Thanks to Jerry Gillmett, who apparently saves everything, we were able to cover here last week the July 17, 1955 Soap Box Derby held in Saranac Lake - because Jerry had not only saved the Enterprise of July 16, 1955 with all the racers names and their sponsors, but he has his '55 race car still in mint condition.
The 1955 derby is a super way to highlight the "old-fashioned" soap box derby that is part of the first annual Daffest celebration that will run from April 29 through May 1. The whole, awesome Daffest event is the brainchild of Cherrie Sayles.
On Friday, April 29 at exactly high noon, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau will proclaim the event open, followed by:
The celebrity driver of the unofficial pace car of this year’s Daffest Derby is none other than Jenna Brown, Jerry and Patricia Gillmett’s granddaughter. She will drive her grandfather’s 1955 speedster from when he was sponsored by Saranac Inn.
Jenna Brown, daughter of Peter and Christine Brown
of Saratoga Springs
-plein-air artists painting throughout the village all weekend
-the Wigmore garden tour
-buggy rides, courtesy of Paul Smith's College
-wine and beer tasting at the Blue Moon Cafe
-wing night at Captain Cook's
-a movie on the Berkeley Green
-and then a Daffest Bowling Tourney at Romano's Saranac Lanes.
And that all happens on just the very first day of Daffest!
Saturday is jammed with more events (watch the Enterprise for detailed schedules) with a daffodil cake contest, a Lemon Festival (please, no car entries) in Riverside Park, Best Bloomin' Neighborhood Award, Petrova field game shows such as "Family Feud" and "The Price is Right." There will be a Food Fest with booths along Main Street featuring local restaurants, and the Women's Civic Chamber will sponsor a band concert at the Harrietstown Town Hall.
The derby is on May 1, the last day of the festival, and is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., ending with the award ceremony at 2:30 p.m. The race course is from the overpass on the LaPan Highway to the Main Street intersection. Three age classes will be run in separate heats. The highway will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Then a Lemonchello Festival at Nonna Fina, a Bed, Bath and Beyond Race, and then the whole weekend closes with a bang - fireworks at the River Street boat launch.
More about the 1955 race
There were very strict rules to follow in the 1955 race; here is a quote from the Enterprise story the day before the race:
"Forty cars in all are impounded, 14 at St. Bernard's Hall and 26 at the Lincoln Warehouse on Main Street (now Madden's Storage). The latter group was given final inspection last night under the supervision of Karl Griebsch, Carl LaDue, Steve Hoyt, Arthur Hoffer, Lee Benson and Ben Ressler, director of the Tri-Village Derby.
"Aside from the thrill of racing the cars they so carefully constructed themselves and the excitement of the race, the boys will be competing for some individual prizes with a total value of $700. In addition to local honors, the winner will go to Akron, Ohio next month to enter the National Soap Box Derby."
The derby sponsors were the three Northland Auto agencies of Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid; the Adirondack Daily Enterprise; the Knights of Columbus of Tupper Lake and Lake Placid; the Elks Club of Saranac Lake; and the Chevrolet Division of General Motors.
The full souvenir page, with pictures of all the racers and names of sponsors, was made possible by "these civic-minded merchants": The Brookside Hotel, Cahill Pontiac, Carson Brothers Plumbing, Commercial Press, Currier Press, Donnelly's Grocery, E.J. Kennedy, Huntington Novelty Company, S.L. Jaycees, Little Joe's Lounge, McCarthy's Market, Northland Motors, Paul Smith's Electric, Post Office Pharmacy, Riverside Service Station, Saranac Lake News Company, T.F. Finnigan's and the Tip Top Sport and Barber Shop.
Recapping last week's story on the race, the Soap Box Derby had been held in Tupper Lake in 1954, and Glenn White of Tupper Lake was the winner. How cool is that? David Sant of Natural Bridge won the Saranac Lake race; there were also four entries from Ogdensburg.