Menifee Community Turns Out for First Annual Soap Box Derby

Nolan Valdez crosses the finish line for the fourth time, claiming the title in the Big Wheels Divi...

Nolan Valdez crosses the finish line for the fourth time, claiming the title in the Big Wheels Division.

This story has been updated with corrected information to reflect the fact that Joe Schnake was creator and coordinator of the event.

Menifee experienced a few road closures Saturday morning as a crowd gathered for the First Annual Menifee Soap Box Derby, hosted by the Valley-Wide Recreation Center and City of Menifee.

Almost 30 cars lined up at 8 a.m. with hopes of becoming the first racing champions Menifee has seen. Racers had their cars inspected by a panel of judges before breaking off into age groups: 6- to 12-year-olds, 13- to 17-year-olds, and an 18-and-older group.

Joe Schnake, recreational supervisor for Valley-Wide Recreation, created and coordinated the event. After helping to build many of the cars, he supervised the running of the races and announced winners in each division.

"The City of Menifee and Valley-Wide Recreation came together with the same goal of bringing the community together," Schnake said. "We wanted to have an event that showed how great the City of Menifee truly is. I am proud to say the Menifee Soap Box Derby will be something we all look forward to each year."

To kick off the competition, Valley-Wide employee Dean Wetter and City of Menifee staff member Rob Johnson faced off in the initial race.

“The bet started off as a million dollars,” DJ Gustavo Bermeo joked with the crowd. “But now it’s down to a dozen bagels and some coffee.”

The first group of racers was the 13-17 group, which met atop the hill on Menifee Road to square off two by two and make the trek toward the finish line. Each car raced multiple times and once a contestant lost twice, they were out of the competition.

After winning four races, 16-year-old Nolan Valdez proved to be victorious in the Big Wheels Division. Nolan’s car, which he built with the help of his dad, took five straight days to assemble.

“My dad got me into it,” Nolan explained. “He asked me if I wanted to join the race and it sounded like fun. Winning felt even better!”

Rocco Harriman, the 13-year-old driver of the “Menifee Missle”, may not have won the division, but he sure had the support of the crowd. Rocco’s entire family showed up clad in bright yellow T-shirts for the event to cheer him on.

“Rocco and his grandfather Steve (right, with family) have put in over 70 hours to make this car,” explained Cathy Harriman, grandmother to the young driver. “He is so excited to race today.”

However, Rocco's hard work was not wasted; he walked away with the title of "Best Car Design" for the youngest "Training Wheels" Division.

Here are the winners of the races and best car design competition:

First-place drivers:
Training Wheels Division (6-12): Ryan Moore
Big Wheels Division (13-17): Nolan Valdez
Limo Division (18+): Tony Shumaker

Best Car Design:
Training Wheels Division: "The Menifee Missle," Rocco Harriman
Big Wheels Division: "White Lightning"
Limo Division: "Pirate Princess," Patty Shumaker

Dane Lewis, 6, and his dad sported perhaps the most unique car: a van Justin uses to promote his cleaning business.

Ryan Moore, 12, waves to the crowd after winning the Training Wheels Division.


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