AKRON Walking alongside the famed Derby Downs Hill on Aug. 30, one might have thought they were at an amusement park as wahoo’s and screams, much like those heard on the highest of roller coasters, were echoing throughout the Soap Box Derby grounds.
It was the fifth annual Senior Day at Derby Downs and a sold-out crowd of more than 500 lined up to get their turn to fly down the hill in an adult derby car. This was fourth year the adventurous day for senior citizens was a sellout.
Derby Marketing Manager Doreen Thorne said it is something that is on the bucket list of many and the day affords them the opportunity to fulfill the dream.
According to a group of "girls," it is something they were not permitted to do back when they were younger. That is different in today’s world as many girls take on the hill. In the movie "25 Hill," the girl takes home the big trophy. The movie is about the derby and was filmed under the direction of Corbin Bernsen in the area and at Derby Downs.
The seniors love the thrill of the hill and the 545 seniors that participated this year are not just those younger ones in their 60s but range up to well over 80. They don’t just come and do it one year, many said they have done it several years and plan to come back. Thorne said that the participants come from all over the area and they have had people come from as far away as Florida to participate. Groups such as the Kiwanis, Maranatha Church, Stow Seniors, retirement communities and more bring groups of people.
"It is definitely something they want to come back to year after year," said Thorne.
The senior derby participants also received lunch from Mission Barbeque and entertainment was provided throughout the day.
"It is a great partnership with Cleveland Clinic Akron General," Thorne said.
The day is sponsored by Cleveland Clinic Akron General and physicians are on hand to offer free health screenings and health information.
Katie Garland, Akron General marketing account services, said Akron General is really invested in the Akron community.
"We are excited to be here for another sold out year and to be able to bring health care services, free screenings, information and to have physicians here today," she said. "But also, to tie in the derby aspect which is a bucket list item for a lot of people."
Mary Bracle, who works in marketing for Akron General, said this is such a great event.
"I grew up in a derby family back in Trumbull County and giving people the opportunity to experience a great tradition and to bring together the elements for education, the screenings and interacting with the community is what it is all about," she said.
For those who would like to participate, go online in April at www.soapboxderby.org when the tickets to go on sale. More than 70 percent of the tickets are sold by the first of May.
Derby President Mark Gerberich said they are excited to provide meaningful experiences to the community. He mentioned other events the Derby provides such as Inclusion Day, Corporate Derby Challenge, Family Day and Veterans Appreciation Day. He said they work to "provide leadership training and character building for the kids that are racing but, also, to gain meaningful experiences for the community."
The day was filled with laughs, a lot of stories of previous runs down the hill and many selfies.