Soapbox derby racers compete in a past Mount Clemens Grand Prix event on Crocker Boulevard. The 2019 Mount Clemens Grand Prix will  be held Sept. 7. The event is  free and open to the public.

Soapbox derby racers compete in a past Mount Clemens Grand Prix event on Crocker Boulevard. The 2019 Mount Clemens Grand Prix will be held Sept. 7. The event is free and open to the public.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Soapbox derby returns to Mount Clemens Sept. 7

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published August 26, 2019


MOUNT CLEMENS — Race day is around the corner, and organizers of this year’s Mount Clemens Grand Prix soapbox-style derby want to remind their neighbors just how fun this long-running community event can be.

The 28th annual event, sponsored by the Mount Clemens Lions Club and the Rec Bowl, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.

“It’s just a fun community event,” said Fred Fox, owner of the Rec Bowl. “It’s meant to benefit everyone in our local community.”

The derby was designed to bring together local businesses, sponsors and volunteers to promote a family event for boys and girls. Since its inception in 1992, the Mount Clemens Grand Prix has raised more than $370,000 in donations for local charities.

Fox said the derby originated after city promoters like the Downtown Development Authority began reaching out to local business owners for ideas to bring more attention to the area.

“I mentioned the event with the idea of having fathers and sons build cars from scratch,” Fox said. “That first year, we had six cars; two of them were kit cars. So only two finished the race, but I think that’s what really helped it become what it is today.”

The Grand Prix Committee was then formed, and soon the race evolved into buying soapbox derby car kits. This year’s race will feature 64 racers, with more likely to join in before race day, Fox said.

Races begin at the top of the Crocker Boulevard bridge hill and end in front of the Rec Bowl.

All derby entries are certified on the safety and functions of the derby cars. Qualifying heats are grouped together to determine which cars will compete against each other. The winners of each heat will move forward to the next round. Trophies are handed out to each car, and also the grand prize winner. There will also be a trophy for the “Best in Class” derby car, which will be voted on by a three-judge panel including Mayor Barb Dempsey and DDA Director Michelle Weiss.

John Begin, second vice president of the Mount Clemens Lions Club and chairman of this year’s derby, said this event is meant to benefit everyone in the local community and is attended by thrill seekers from across metro Detroit.

“It brings the community together and helps the community at the same time,” he said, referring to the money raised through the event. “More money goes to more charities each year. Last year we raised over $18,000, and this year we’re probably going to exceed $20,000.”

Proceeds from last year’s derby benefited the Mount Clemens Boosters, which received $1,500; the Mount Clemens Lions Lawrence Schott Memorial Scholarship Fund, which received $5,000; and Mount Clemens Community Schools, which received $3,000 for its scholarship programs. Also benefiting were the Mount Clemens Boys Scouts, the Mount Clemens Fire Department, the Lions Disaster Fund, Turning Point and MCREST, among others.

Derby announcements and music will be provided by Steven Leggett, from Epic Entertainment; food and beverages will be available all day at the Rec Bowl; Rosco the Clown will be on hand; and there will be a host of activities around the city that are being coordinated by the Trinity Lutheran Church and School Boy Scouts, under the direction of co-race directors Steve Hamick and Geri Pritchard.

The Rec Bowl is located at 40 Crocker Blvd. For more information, visit