Young racers careened down School Draw Avenue on Saturday in homemade soapbox cars during the seventh annual Yellowknife Grand Prix.

The NWT Disabilities Council organized the event where pint-sized racers competed in four age brackets to earn top prizes.

Donning knee pads, helmets, colourful costumes and seatbelts, the 53 competitors made last-minute adjustments to their vehicles before lining up at the starting line.

James Rideout, left, and Jacob Shewchuck race down School Draw Avenue in their distinctive soapbox cars on Saturday.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

After being introduced to the crowd, the racers sett off down the hill, keeping their steering tight as they faced off.

Live music from the Jim Taylor Band and a by-donation barbecue awaited them at the bottom.

The event raised funds for Experience Summer, which helps needy kids go to summer camp, said NWT Disabilities Council executive director Denise McKee.

“This is what makes it all worthwhile,” she said. “You get to be happy. Everybody loves you. The kids just have a great time. It’s all about a fun, inclusive day.”

Work to organize the event began in December. Soapbox kits were sent out in April.

The event has grown considerably since it first began, “when they didn’t know if five kids would show up,” said Mckee.

According to Catherine McNaughton, the secret to a good soapbox car is “a lot of rigid foam.

Designing it with her son, Jacob Shewchuck, the vehicle was originally intended to be a dinosaur-themed car before he decided to base it on Minecraft, a popular computer game.

The family started decorating their vehicle the previous evening when they threw down a tarp in their living room and began spray painting. They stayed up very late to make sure it was race-ready, said McNaughton.

“It may be based off a video game, but there’s absolutely no video game involved in it, and that’s great,” said Dale Shewchuck of his son’s participation.

Sheldon Rideout with his son James prepare for their first race down the hill on Saturday at School Draw Avenue.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

James Rideout, a first-time racer, picked up a kit from his school and designed a speedy vehicle his father Sheldon Rideout. The pair opted for a boxed-in design overlaid with a cherry-red paint job.

“It was awesome,” Sheldon Rideout said, smiling. “My son is just over-excited to get going.”

In terms of strategy, he advised his son to stay away from the other drivers to avoid a collision. Beyond that, he simply hoped his son had “lots of fun.

“Other than that, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

James was slightly more competitive.

“I wanna win,” he said.

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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