The San Francisco soapbox derby is making a comeback

On Sunday afternoon, San Francisco’s McLaren Park hosted a revival of one of the most iconic art events in the city’s history. Originally held in 1975 and 1978, SFMOMA hosted a downhill race of artist-designed soapbox cars, ranging from one made from real edible bread to a rolling pencil.

This year’s race featured 57 teams of artists competing for prizes ranging from fastest to “most illusory.” The team behind the MUNI Toons Public Transport-themed racer predicted that not all cars would likely reach the finish line, a guess that turned out to be true as many cars spun or fell apart as they drove down John F.’s curved hill. . Shelley Drive.

The ‘Sophie’s Succulents’ racer is resting against a barrier after crashing during a race at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Thousands of spectators stood along the racetrack, sometimes 10 to 20 people deep. They cheered and took pictures of a wide range of creative and diverse offerings of soapbox racers.

A spectator holds a sign encouraging soapbox racers during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
A spectator holds a sign encouraging soapbox racers during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Spectators see the soapbox racer covered in a cardigan race down John F Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Spectators see the soapbox racer covered in a cardigan race down John F Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

A soapbox racer including a tent drives to the finish line on John F Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
A soapbox racer including a tent drives to the finish line on John F Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Ron Covell drives his' Ron 'Racer' during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Ron Covell drives his’ Ron ‘Racer’ during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE


Some of the races at the SFMOMA Sopabox Derby. (Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE)

Before heading out on the track, the soapbox races were exhibited in the race pit, where people of all ages could carefully inspect the vehicles and talk to the artists about their creations.

Spectators enjoy and see a soapbox racer called
Spectators enjoy and see a soapbox racer called “Sophie’s Succulents” in the race grave during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Spectators enjoy and see a soapbox racer in the race grave during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Spectators enjoy and see a soapbox racer in the race grave during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco, California on April 10, 2022.
Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE


Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“One night we were, as if we were going to do this, for sure,” said Noah Pilchen, who drove down the track in a tub using a bubble machine, with co-driver Alex Morris going by the name “Bathtime.”

Nosh Pichen and Alex Morris pose at their soapbox races before their race heat at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Nosh Pichen and Alex Morris pose at their soapbox races before their race heat at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“We really did not expect to reach all the way to the end because our test run was not successful,” Morris said with a laugh. “But we made it.”

Sarah Parker poses for a photo of a soapbox racer in the race grave at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby in McLaren Park, San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Sarah Parker poses for a photo of a soapbox racer in the race grave at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby in McLaren Park, San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

At the finish line, four judges closely monitored each race driver. They included drag queen and educator Per Sia, musician and activist La Doña, Amanda Pope, who made a documentary about the Soapbox Derby in 1975, and Dorcas Moulton, who attended the 1975 event with a soap barracks race made of bread.

Referees (front and back) Per Sia, La Doña, Amanda Pope and Dorcas Moulton watch racers run down the track on John F Shelley Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Referees (front and back) Per Sia, La Doña, Amanda Pope and Dorcas Moulton watch racers run down the track on John F Shelley Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

“The quality of construction of many of the cars is so much better than the first time,” Moulton said after the event.

“When you saw those cars drive into the barrier, there was a lot more of that kind [in 1975]”Most of these guys had the right brakes and the right steering,” Moulton added.

A soapbox racer called MUNI Toons runs down John F. Shelly Dr.  during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

A soapbox racer called MUNI Toons runs down John F. Shelly Dr. during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

After the final heat, spectators and racers filled the nearby Jerry Garcia Amphitheater to find the award winners. Many awards were presented, including Most Spiritual, Clunkiest, Most Flamboyant, Miss Congeniality, Most Graceful Wipeout, Nosiest, Best Pun, and Most Circular. The final prize was the most prestigious: Fastest soapbox races. John Casey won it with his soap boxer “The Hairy Eyeball”.

John Case holds up the trophy he won after having the fastest running time with his soapbox racer at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

John Case holds up the trophy he won after having the fastest running time with his soapbox racer at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

A soapbox racer including a tent drives to the finish line on John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

A soapbox racer including a tent drives to the finish line on John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Scroll down below to see more photos of the entire action.

Spectators stand along the sides of the track to watch soap box racers at John F. Shelly Dr.  during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Spectators stand along the sides of the track to watch soap box racers at John F. Shelly Dr. during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

A knitted soapbox racer catches the eyes of spectators as it drives down the hill during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

A knitted soapbox racer catches the eyes of spectators as it drives down the hill during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Two spectators get a good vantage point over the races at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Two spectators get a good vantage point over the races at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

A soapbox racer crosses the finish line on John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

A soapbox racer crosses the finish line on John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Spectators reach over a barrier by a piece of cotton blown off a soapbox racer during their run at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Spectators reach over a barrier by a piece of cotton blown off a soapbox racer during their run at the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Spectators see the soapbox racer covered in a cardigan race down John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Spectators see the soapbox racer covered in a cardigan race down John F. Shelly Drive during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Peter Taylor helps push his soapbox racer called MUNI Toons over the finish line on John F. Shelly Dr.  during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Peter Taylor helps push his soapbox racer called MUNI Toons over the finish line on John F. Shelly Dr. during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Jason

Jason “Jay” Broemmel waves to the audience after completing a successful race in his Safeway shopping cart soapbox races during the SFMOMA Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park in San Francisco on April 10, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGATE

Editor’s note: This story was edited at 10:00 on April 11 to correct in the headline that this was SFMOMA’s first soapbox derby since the 1970s.

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