Menifee Sets 'Little Rascals' Loose in Soap Box Derby

Kyle Davis is all business as he waits to head downhill in his White Lightning race car. Eric ...

Kyle Davis is all business as he waits to head downhill in his White Lightning race car.
Eric Johnson looked down at the "Rust Bucket," an aptly named vehicle constructed from a wheelbarrow, steel barrel and a set of slick wheels.

"Ryan (Eric's son) won in a fiberglass car last year, but they changed the rules so you can't run a fiberglass car anymore," said Eric Johnson of Johnson's Auto Service in Menifee. "I wanted to make it look like the Little Rascals -- you know, an old school street racer."

Rust Bucket team members (from left, back row) Ryan Moore, Nick Johnson, Eric Johnson, Richard Johnson and Ryder Lawrence (in front).
That's exactly the feel organizers were going for in Saturday's second annual Menifee Soap Box Derby. In a scene that brought back memories of the old "Our Gang" films for adults and the 1994 "Little Rascals" movie for youngsters, "kids" of all ages gathered Saturday morning for some good old-fashioned fun.

About 45 drivers -- mostly teenagers and younger -- took part in the event, bringing vehicles of all shapes and colors. There are fairly strict rules set down by the organizers at Valley-Wide Recreation, but the bottom line is simple: Build a car without an engine that will roll down the steep hill of Menifee Road toward Holland Road as fast as possible.

There were a few minor crashes into the hay bales that lined the street, but emergency personnel were on hand and there were no serious injuries. More than anything, there was a sense of community spirit and a closing of the generation gap as family members and friends worked together to prepare and race the cars.

"It gives kids an opportunity to learn how to use tools," said Hemet resident Mike Percival (below), who was putting air in a tire before sending his 7-year-old grandson Daniel Hulse out to race in the Training Wheels Division. "I run an air conditioning business, and it's amazing to me how many young people come to work without knowing the right end of a screwdriver. In doing this, Daniel now knows everything about how one of these cars is put together.