“Back in 1940s and 1950s, the Boy Scouts den mother started the Leesville soapbox derby race on Lulu Street,” said Harry E. McCloud, Race Director. “It ended around 1953 or 1954 and didn't start up again till 1976.”
In the 1950s the boxcar races were a little different than they are today. “It was really something,” McCloud said. “We went down big and fast hills. Cars would crash. They were flying all over the place!”
The Lulu Street Racers hosted their annual soap box derby event on October 15 in Downtown Leesville. “This year, overall, we had some of the best looking cars I’ve ever seen. They were built really well,” said McCloud.
The races take place on Third Street instead of Lulu Street because Lulu is very steep. Third Street, however, does not have much of an incline. “We built ramps because Third Street wasn’t steep enough,” said McCloud.
The derby gives children ages 6-17 an opportunity to build their own cars based on a specific plan and race them down Third Street using gravity as their only source of power.
John Smith, District-30 Senator and former Leesville High School classmate, convinced McCloud to get the soapbox races up and running again. “I agreed to it under one condition,” said McCloud. “Billy Lewis (of Billy’s Barbershop in Leesville) had to help me. It’s a tremendous amount of work.”
It took two years to set up and the Lulu Street Racers, which has now been active for 10 years under the direction of McCloud. “It’s a year round thing getting ready for it,” he said.
The event has recently received an official designation as the Louisiana State Soap Box Derby Championship from Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne of the State of Louisiana.
Thanks to everyone who made the 10th annual Lulu Street Racers’ Derby Car Race and Car Show possible.
Sponsors: Billy’s Barbershop, Alford Motors (all proceeds go to Lions Camp), Geico Insurance, VFW Post 3106, Barksdale Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Merchants and Farmers Bank, Sabine Bank, and Vernon Parish Tourism.
Derby Car displays: Barksdale Federal Credit Union (Leesville and Fort Polk), Merchants and Farmers Bank (two locations), Navy Federal Credit Union, 171 Dodge Jeep, Tractor Supply, and Market Basket.
Permanent Displays: Wagon Master, Fat Boy & Skinny’s, and Presley’s Barbecue in DeRidder.
Derby Support: Anderson Farms, Imperial Hardware, Saugie Bottom, Mike Reese at American Moving and Storage, Steve Cape of Lake Charles, Ron Kariker, Alford Motors, Tommy Cecil and the Leo Club of Anacoco.