NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - A standing room only crowd turned out this year for the annual Pinewood Derby at Allen W Roberts elementary school on Saturday. Traditionally an event just for the Cub Scouts, the AWR Girl Scouts were invited to join in on the fun.

Discussions began a few months ago between Scoutmaster of Pack 363 Andy Holmes and NP Girl Scout Service Manager, Maria DeLuca, who were looking for ways to have their active scout groups work on an event together.   The Pinewood Derby seemed like a natural event to invite the Girl Scouts to since “many of the Girl Scouts have watched from the sidelines as their siblings and classmates took the track.” Holmes explained. This year, the Girl Scouts had their chance to show just what they could do. And they did, in major numbers, tripling the enrollment for the event. One hundred twenty cars were registered at the mandatory check in, where cars are weighed, measured, and inspected before they head to the impound area where they are held overnight in anticipation of the big event.

Like most scout events, the parental support is big and often unsung which includes the “behind the scenes” team which sets up the track and runs the elaborate computer system that makes for fair competition.  After cars are approved for the race, they are logged into a computer system for lane assignments for each of four heats.  All cars are raced four times in all four lanes to ensure that no one lane has any advantage. Calculating the race times is precise. In some races, the difference can come down to as little as 1/100th of a second to determine the top three finishers in each scout group. 

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For the first time, speed was not only the parameter for success, this year creative design awards were added. Notable designs like “Sponge Bob,” an Artists’ Palette complete with paints, Star Wars and formula one inspired cars were crowd favorites. Third grader Will Bramwell designed an orange car to cheer on his dad’s home state of Tennessee. As the event’s master of ceremonies, Brahim Ardolic, a four-year veteran of the race commented, with a smile, “I have never seen a pink pinewood derby car and this year I saw at least twenty.” Bear Scout, Davis Stassfurth designed his car as a sinking Titanic. When asked about his design, he admitted to being a life-long “Titaniac” which was inspired by his families’ trip to the Titanic Museum last year. Also of note was a particularly speedy car that looked like a pizza made by Talitha Kwok which not only won first place, but also “yummiest.”  

The event was enjoyed by newcomers and veterans alike, like Chris Gilbertson, a father of three girls who jumped at the chance to make a car with his daughter, Peyton, a Daisy Scout.  “I never thought I would have this opportunity!” he said.  The same sentiment was shared by Brian Coniglio, whose daughter Lily participated in the fifth grade girls race. “I had such great memories making the car as a kid and I was thrilled to come out of retirement to take part in the race, this year.”

Veteran scouts like Karthik Mallya, in his third pinewood derby expressed his enthusiasm about his chances with his “limo” inspired car. “I am missing all my practices to be here.  Some things are more important than sports.” He said.

Among the other veteran scouts who took home trophies this year was Ethan Ocwieja, who two years ago placed second in his pack, first in districts and third at world championships, but did not place last year. Nervous at the beginning of the race, was all smiles at race’s end when he placed third in his Bear group which was one of the fastest and most competitive group of the day.  When asked how he felt to be back in the winner’s circle, he sighed and said, “relieved.” 

Pinewood 2018 was a very special family event for all the scout families, but especially sweet for the Bradfords who celebrated two winners, Michael won first place for third grade boys while sister Arianna took third place in the fifth grade girls division.  Other amazing finishes came from Logan Buntin who boasted the fastest time of the day and along with the first, second and third place cub scout winners will head to district championships where if he is successful could secure a chance to compete in the Pinewood World Championships which will be held in New York’s Times Square.  Right now, the girl scouts do not have a district competition, but if Pinewood 2018 is any indication, there might be one to see in the future. Girl Scout Service manager, Shannan Arnold was so happy with the partnership between the scouts, that she is already thinking of ideas for next year’s event.  “It was wonderful that the cub scouts welcomed us into this event. It was a great day for our scouts and for New Providence families.”