SARANAC LAKE - Hundreds of people lined LaPan Highway Saturday to cheer on competitors, both young and old, in the third annual Daffest Derby soap-box car races.
A total of 90 people, mostly kids, participated in the races this year, about on par with the event's first two years. Each kid got two trips down the race course, which started on a ramp just below the former LaPan Highway footbridge and ended at a finish line at the intersection of Main Street and River Street.
"It was a great day," said derby organizer and Harrietstown Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua. "We had a great crowd there. You couldn't ask for a better day. It wasn't too hot and wasn't freezing cold. Everybody had a great time."
Kaylin Todd, 6, or Saranac Lake, has a thrilling, swervy ride driving the HomEnergy soap box derby car down LaPan Highway in Saturday’s Daffest Derby in Saranac Lake. (Editor's note: Todd's name has been corrected.)
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
The event began just after 11 a.m. with a performance by the Lawn Chair Ladies, but it wasn't until about 11:45 a.m. when the first cars raced down the hill, due to what Bevilacqua said was a problem with a new start ramp that was built this year. People were registering right up until the last minute, Bevilacqua said, and it took some time to get each competitor's information entered into a computer and brought to time keepers at the finish line.
After that, things went relatively smoothly, thanks largely to all the volunteers who pitched in, Bevilacqua said.
"Everybody was jumping in and helping out," he said. "Folks from Kiwanis were there at the top of the hill helping us out, and the (Saranac Lake) Fish and Game Club was helping out at the bottom. Jay Annis set up an impromptu pit crew and put a bunch of cars, including mine, back together. It was great to have someone there to take care of all that.
"Bob Scheefer had his whole crew there, working the starting gate and getting the cars off the rack. Ray Scollin, Jeff Branch, Roger Steinbrueck and so many other people - it was just a huge, huge volunteer help."
Three years into the races, Bevilacqua said organizers of the derby feel like they've worked out a lot of the kinks. They've now got a system in place for getting cars lined up and in the right lane.
"We set up a little gate with hay bales so one car comes down at a time," he said. "Each kid gets two rides down the hill, one on one side of the track and one on the other. This year, Roger was going up and finding out which lane the kid went in before they came down through the gate.
Daffest Derby winners
5- to 8-year-old class
1st place - Cameron Beckwith
2nd place - Alex Evens
3rd place - Braydon Harvey
9- to 12-year-old class
1st place - Gisele Munson
2nd place - Lea Hill
3rd place - Quinton Beckwith
13- to 15-year-old class
1st place - Brooke Beaudoin
2nd place - Alyssa Wagstaff
3rd place - Katrina Durent
16-year-old and up class
1st place - Dede Bailey
2nd place - Linda Scheefer
3rd place - Nichole Meyette
"There's a couple other things we have to tweak a little bit. By the time we're 10 years in we'll have it down to a science.'
During the derby, the Daffest Festival of Blooms took place in and around Riverside Park. It included live music, horse-drawn wagon rides, kids' face painting and vendors selling food and drinks. A pie-eating contest, a new event to this year's Daffest, was won by Dan Gorgas.
"It was nice to see all those people downtown," Bevilacqua said. "I hope the downtown merchants did well."
Later in the day, a roast pork dinner sponsored by St. Bernard's Elementary School was held the Saranac Lake Adult Center. Daffest's Saturday festivities wrapped up that night with performances by Steve Langdon and Tall County at the DownHill Grill that drew a crowd of roughly 70 people.
The daffodil-themed festival resumes on Thursday and continues through the weekend. A schedule of events is posted online at daffest.com.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.