A New Partnership
In a new partnership with the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency, IMSA (International Motor Sports Association), Sebring International Raceway, and Visit Sebring, Highlands County 4-H hosted the first ever 4-H Pinewood Derby event at the 2019 Twelve-Hour Fan Fest. Here is a brief run down for anyone that is not familiar with Sebring, or know what Fan Fest is. Sebring is a quaint little town, located in central Florida with a Nascar owned race track. Every March the 12 Hours of Sebring race draws in thousands of visitors and there are several events that lead up to the start of the race. One of these events is the Twelve-Hour Fan Festival. This event takes place downtown on the historic circle and begins with a band and food trucks, followed by a caravan of race car transporter trucks and fan forum where fans have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the drivers. The only thing missing from this event was something that appealed to the younger generation.
The Derby Rundown
This is where Highlands County 4-H comes into play. Last Spring, I attended a training to learn how pinewood derby cars could be implemented into existing 4-H programs to teach critical life skills and enhance STEM abilities of youth participants. Later, CRA Director, Kristie Vazquez approached me about the possibility of 4-H leading some sort of youth activity during the event. Hence, the 4-H Pinewood Derby at Fan Fest was born. Participants age 8-18 registered in advance to secure their spot. The day of the event, participants received a derby car kit and had one hour to assemble, modify, and decorate their cars before the race. Participants then raced their derby cars in age division heats for a chance to race against real 12 Hours of Sebring drivers.
A total of six race car drivers walked around and interacted with youth participants before racing against each other for a spot in the Grand Championship Race. Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy from KohR Motorsport, James French and Blake Mount from Performance Tech, Trent Hindman from Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and Robin Liddell from Revel Rock Racing raced derby cars that were pre-built by event sponsors. Sponsored cars were built by employees of the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners, Sebring International Raceway, IMSA, Sebring CRA, The University of Florida/ IFAS Extension, and Highlands County 4-H. Driver James French with the IMSA made derby car raced for the win and secured his spot in the Grand Championship race.
Competing against French, was Junior Division winner Lachlan Price, Intermediate Division winner Jace Billingsley, and Senior Division winner Augustina Stone. While each derby car driver gave a valiant effort, it was Lachlan Price from the Junior Division that pulled off the win and bragging rights for beating a professional race car driver in the first ever 4-H Pinewood Derby event at the Twelve-Hour Fan Fest.
Additional Programs & Information
The University of Florida/ IFAS Extension, Highlands County 4-H serves youth ages 5-18 through community clubs, specialty clubs, school enrichment, special interest/ short term programs, and day and residential camping programs. However, we continue to expand our programs and events to offer programs and activities that can engage all youth in Highlands County. The success of this years 4-H Pinewood Derby has afforded us the opportunity to host the derby again at next years Twelve-Hour Fan Fest. Be on the look out for registration to open next February, so you do not miss out on this amazing opportunity. Also, be sure to check out our website and follow us on Facebook so you can keep up with all of the programs and activities that we offer.