Thousands of onlookers gathered along John F. Shelley drive Sunday afternoon to watch a parade of soapbox derby cars descend down the steep road. And while most of the rickety race cars crossed the finish line without much of a hiccup, the day's race included a few epic wipeouts.
An estimated 9,000 people crowded into John McLaren Park yesterday, April 10, to witness a bit of San Francisco history unfold: the return of SFMOMA’s Soapbox Derby race day. First held in 1975, the 2022 iteration of the event invited artist- and community-designed soapbox cars to race down the park's steep roadway off Mansell Street.
Unusual art on wheels. Bay Area artists at the helm.— SFMOMA (@SFMOMA) March 11, 2022
The Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park is returning to San Francisco for the first time in more than 40 years.
🌉Free + open to all
🗓️April 10, 2022
🎙️Emceed by @KumasiABC7 + @OGpenn
➡️Details: https://t.co/SKuWz0AGsS pic.twitter.com/EB4ZkofQZT
The gravity-propelled carts — one of which was embellished with large, furry eyeballs — sped down Shelley Drive at dizzying speeds; a derby car aptly named "Muni Toons" was an ode to all things SFMTA, as well as San Francisco life, including the city's storied drag culture; and someone engineered a campsite on top of a race car. DoTheBay pieced together a phenomenal video of some of the afternoon’s best derby car runs down the hill, which included some brutal wipeouts (though SFist later learned no one was injured from those crashes).
At SFMOMA, we're feeling a bit like this after all the fun at the Soapbox Derby at McLaren Park.— SFMOMA (@SFMOMA) April 11, 2022
Sign up for our newsletter for Derby recaps, and give it up for Hans Von Clemm + the Otherlabs team for taking this foggy, fluffy ride to the finish line! https://t.co/UTUEMXJJMK pic.twitter.com/fs8NqnIYyw
At the finish line, four judges were positioned to observe every racer in the set of eight heats. The judges — local drag queen Per Sia, multi-hyphen activist La Doña, documentarian Amanda Pope (who made a documentary about the 1975 Soapbox Derby), and artist Dorcas Moulton, who actually rode in the original race with a soapbox car made out of bread — took into consideration a bevy of criteria and observations that they would later use in deciding the winners for over 30 individual artist-made trophies. About a half-hour after the final derby car rolled down John F Shelly Drive, those awards, which included titles like "Most Flamboyant" and "Most Graceful," were given out by the judges in front of a packed crowd at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.
The final award given out Sunday was the most sought-after: "Fastest Soapbox Racer." And that prestigious honor went to John Casey, who piloted the "The Hairy Eyeball."
In case you didn’t find yourself among the sea of people that inundated McLaren Park this weekend for SFMOMA’s 2022 Soapbox Derby, scroll through some of our favorite moments below.
Photo: Courtesy of SFist/Matt Charnock