Westfield’s Grand Junction Derby continues to expand in sixth year
This year’s Grand Junction Derby has more than 20 cars registered for the annual drive down South Union Street on Oct. 4.
United Consulting participated in last year’s event and had one of the most interesting looking cars. Since the company does work in Westfield designing bridges and roads, the car was based on the Monon Trail Bridge over 146th Street and a sister bridge it is creating over Ind. 32.
“They were really excited about it. It gave them an opportunity to show their creative side,” said Jeff Larrison of United Consulting. “They had a blast. It was really cool to watch the group of engineers work together. They were like a group of little kids.”
On race day last year, the United Consulting team learned a valuable lesson they plan to correct this year.
“We used old lawn mower tires and it didn’t work well. It was a minor miscalculation,” said Larrison, a Westfield resident. “They were kicking themselves after the thrashing we had. We definitely want to do something this year.”
Larrison said the team plans to “slightly modify” its car design, especially the tires.
“With new tires we expect more speed than last year,” he said.
Win or lose, Larrison has participated at the annual event as a spectator, Lions Club volunteer and participant.
“It’s really neat,” he said. “It’s something that Westfield was missing – events that help the community come together. We’ve been seeing more these events with Westfield Rocks the 4th and Westfield in Lights. It really makes Westfield a neat place to live.”
Entering its sixth year, the Grand Junction Derby was previously organized by the Downtown Westfield Association and this is the second year under the City of Westfield Parks Dept.
“It’s a little taste of the Indy 500 here in Westfield,” said Erin Murphy, city spokeswoman.
Derby cars begin atop of a ramp near Main Street and race down South Union Street’s slop, where they are joined by pushers who give cars an extra oomph and are propelled to the finish line.
“There are other true soapbox derbies but we added the crazy, wacky side to it,” Parks Director Melody Jones said. “It goes to show the city’s moving forward with special events in the community. We raise the bar each year. We’re making sure the community has a wonderful experience.”
Jones said there are three different ways to win: the true soapbox derby “where cars are built for speed. It’s all about the speed”; Wacky cars which are competitive for speed and award a first and second place; and people’s choice.
“Old cars or signature one still have a chance to win because people love you,” Jones said.
Along with the wacky, gravity-powered, downhill car race which begins at 3:25 p.m. there will be food and marketplace vendors, food trucks and local restaurants open along Union Street. A kids’ zone hosted by City Springs Church will have a variety of activities including a balloon artist. Grand Junction Brewing Co. will be open and run the beer garden. Boy Scouts will have a Pinewood Derby track on Jersey Street and will provide cars for guests to race.
“We’ve covered every age. There’s something for everybody,” Jones said.
For attendees, Jones said there are viewing opportunities of the race along Union Street. Guests are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets to the event.
“Last year was our first attempt to bring entertainment to Jersey Street. This year we want to spread it out into Grand Junction and adjacent streets,” Jones said. “Jersey Street will be the featured boulevard. Once the race is done, everyone transitions to Jersey.”
The annual tricycle race begins at 3 p.m. Jones said the race is for ages 2 to 7 (with races for 2 to 4 and 5 to 7) and participants need to provide their own tricycle. There is no fee to participate but entrants need to register at www.westfield.in.gov/grandjunctionderby or the day of the event.
“They start at the toe of the ramp and ride tricycles until they get to the Jersey Street Bridge,” Jones said.
Schedule of events
1 to 2 p.m. – Derby car racers arrive and check-in
1:30 p.m. – Car inspection begins
3 p.m. – Parade of derby cars from Westfield Friends Church to Gasoline Alley (near Westfield Pharmacy)
3 to 4:30 – People’s choice voting takes place in Gasoline Alley
3 to 7 p.m. – Kids area, food vendors and beer garden are open
3:05 p.m. – Singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” by Blair Clark
3:10 p.m. – Tricycle race
3:15 p.m. – Derby car race begins. Awards presentation will follow the race (which is anticipated to be 5:30 p.m.).
4:30 to 7 p.m. – Stella Luna and the Satellites perform live music on Jersey Street
*Schedule is subject to change depending on the number of participants.