Even before any cars raced down the Pinewood Derby track at the Sacred Heart gymnasium on March 3, members of the Island Park Cub Scout Pack 312 bustled around in anticipation. They had sculpted, painted and customized their miniature wooden cars leading up to this long-awaited event. Now it was time to race.
“Every year, it brings together these young kids, and it gives them a sense of purpose and a sense of doing,” Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty, a former Cub Scout, said of the tradition. “It excites them.”
A Cubmaster in California held the first Pinewood Derby in 1953 to cater to his son, who was too young for the Soap Box Derby races done by the Boy Scouts. The event soon became a phenomenon in Cub Scout packs across the nation.
This year was unique, as the pack introduced its new state-of-the-art metal track. The four-lane course, which cost more than $2,000, was paid for by local sponsors. Compared to the wooden track that the pack had used for the last four decades, the new design provided a longer, higher and faster raceway for the scouts’ cars, according to Philip Treglia, Pack 312’s unit commissioner.
The scouts, ranging from first- to fourth-graders, cheered on their masterpieces during different heats, as the track’s initial incline carried the cars to the electronic finish line. The winner and finalists earned trophies, while others received medals and ribbons.
“This is a memory that if you were a Cub Scout and you did this, 20 or 30 years from now, you’ll remember…,” Treglia said.
Most importantly though, he said, the event is about parents spending time with their son, as they make the car and race it.
“When you stop to think about it, you have this much time in the world for your life,” Treglia said, his hands positioned about shoulder width apart. He then moved his hands closer, about six inches from one another. “You have this much time with your child. When that time is gone, you can’t get that back.”