Andrew Conrad races downhill during the Northwest Indiana Soapbox Derby on Saturday, June 22, 2013, on Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 24, 2013 7:04AM
VALPARAISO — Jackson Skains, 8, was getting ready for a run down Lincolnway on Saturday in the 67th annual Northwest Indiana Soapbox Derby.
“I’ve been down once. It’s fun catching speed,” the Valparaiso boy said before donning a blue helmet and sunglasses to take off for his second run, which started at Greenwich Street.
He and his sister, Samantha Skains, 11, who was in the Super Kids division for children with special needs, took part in the race for the first time.
“It’s something neat, something different, and I like cars,” said their dad, Shawn Joseph, also of Valparaiso, before giving Jackson a few tips before his run.
“Stay low and stay as close to the cones as possible,” Joseph said, as the driver who went down ahead of Jackson veered toward the left and the curb, away from the cones in the middle of the street.
As he headed to the bottom of Lincolnway to Morgan Boulevard to meet Jackson, Joseph summed up the race.
“It’s all about fun. That’s all it is,” he said.
In all, 37 kids raced in four divisions, with the winners heading to nationals next month in Akron, Ohio. The cars can travel 25 to 30 mph during their 1,100-foot journey.
As families and fans lined the parkway along Lincolnway, cheering on the racers, derby chair and race director Mike Bottom said about halfway through the event that things were going well.
“They’re doing really good, and the kids are having fun,” he said.
The race also draws experienced drivers like David DeMan, 15, of Morgan Township. This was his fourth year in the derby, and he raced in the master class.
“It’s just coming out and having fun, and the thrill of going down the hill,” he said, adding his car sits in the basement the rest of the year.
David has never made it to nationals and though he can race until he’s 18, he may be retiring after this year.
“I think this is my last year because I’m getting too tall, which stinks, because I enjoy it,” he said.