Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Kirby Derby 2009

If you’ve never been to a Kirby Derby, as I hadn’t until today, you have no idea what you are missing. There are certain unalienable facts about this event that make it really, really fun, and wacky, and absurd, and ultimately memorable.

Fact the first: There is a parade. In order to be eligible for any of the competitions (except the pinecar mini racers), you must be a participant in the parade. The parade circles around Kirby street, onto Bilyeu, and then back to Kirby. This is where all the Soapbox Derby racers show off their creations, which varied wildly from traditional looking soapbox cars, to really cool mechanical devices derived from bike parts and a lot of imagination. Also featured in the parade: a tallbike, and giant Nintendo characters, pixelated with post-it notes.

Fact the Second: There will be a gender confused speedwalking race. What I mean by that is, the ‘Drag Race’ (pun most definitely intended) has the following rules: If you are a man, you must wear at the minimum a skirt or dress, and heels (2″ minimum), and if you are a woman, you must wear loosely laced men’s work boots, at least 3 sizes too big. Running is not allowed, and if both feet are off of the ground at the same time, the racer is disqualified. Hilarity ensues shortly there-after.

Fact the third: there will be some stellar wrecks in the soapbox derby.

Fact the fourth: this is put on entirely by it’s own community, and the whole neighborhood participates. This is perhaps the most important thing to realize when considering the Kirby Derby as an event – it’s a community effort, put on by the residents of Kirby street, open to everyone, there is no entry fee, there is no parking fee, there is nothing driving this event other than bringing a community closer together. That, in my mind is what makes the event so special – it’s a good, old-fashioned block party encouraging fun and growth as a community, and I don’t always feel like that kind of thing happens enough, these days.

This Derby has been the 8th annual, and bystanders tell me it’s grown every year. The theme was The 80’s, more specifically, “Kirby Derby 8: Pity the Fool, and All Things 80’s”. If no one told you that this was the theme, it could probably be inferred from all the denim, professional wrestler costumes, shutter shades, boom boxes and even compared to the comeback they’ve made lately, ray-ban wayfarers were out in force!

So, in closing, The 8th Annual Kirby Derby was a smashing success, and a shining example of the kind of community and organization that befits a healthy society. If you’ve never been before, then I recommend you go ahead and plan to make it to the 9th Kirby Derby. If you have been, then you know what it’s all about, and I hope I see you there next year!