19th Annual Red Bull Soapbox Race

Red Bull Soapbox Race // photos courtesy Red Bull

It may be fall in Texas, but the heat was most definitely on at the 19th annual Red Bull Soapbox Race Sept. 28. Dallas’ faithful turned out in droves for Red Bull’s Lone Star State stop, and there was no shortage of entertainment.

So what is a soapbox race, exactly? Soap box derby is a kids’ car race that’s been around in the U.S. since the 1930s. The cars are homemade – often out of boxes or crates – and have no power, relying only on gravity for motion.

But in typical Red Bull fashion, the company has amped up this good-natured, wholesome event into something totally outrageous.

Team Skeeter Done at the Red Bull Soapbox Race // photos courtesy Red Bull
Team Skeeter Done at the Red Bull Soapbox Race // photos courtesy Red Bull

Allow me to paint the picture: There’s a giant platform at the top of a steep hill where each team shows off their homebuilt, rickety pride-and-joy and is allowed an entertaining skit before launch time. Each soapbox vehicle has a driver, with some accompanied by a passenger or two. The members of the team that aren’t in the vehicle help push the soapbox off the platform and down the steep hill. From there, it’s up to the “driver” to make it across the finish line, and even that is a difficult feat as cleverly placed hay stacks and ramps – not to mention an incredibly steep hill – present massive challenges.

The event is centered on the races, but my favorite part was what happened before each race. Each team had its own theme and opened with a skit accompanied with music. The teams – 47 in all, from all over the country – were dressed in hilarious costumes, ranging from a “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” bit to a team named Deathproof that had a coffin for a soapbox and the grim reaper behind the wheel. To say creativity was at the top of the list for each team would be a understatement. 

My favorite soapbox crew, who eventually were crowned champions, was Team Skeeter Done from Palatka, Fla. Seven members in total, four were dressed up as full-on mosquitos and two were exterminators. Their skit song was “Another One Bites The Dust.” The driver magically appeared from the bottom of the soapbox (I’m still unsure of how his 6’6” frame made that possible), lip syncing along to the song, dressed in Freddie Mercury garb. It was amazing.

“Besides the fact that mosquitoes are aerodynamic, this is our third Red Bull Soapbox event and we’ve learned a little each time and put it all together,” said members of Team Skeeter Done.

Team Bomb Pop Racer! from Plano took second place, and the Dallas Mavs ManiAACs team took third. Taking the People’s Choice Award, Team Formula Juan from Plano made an impression with their race car craft.

The teams are judged on three criteria: speed, creativity and showmanship. The judging panel was made of five “experts,” including former Dallas Maverick Shawn Marion, Texas Rangers great Pudge Rodriguez and Olympic climbing hopeful and Plano native Claire Buhrfeind. J-Si Chavez from “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning” helped host the festivities. The emcees kept things fun, often bantering with the judging panel to bring laughs from the crowd. 

For attendees who couldn’t get close enough to see the action, giant screens were placed at various spots throughout the area. All in all, the planning and logistics that went into the event were nothing short of stellar.

This year’s event is the second time the Red Bull Soapbox Race has taken place at Austin Ranch in The Colony. The global event dates back to 2000, when it first took place in Belgium, and has since visited almost 30 countries, with the first stateside race being held in St. Louis in 2006.

Let’s hope this event comes back to DFW soon. The 2019 Red Bull Soapbox Race was a wild ride, for both the teams and the spectators.

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