The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Juneau’s annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby — it just changed it.
Five-ounce cars still raced down the track Saturday afternoon, but Cub Scouts watched from home via Zoom rather than cheering on their cars at the event.
A live play-by-play of the action and instant and slow-motion replays helped Scouts see how their cars fared in the race.
“The Pinewood Derby is one of the highlights of the Cub Scout year,” said Keith Pahlke, Cub Master for Pack 10, which usually meets at Harborview School, the Douglas United Methodist Church or Gastineau School, all of which have been closed to the public March.
“Like every organization, we have struggled over the last year to keep our program active and our Scouts and families safe,” he said.
Pahlke said the idea of a virtual Pinewood Derby was born as he and fellow Cub Scout Leader Leonard Robertson discussed ways to host a virtual event. Pahlke, who is also the scoutmaster for Scouts BSA Troop 11, knew that Resurrection Lutheran Church had recently installed a three-camera television studio with a plan to host community events and stream them live.
The two groups teamed up, and the idea of live streaming the Pinewood Derby began to take shape.
“Once we decided to go big with the event, we opened it up to all Cub Scouts throughout Juneau and throughout Southeast Alaska,” Pahlke said, noting that Scouts from Ketchikan and Craig sent cars for the race.
To participate in the Pinewood Derby, Scouts transform a block of wood and four wheels into a car with an adult’s help. Older siblings often pass down strategies to increase speed, and custom paint jobs are encouraged. The finished cars zoom down a metal track in a race against other cars until winners are determined.