Biting his lower lip and staring intently at his creation, Calvin Ledet, a young Cub Scout with Pack 654 from Nikiski, looked anxious as he handed his race car over to Bill Parkar, one of the officials for this year's Pinewood Derby championship.
Ledet was one of many Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from all over the Kenai Peninsula who came together Saturday for the annual Scout-O-Rama and Pinewood Derby championship that was held at the Peninsula Center Mall.
"Needs a little more weight," suggested Parkar, after weighing Ledet's powder blue race car with orange flames down the sides and fishing sinkers glued to the top to center the car's balance.
The boy shot over to the quick-fix-it area a table set up with numerous hot glue guns, drills, lead weights and other tools so Scouts could make a few last-minute manipulations to cars that were too heavy or too light to meet the 5-ounce weight requirement.
Normally having a car a few ounces off wouldn't be that big a deal, but this year the derby track was hooked into a laptop computer system that could record finish line times down to ten-thousandths of a second, so to many young contenders, every once counted.
"He's very excited," said Naomi Ledet of her son Calvin. "He's been counting down the days for about 30 days now. He's looked forward to it ever since he won in his pack."
Winning races in their own individual packs was a prerequisite for all the boys who entered cars in the Tustumena District championship.
Ledet said although Calvin only had been a scout for about a year, he already had gotten quite a bit out of being involved in the derby.
"The boys learn about building, but it's not just about that. I think it's great how the boys learn a lot about sportsmanship, working together and cheering each other on," Ledet said.
After Calvin made his modifications, he put his racer next to the 40 others that were in the derby. It was a diverse assemblage of vehicles.
Some were simplistic in design, looking like little more than a wooden shoehorn with wheels. Others were intricate, looking almost hand-carved and with numerous details, such as painted flames, stripes or skulls with cross bones.
One car even had a Yoda action figure glued into the driver's seat. Another vehicle was built to look more like a tank than a car and was painted camouflage green with a tiny American flag on top.
"I love to see the ones the kids build themselves," Parkar said. "It's supposed to be a project for the kids to do with their parents, but sometimes a car comes in with an almost professional automotive finish and is being carried around by dad the whole time it makes you wonder who built it."
Bill Carlson is one of those parents who understands the derby is something done with the kids and not for them. Carlson explained how the construction of his son Dallin's car involved a lot of what they learned from last year's derby.
"It was a team project from start to finish," he said.
"Dallin decided on the design. He researched it and planned it out. We went to Hutchins Chevrolet and got pictures. He made a pattern for the car. I did the band sawing and we chiseled the final details together. Then he finished sanding and painting it," Carlson said. "It looks really cool."
Carlson said he also was a scout as a boy and remembered participating in the Pinewood Derby. He said it's been a great experience seeing it from a parent's perspective.
"It's becoming a family tradition," he said.
Dallin said the idea for this year's derby car came to him on the way home from piano lessons.
"It only took a couple of days to actually build it," he said.
He added he thought the derby was a blast for many reasons.
"I like it because it's something I can do with my dad. My favorite thing about it is the racing, and the tension and all the people looking and everything. It's fun."
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