For the first time in 40 years, soap box racers were running on the streets of Newark.
Nearly 20 young drivers took part in Saturday's exhibition event, which involved a series of races run on a course set up along a sloping city block. The "hot rods," assembled from kits, were driven by boys and girls from Newark area schools who were cheered on by a few dozen spectators.
The races were organized by the Our Youth Now community group, with assistance from city officials, Rutgers-Newark University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Juan Silva, the founder of Our Youth Now, said the group hopes to make the competition an annual event. He expects many more competitors next year, and says the 2013 winner will earn a spot in the national soap box derby staged in Akron, Ohio.
"We wanted to do something for the kids, and the soap box derby is a great event that I'm happy to be part of," Silva said shortly after the races had concluded early Saturday afternoon. "They really got into it, and it was a lot of fun to watch."
The Soap Box Derby program, which got its start in 1934, aims to teach youngsters some of the basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition and the perseverance to continue a project once it has begun.