(Our Club Newsletter Editor reflects on the Day)
A great day. Where do you begin to spell it all out when trying to describe our success with the Soapbox Derby. Anticipation......................Nervous, exciting, lost sleep, tension.
A day which dawned with grey skies and mounting concern ended in what can be called only glorious technicolour. (Even the sun shone on us briefly) - a triumph of mind and matter coming together to make it what it was always hoped to be: Spectacular! Above all a challenge made, and a challenge met. There will be a time to count the cost but, for just this moment, ...... let’s celebrate.
Committee,organisers and many more are mentioned in many despatches. And the community, the people turned up, hour after hour to enjoy the event and make us realise just how right we got it. District Governor, Alan Clark, stayed all day to act as judge and jury, helped by our patron Lord Petre, and decide the winners. What winners they were, from schools like Quilters Juniors and Shenfield High to those corporate companies and kart-raved individuals whose hard work and effort all came together. They all went down the jump and raced under the brilliant commentary by Ken Smith and the flag-waving starting and mastering of the racers by James Ilesley and Malcolm Acors.
DG Alan said: “You have pulled it off. You have made my day and my year as DG. Congratulations.”
I went around the field, talked to many people, contestants, townsfolk and visitors. And the response was always: “Just great. Please do it again.” From John Kelly, past president of the Weymouth Rotary Club who heard about the event and travelled up with his family from Dorset. ” I felt that I had to contact you and congratulate your club on what was a fabulous day. This was Rotary at its best! I am a past president of The Rotary Club of Weymouth and (we are thinking of) holding a similar event here in Weymouth. If we hold a Soapbox Derby, I can only hope that we can emulate your success.”
Great Team Effort
Michael Wade, headteacher at Quilters Junior School said “Thrilled to have won a prize. Great team effort by all at the school and our thanks to Rotary. The cash will be spent towards designing an Out-Door Art Centre. We have an indoor one but the facility is there to involve the students in designing one outside the classrooms.”
Above all, the reaction from those volunteers from Billericay, Brentwood, Basildon, Chelmsford and Wickford service clubs:
• Rotary Club of Billericay Mayflower
• Rotary Clubs of Basildon and of Basildon Concord
• Lions clubs of Billericay and of Brentwood
• Billericay Round Table and 41 Club
• Rotary Club Wickford
• Rotary Club of Chelmer Bridge
• The Walsh family
• Churches Together
I worked on two gates with members from Rotary Club of Billericay Mayflower, and with Round Table who have 46 years’ experience of their annual Fireworks Night to make everything work simply and smoothly. Scanner is an ugly word for me, for them…. Simples!
Gate Leader Seb said: “Leave it to us - we know the ropes... we are delighted to be involved. Fast-tracking has made our job much easier - great thinking on your part.” That, when the two of us were even out in London Road urging spectators, as they spilt over in their hundreds. we urged them to filter to pre-paid and cash purchasers, right or left to make entry easier. Much the same as on all the gates.
And with our Mayflower colleagues: Chatted well with their man Barry Howe at the last knockings (What’s the time, Trevor – is it 3.30 yet? - “Gates Open”.) Even at 3.20 people were still pouring in for as last look.
Barry said: “This is what a great community event should be all about.... our clubs all working together in aid of charity and for the community. Billericay is a great town and this event is a wonderful innovation at just the right time of the year. Christmas Market, Summerfest … then this to to fill in as a major event. Must do it again next year.”
Down on the Family and Fun area, kids, having goggled at the karts, picked out their favourites and then persuaded mum and dad to let them free to enjoy the bouncy castle and the other fun areas, were in their element. As one family told me: “We did not expect all this. We came for the racing but cannot believe how much fun there is for everyone.” And that after they had stood in line patiently to buy the hot dogs, bacon rolls, fish and chips and been to our own club beer tent to ensure that they were all well fed and watered before carrying on enjoying the day.
Rallying to the loo call
When the toilets were running out of loo rolls, Bert French and Grace were despatched to Waitrose to buy more and yours truly delivered four bags full to hand out to those waiting with legs crossed to find relief. Suffice to say, I know my place when duty calls. But it was a long trek to deliver. Something to think about. Mine was a minor role on the day.
I like to think I had done my hard work in promoting and publishing the event. But, on Monday, it was impossible not to get caught up in the atmosphere – to be told: “Gate so-and-so needs help” So off you went to assist. Or just be there in case someone came up to you and asked: “Tell me more about Rotary.” And many did. Winners, prizes and final figures regarding charity money raised will be published as soon as they are finalised.
As your newsletter editor, I can only congratulate all my colleagues who have made this happen through hard work, enthusiasm and commitment. And for supporting me when the media came calling.... it has been a pleasure and a delight.
more A selection of videos from this spectacular event
more This Page contains links to all the newsletters published about the 2016 Soapbox Derby.
more The schedule for the day and the prizes to be won
more Here's how to ensure a successful entry