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Pinewood Derby is exciting gravity grand prix for Cub Scouts and parents

February 23, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- They spent weeks, side by side, carving a block of wood into a sleek racing machine.

But the true moment of bonding between parent and son took place when that car shot down a sloping four-lane aluminum track.

This is where their handiwork would be tested.

They had attached big dreams to this small car -- and hopefully, they would go home winners.

But whatever the outcome, Cub Scout and father were in this together.

Pinewood Derby mania hit the gymnasium of North Hagerstown High School Saturday morning. The event was sponsored by the Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Washington County District.

The race is the plum of the Scouting calendar.

"This is probably the most important event in Cub Scouting every year," senior district executive Scott Paddack said.

As many as five racers from each of the 26 packs in the Washington County District participated in the derby, with the top 10 winners advancing to a final race against the best of the council's three districts on March 8.

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Paddack said the Pinewood Derby has been a Scouting tradition for more than 50 years.

"If you were ever involved in Cub Scouts, you probably built a racer," he said.

Over the last several months, each Scout received a kit consisting of a block of pine wood, wheels and axles.

"The kit hasn't changed much over the years -- except for the wheels," Paddack said.

Scouts can be as creative as they wish, but also must follow certain regulations that dictate width, length and weight.

The purpose of the event is to have fun and build family relationships, Paddack said.

"It's really a father-and-son event," he said. "It's a chance for the Scout and his dad to work together."

Paddack said the Scouts begin to talk about the Pinewood Derby long before they receive their kits.

"It's something they get really excited about. And so do the dads," he said. "That's why we stress this is the Scout's car."

The one big change in the Pinewood Derby is the use of computers, which tracked each car crossing the finish line, compiling times and speeds.

"We used to sit at the end of the track and guess who won," Paddack said. "Now, it's all computerized."

While it's a chance for Cub Scout packs to come together for a day of fun, Paddack said the event also is competitive.

"Every kid who walks through the door wants to go home a winner," he said.

Edward Roman of Hagerstown was among the spectators who had come to cheer on the racers.

"I'm here to pull for my grandson, but I'm having flashbacks to my Scouting days," Roman said. "This is exactly the way I remember it."

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