Amelia Farrell, 5, races down St. Ann’s Avenue at the Final Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Amelia Farrell, 5, races down St. Ann’s Avenue at the Final Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Thinking outside the (soap)box: Youth show off creativity in Soapbox Challenge

Races attract 50 youth, dozens of personalized carts

Up to 100 children participated in the Soapbox Challenge during the Fourth of July in Douglas, according to Brad Smathers, president of the Juneau Dipsticks and race volunteer.

This year’s event had a lower turnout than normal — about 50 participants completed the rickety ride down St. Ann’s Avenue — but there was still plenty of variety in the cart designs.

Smathers has seen plenty of unique four-wheeled creations over the years, and saw plenty more during Thursday’s races.

“There’s ones that are shaped like a fish. There’s ones that are shaped like a canoe. There was one that went down that was like a boat — there’s all sorts of different styles and shapes,” Smathers said in between tightening bolts that held the wheels on the carts at the top of the course.

The Eckerson family’s soapbox was one such cart looked over by volunteers. The soapbox was piled high with water bottles, bubble wrap and corrogated plastic signs and contained the message: “Keep Our Oceans Clean.”

Ona Eckerson, 5, begins the Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Eckerson and her older brothers Aaro, 7, and Inde, 10, shared the same car which they decorated with plastic products to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Ona Eckerson, 5, begins the Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Eckerson and her older brothers Aaro, 7, and Inde, 10, shared the same car which they decorated with plastic products to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Sayéik: Gastineau Community School students Inde and Aaro Eckerson learned about the pollution of plastic in the oceans and modeled the soapbox with that issue in mind.

“At our school we’ve been having a lot of assemblies to save the ocean because it has a lot of plastic, which hurts the ocean,” Eckerson said.

Eckerson’s family visited the Juneau MakerSpace last month during a three-hour soapbox building session and got down to work. Inde, 10, Aaro, 7, and Ona, 5, each took turns taking their blue cart down the hill.

Ikahn DeGuzman’s soapbox also stood out from the rest.

Ikahn DeGuzman, 6, heads down St. Ann’s Avenue during the Soapbox Challenge on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Ikahn DeGuzman, 6, heads down St. Ann’s Avenue during the Soapbox Challenge on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

DeGuzman, 6, rode in a miniature red Volkswagen bus built by his dad, Armando, and grandfather, Wayne Jensen, both of whom are architects.

“It took myself and my son-in-law most of one winter in our garage to build it,” Jensen said. “We didn’t want it to get too heavy, so we have some pretty good-sized windows on it.”

[Juneau bicyclist races 4,200 miles from Oregon to Virginia in 20 days — and nearly won]

DeGuzman has yet to crack into the top five in his two years with the bus, but that hasn’t been a shock to its builders.

“The challenge I think was making it light enough that we could lift it and the people with the race could lift it up on the starting ramp,” Jensen said. “It’s probably maybe 15 or 20 pounds heavier than some of the others, but it’s the same running gear and same steering mechanisms that they all have.”

The father-son soapbox-building endeavors may not be over, either.

“My granddaughter is 3, so she’ll be eligible to do this in a couple years,” Jensen said. “So the question is whether she’s going to use the bus or if she wants a new one. She kind of would like one that looks like an ice cream truck, so we may make a second one, or at least a second body that could go on the same chassis.”

Kaash Katasse, 5, shakes hands with a race official after receiving his participation medal during the Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Kaash Katasse, 5, shakes hands with a race official after receiving his participation medal during the Soapbox Challenge during the Douglas Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Soapbox Challenge winners

Kiarra Olson, Ila Egan Malstrom and Aaron Hull won their respective divisions in the Soapbox Challenge.

Olson finished in 16.15 seconds to win the Age 5-6 division. In the Age 7-8 division, Egan Malstrom eeked out the win with her time of 16.28 seconds, and in the Age 9-10 division, Aaron Hull took the title with his time of 15.53 seconds.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


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