auto  

2. Ink Graphics (driver: Aiden Lamb), sponsored by Stonehammer UNESCO Geo Park 

3. Princess Elizabeth School (driver: Joey Johnson), sponsored by the City of Saint John  

4. Leisure Services APEGNBSJ (driver: Joseph Lagace), APEGNB signed car 

Top Four Super Stock Division:  

1. Master Promotions (driver: Carson Hoyt) 

2. Seaside Park School (driver: Cameron D’Arcy), sponsored by Brent’s Ride  

3. Island View (driver: Chase Kerr), sponsored by Holiday Inn 

4. Glen Falls School (driver: Addyson Legacy), sponsored by Irving Paper 

The teams from Lakewood Heights and Master Promotions will have the chance to move on to compete in Ohio. 

Thank you to all the volunteers, sponsors, schools and community members who made this year’s event possible! Special thanks to the valuable partners in supporting the PALS in the Park program at Rockwood Park: APEGNB, the Hatheway Pavilion at Lily Lake, Anglophone School District – South, the City of Saint John, and PALS. 

About Lily Lake Pavilion

Lily Lake Pavilion Inc., a registered charity & non-profit organization, operates the Hatheway Pavilion at Lily Lake and Lily’s Casual Lakeside Dining located downstairs in the Pavilion. 100% of the profit from the operations of the Pavilion and Lily’s are invested back into community programming in beautiful Rockwood Park. Children need an opportunity to experience the outdoor activities at Rockwood Park that will help contribute to practicing a healthy lifestyle. Healthy students in the present, equals a healthy community in the future.   

About PALS

The PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools) Program addresses the needs associated with students living in poverty. Initiated in Saint John by Mr. James K. Irving and the local school district, PALS has grown to over 30 schools in NB with close to 200 business and community partners and hundreds of volunteers. PALS partners help impact children’s academic achievements, attendance, school spirit, motivation, social skills, sports activity, and cultural awareness. Volunteer activities include mentoring, coaching, serving breakfast, offering career guidance, organizing after school clubs, and helping behind the scenes.