QUINCY — The Quincy Optimist Club Derby has been given the green flag for its 16th annual running, scheduled for later this month on the 18th Street hill near Bob Mays Park..
Local government and health officials approved the event after being impressed with the health-related protocols that derby directors said will be in place for the July 25 races.
The Quincy Optimist Club Derby, known as the Quincy Soap Box Derby from its 2005 inception through 2018, was originally slated for June 12-13 before being postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"The organizers of the Quincy Derby met with me and representatives from the Adams County Health Department and Adams County Emergency Management," Mayor Kyle Moore said. "They presented an impressive plan that maintained social distancing for the participants, volunteers and observers. It was the most impressive plan we've seen so far.
"We applaud the organizers of the Quincy Derby for presenting a well-thought-out plan that met the guidelines of the Restore Illinois Plan."
Ray Wilson, director of the derby since 2012, said it was a pleasure to work with city and county leaders in an effort to keep the derby's streak of never being postponed alive and well. Several years, including 2019, the event has battled weather-related delays but has always finished.
"We're very appreciative of the city for and county for being willing to work with us," Wilson said. "I can't say enough about their cooperation and open-mindedness in helping make sure the kids get the chance to race."
One of the derby competitions, however, will not be part of this year's schedule. All parties involved felt the right call was to postpone the Super Kids division until 2021. The Super Kids bracket is for those drivers with special physical and/or intellectual needs and require a "buddy driver" to accompany entrants in specially built cars that are larger than those raced in other categories.
The Super Kids have grown from 21 entries in 2015 to a record 109 in 2019.
Among the safety measures that will be in place this year are:
º Separating the Super Stock and Stock divisions into separate morning and afternoon brackets in an effort to limit the number of people in and around the track and pit areas. There is no definite scheduling at this point for the new Elite Masters division, which in its inaugural season will likely have limited participation.
º Limiting the number of adults with each participant to ensure proper social distancing.
º Keeping every other pit area open to avoid contact with other participants and crew members.
º Providing each race team with the necessary sanitizer and hand-wipe supplies.
º Limiting the area for spectators to the sections of the track away from the starting line and pit areas.
º Monitoring the temperatures of those in the pit area.
º No concessions.
º No bleachers.
"We've been working on this plan for quite awhile -- we're living in a different time and preparation is the key," said Wilson, who with assistants Aiden McDonnell and Ken Ng formulated the blueprint that was presented to city and county officials.
Prior to the pandemic, this year's derby was expected to surpass the 250-entrant level for the first time. The 2019 Grand Prix of Gravity attracted 226 participants, most between the ages of 8 and 17.
The high end of that age limit has a good chance of rising this year with the addition of the new Elite Masters group, designed to attract and bring back older racers who competed in years past.
Only the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, which annually attracts more than 400 racers from across 40 or more states, Canada and Japan, is larger than the Quincy event.
The Quincy Derby has seen Super Stock and Stock winners come from 11 different towns and three different states during its first 15 years.
The derby topped the 1,500 all-time entry mark (1,507) last year.