Big fun for even the smallest Scouts

Three wooden cars raced down a 30-foot track at blinding speeds, blending into a blur of color, surrounded by the excited cheers of the Laguna Beach Cub Scouts.

They raced, again and again, car after car, cheering the names of winners.

The Pinewood Derby, which drew about 70 spectators to the Laguna Presbyterian Church on Tuesday night, has been held annually since 1953 and involves all levels of the Cub Scouts, from the littlest Tigers to the tallest Webelos.

“The derby is a great opportunity for the kids to create, learn, spend quality time with their parents who help them, and enjoy recognition for their efforts,” Cub Master John Hovanesian said.

Hovanesian is not only the cub master of the Laguna Cub Scouts. He is also the commissioner for Scouting in all of Orange County.

Though Cub Scouts have several events throughout the year, the derby ranks as their favorite, Hovanesian said.

“It [the derby] is symbolic for everything we do in Scouting,” he said. “It is such a simple thing, and they have such a good time with it.”

But the boys can’t build any old car out of any old thing.

Kimberly Leeds, the Wolf Den leader, said each child is given a Boy Scouts of America Derby Kit, which contains a block of wood, four plastic wheels and four nails to connect the wheels to the car.

After the boys get their kits, they are given paper on which to design their miniature cars.

“The kids draw the view of the side and how it would look from the top,” Leeds said. “From there they work with an adult to get the shape, then a lot of sanding, and finally they get to decorate it however they want.”

The finished product has to weigh 5 ounces or less, and the Scouts can work on the car up until they register for the race and turn it over to the judges.

Five different groups compete. The Tigers, who are the youngest boys, race against each other, followed by the Wolves, the Bears, the Webelos and the Outlaws. As the oldest in the bunch, Outlaws can race cars made by brothers, sisters, dads and moms.

One of the things Leeds enjoys so much about the derby is that it not only gives the boys quality time with their parents, but time away from electronics.

“People spend so much time in front of screens, and this event is really about taking the time for creativity and imagination while spending time with the dads and learning to utilize tools,” she said.

“This is more than a father-son project,” added Paul Thede, a father and volunteer at the event. “It is about integrity, boys becoming the men they want to be and the men we want them to be and supporting each other.”

After the race, the boys are awarded ribbons — for participation, funniest design, most colorful, crowd favorite and most high-tech.

Elliot Leeds, 7, won crowd favorite with “Rocket,” a silver car with a face painted on the front.

“My favorite part is when I win first place,” he said.

Calvin Howard, 8, won for most realistic with a pink car shaped like an eraser. He named it E-Racer.

“I like making the cars, and I like to see how good I did in making it,” he said.

His favorite thing about Cub Scouts is participating in the activities.

Wyatt Boyd, 7, took best overall with a pink car featuring a Lego man driver. Though undecided, he may name it “The Pigmeister” because of its color — and the fact that he likes pigs.

“I feel very, very good (about winning),” he said. “I like meeting my friends and racing my car.”

He even sported a racing outfit — leather jacket, hat and sunglasses.

He and his father built the car together.

“I know how to put the wheels on, but I don’t know how to shave the wood, so my dad does that,” Wyatt said. “But I painted it and picked the driver because I wanted to make it gold. Then I decided to make it a pig.”

Thede said that although ribbons are given out, that is not what the derby is all about.

“We don’t want to make it about one kid,” he said. “Everyone is a winner.”

The group, which is always looking for more Cubs, meets the fourth Tuesday of every month. For information, visit