WEST PARIS — Downhill soapbox derbies may return to town if a group of interested community members has anything to say about it.

Resident Jose Pirela asked the Board of Selectmen on Thursday for information and advice on how to restart the children’s races the town hosted for decades.

The derbies were a popular event in the town as far back as the 1950s, according to Selectman Dennis Henderson. Derby Hill beside the Town Hall was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s to make a safer place for racing than the former location on Church Hill.

“They had a few accidents,” Henderson said about the old days.

Derby Hill, which was used for racing in the summer and is still used for sledding in the winter, was the site of derby racing for decades between the 1960s and the 1980s. In the years since, there has been sporadic use of the hill for derby racing — usually when a group of community members springs up with an idea to revive the tradition.

According to Sun Journal archives, in 2000, Derby Hill, formerly known as Curtis Hill, was rebuilt with the return of Old Home Days. That resulted in several more years of soapbox derbies.

Henderson said it has been two or three years since West Paris has hosted a race, and it would be nice to see them return. He said it takes between six and 15 people to run an event. Volunteers do everything from running the snack bar and maintaining the hill to providing a safe racing surface, keeping time and coordinating the racers.

Pirela is not alone in his interest to resume races. Members of the Fire Department and the local American Legion are in talks to see what they can do to revive the tradition.

The town has an account set up for the derby with $1,000 in it, according to Town Manager John White. Near the hill, there is a snack shack which previous derby organizers have used to raise funds at events, and the town also has equipment needed to run the races.

“We have a real good start — we just need the kids,” Selectman Peter Collette said.

Two age groups compete: seven to 12 years; and 13 to 17 years.

Children can build their own cars or purchase kits.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Randall Jones said that in the past, if a child was unable to afford to build a car, the town had a couple so everyone could participate.

Henderson said there are so few soapbox derbies in the country that the one in West Paris drew a crowd, with some coming from out of state.

The next step for Pirela and others interested in reviving the derby is to form a committee. Pirela hopes the derby may return as early as this summer.

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