‘Kids doing cool stuff’: Rochester hosts regional pinewood derby

Mar 23, 2024

ROCHESTER — It poured rain as the first cars took their positions on the starting line. Had it been NASCAR or Formula 1, the races would have almost assuredly been delayed significantly, perhaps even postponed altogether.

But not at the Narragansett Council Regional Pinewood Derby, held Saturday, March 23 inside the cafeteria at Rochester Memorial School.

Hosted by Rochester Pack 30, cub scouts from across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island raced miniature wooden cars against each other at the competition.

Nearly 60 cars, each weighing five or less ounces and fitting specific measurement parameters, registered to race, according to scoutmaster Kevin Thompson.

Each race lasted just over 2 seconds as the small wooden cars hurtled at speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour, according to data presented in real time at the derby.

At Rochester Memorial School, cub scouts sat along the track, which stretched from atop a stage to the middle of the cafeteria. Rochester boy scouts helped to facilitate the races.

“I just love seeing the look on their faces when they’re racing,” Thompson said. “There’s not a lot of other programs out there that give the kids that kind of an experience.”

There were 114 races, plus playoff rounds, to complete. Scouts qualified for the derby by placing in the top five at smaller pack races.

From Rochester, Bryan Lee, Georgia Duggan, Ben Smart, William Boucher and Mason Rivera had previously qualified for the event.

From Marion, Henry Kanaly, Jack LeFavor, James Whipple, Will Kanaly and Charles Whinnem qualified.

Scouts cut and carve the cars from wooden blocks and paint them. The intention is for the car that qualified during the individual pack races to remain unchanged for the regional.

“I like seeing the kids doing cool stuff,” Thompson said. “There’s not enough activities where you give the kids the responsibility to do it.”

Justin Clair, district executive of the Narragansett Council’s Southeast District, said the races, as a regional event, bring scouts and parents from different areas together.

And given that the motto of the Cub Scouts is “Do your best,” Clair said he loves when scouts “make their own car and they do their best.”

Rochester has hosted the regional derby for the last several years, according to Thompson.

“We focus on the kids having a good time, nobody getting hurt and making sure that the parents are laughing, having a good time,” Thompson said.

The top 12 finishers received trophies, while the top five will move on to council-level races, Thompson said.