For Cub Scouts all over the country, Pinewood Derby is a fun and social event that is much more than a race of a wooden car down a speed track. At least it should be! Of course, the race is the core component of one of Scouting’s biggest events of the year, but in towns and cities all across the United States, Packs come together at Pinewood Derby for so much more. It’s become a regular family get-together, a community event that garners articles in local newspapers, and offers a window for many not directly involved with Scouting to see a little bit of what it’s like. Pinewood Derby is a time where Cub Scouts learn to celebrate their own cars, while learning how to cheer for others, too. It fosters sportsmanship and a healthy competition while having a little bit of something for everyone involved. Here are 10 ways—many adapted from last year’s Pinewood Derby #CubChat on Twitter—you can be sure your Pinewood Derby event has something for everyone, including those who may want to join your Pack in the future.
1 – Print out a Spectator Tracking Sheet This is a fun way to keep Cub Scouts engaged in the tournament component of the derby. Checking the schedule to see who’s up, and tracking the progress of the competition on their very own tally sheet is a great strategy to keep them focused, even when it’s not their turn, or if they’re no longer racing their car.
2 – Offer an Array of Awards It’s not always about the fastest car. Awards can be personalized to each Cub Scout…while still honoring the fastest, most original, best paint, most creative, best reference, and hungriest (for those food-themed) Pinewood racers.
3 – Hold an “Outlaw Heat” Sometimes a parent can get a little carried away to trick-out the ultimate Pinewood Derby racer, and more often than not, these little modifications are not allowed in the official tournament rules for many councils. If your Scouting family shows up at the derby with a couple of trick cars you’re hoping to try on the tracks after the race, it might be fun to give it a little more attention. These “outlaw” cars of the official derby rules don’t have to be in the real race to give a real show! Set aside an “outlaw” heat and watch ’em rip! This can be a fun pre-show or transition heat between the dens competing in the real derby.
4 – Sibling Derby and Prizes Pinewood Derby is a natural event to want a crowd. So, naturally, if a Cub Scout comes, he brings more than mom or dad. Many times the whole family comes to cheer! This means a lot of siblings like a little sister or brother not quite old enough to be in Cub Scouts, are there looking at the grand spectacle and wishing they could participate, too. Sometimes families will help younger siblings build their own Pinewood Derby, and those are often given their own round at the big event, but even having a cheering award to give the younger spectators can be a great way to involve them in the excitement.
5 – Assign Cheering Buddies This great idea was mentioned in a special Pinewood Derby #CubChat where one pack made sure that each Cub Scout had a cheering buddy from a different den assigned to their car as well. Not only does it encourage unity within the pack, but it gives each Cub Scout more than their own car to cheer for. Celebrating the success of others is an important quality to encourage, and Pinewood Derby is the perfect event to teach it.
6 – Hold Intergenerational Races Some Scout dads have had the idea to dig into the boxes in their attics and dust off their Pinewood Derby racer that they’ve saved and treasured from their own Cub Scouting days. The real test came when they put their old wheels to the track of their son’s Pinewood Derby. Having an old car/new car race can be a fun test of time for the grown-up Cub Scouts at heart, and a great way to bring a smile to all who get to watch the grand tradition continue.
7 – Host a Coloring Table for Kids Sometimes little brothers and sisters at the Pinewood Derby lose interest before the event is finished. Having a place where they can keep their hands busy by coloring pictures of Pinewood Derby racers keeps them engaged with the event, while at the same time offering something a little different to do for a few minutes.
8 – Set up a Photo Booth With a smart phone or pad and a dozen apps to choose from, it’s easy to set up a mobile-version of the old-fashioned photo booth. Snapping a few rows of square pics, especially in black and white for each Cub Scout and his Pinewood Derby can be a fun way to make a tangible memory of these unforgettable years. It can be a fun side project for older siblings or family members to organize and “man the booth” for, as well.
9 – Enlist Everyone in Clean Up This one should be a no-brainer. While it’s true that many hands make for light work, they can also make the less glamorous aspects of putting on an event like Pinewood Derby a fun activity everyone participates in. So pass the broom and the dustpan, just not to the same person!
10 – Think Community Outreach Some packs and districts have been ambitious enough to invite noted members of their community to their Blue and Gold banquets, but the same could be done for Pinewood Derby as well. From local journalists to city council members, the Pinewood Derby, that so often is highlighted in local newspapers and news stations, can become something of a civic event. More than that, the derby is a fantastic opportunity to invite friends and neighbors who might not be involved in Cub Scouts to come and see what it’s all about. Sharing the fun of Pinewood Derby can often be a powerful way to recruit for your pack.