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Ucluelet soap box derby revs up community spirit

Dustin Riley Memorial Soap Box Derby celebrates wildly successful 4th appearance in Ucluelet
Ucluelet’s Felix Ferguson rode his Red Runner car to victory on Saturday as the 11-year-old racer won the Dustin Riley Memorial Soap Box Derby’s final race of the day and carried home a first place trophy. (Andrew Bailey photo)

A flurry of smiles, colours and creative designs roared down Bay Street as the Dustin Riley Memorial Soap Box Derby celebrated a wildly successful 4th appearance in Ucluelet.

Rookie racer Felix Ferguson rode his Red Runner car to a thrilling victory in the day’s final matchup and was thrilled to earn a first place trophy in his first ever derby appearance.

“I’m super excited. I wasn’t really expecting this,” Ferguson told the Westerly News immediately after the final. “I can’t really compute it. I liked it and I like this feeling.”

The 11-year-old Ucluelet local built his derby car with his dad Johnny Ferguson, who told the Westerly they started with a corvette style front for aerodynamics and picked up a few tricks from past racers to create the winning ride.

“It was some excellent steering and I think the colour actually helped him win, red’s a fast colour,” he laughed. “Obviously adding the flames increased the speed as well.”

He added he found huge value in both the event as well as the building teamwork leading up to it.

“It’s got old school Ukee tradition,” he said. “It’s good to see all the local faces and what’s really cool is building (the car) with your kid. That’s a really cool thing we get to do together.”

The event was launched by longtime locals and friends Mayco Noel and Lara Kemps who had remembered it being a Ucluelet tradition and wanted that to return.

“It just brings a smile to my face, the simple fact that we have our community together,” Noel told the Westerly. “It’s Ukee and it gets lost I think with tourism and what the town’s looked like for the last 90 days and it’s nice to be right fresh at the start of school season with a friendly reminder of why we live here.”

He was confident the event would see early success.

“When we founded this event we knew that once it started to get into the blood of other parents, the event would annually get a little bit easier to orchestrate because the responsibility would start to get shared amongst other people,” he said. “There’s instant gratification here. It takes a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like work when you see these kids jumping around and enjoying living here.”

He added opportunities for kids to be a bit reckless are dwindling and need to be revived.

“There’s a possibility for injury, accidents, failure, success, I think it all kind of gets summed up in soapbox and everybody is still smiling, winning or losing,” he said.

“Having grown up here, personally I think we need to give children more avenues to express themselves and do little silly things that people might say is a bit crazy. The reality is, it’s hard to be a young child in the community of Ucluelet now because there’s a lot less places for them to experiment with things like this. Things like having a big bonfire at Big Beach, kids can’t do that anymore; adults frown upon it. So, it’s nice for me to be able to give the children a bit of a venue here that’s a bit of a risk taking thing.”

Kemps said the event “was awesome as always.”

“It’s great to have the community all come out together for the kids,” she said. “It makes me very very happy. It puts a smile on my face. Thank you to all our sponsors and our volunteers, we couldn’t have done it without everyone.”

Ucluelet Elementary teacher Ivy Kinvig was delighted to share in the kids’ stoke at her favourite annual event.

“It’s amazing. You get to come here and see all these kids go down the hill with their smiles and happy faces and it’s for a great cause. I love every minute of it, all us locals hanging out. This is my favourite event, even over Ukee Days…It’s us locals being happy and smiling. It’s wonderful,” she said. “We have to get the kids outside doing things. Working together, a little bit of competition and cheering each other on, it’s how we should be. It’s what we’re here for.”

The event is named after the late Dustin Riley in honour of the revered community champion’s iconic commitment to Ucluelet.

“Dustin Riley was a big supporter of Ucluelet and bringing the community together. This is his legacy and we want to carry that on and continue to do this for our town and just keep that spirit alive of being there for one another and always have a good time because we all work so hard,” Dustin’s wife Janine told the Westerly.

She expressed gratitude for the businesses, supporters and families that have consistently made the annual event a success.

“Today’s event was phenomenal. It was a great turnout. I was happy to see the community come together and the kids having a good time, that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

“We need more community events, especially for the kids, to bring everyone together, have a good time and celebrate our town.”

She added organizers are hoping to make the event free for participants through fundraising and sponsorships in the future.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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