Soap Box Derby Buttons are collected, exchanged, and made by Busy Beaver Button Co.

Each year, thousands of children compete in the All American Soap Box Derby. These children build their own cars and race down hills in local races in their hometowns and rally races across the country and around the world. Their ultimate goal is to win the title of “Champion” and the privilege to race other champions in the Championship Races in Akron, Ohio each July.

“Race Week” in Akron, Ohio, is a big deal. Champions from at least 40 states and 5 foreign countries are treated like celebrities as they arrive by police escort and take the stage at the opening ceremonies that kick off the week-long festivities. As they are welcomed on stage, champs toss out to the crowd Frisbees, beads, t-shirts and other collectibles that include their names, cars, and information about their race hometowns.

Soap Box Derby Winners courtesy of Lisa Danahy

Champions also come to Akron with personalized buttons that they exchange with one another at the opening ceremonies and as they conduct practice runs and work on their cars throughout the week. In fact, there is even an official “button exchange” night where all of the champions come together to pass out, swap, and obtain buttons from other racers.

Even non-racers get into the fun. Parents, siblings, and family members become increasingly covered as the week goes on and they gather buttons on their bags and shirts from champions from all over the world. Some hotel and restaurant staff even hold competitions to see who can collect the most buttons from racers staying with them.

Vintage 1950s button shows Soap Box Derby legacy

The buttons also provide a great way for each champion to brag about his or her individual success and show off their unique style. Most champions will design a button that includes their name, their race division, and the current year. In the background, they will include a photo of themselves with their cars or something that represents who they are. The most common buttons are 2.25 inches and round. However, the 3-inch round, square, and oval buttons are becoming increasingly popular.

As soon as you think you could be heading to Akron with a champion, you’ll want to place your order for buttons. Fortunately, with their quick turn-around time and rush shipping, the folks at Busy Beaver Button Co. are great at meeting short deadlines and getting your buttons to you in time.

Seeing as there are a few hundred racers, their families, and lots of volunteers and folks in the community who want buttons, it’s a good idea to order as many as you can afford. One hundred is probably the minimum you’d want to start with.

There’s also a new movie that will come out in early 2011 being produced by Corbin Bernsen – 25 Hill – that brings attention to the long standing tradition of soap box derby racing and includes real racing at the national track in Akron, Ohio, and lots of shots of real soap box derby racers and their families. Check out the trailer here.

Good luck racing, button making, and doing things you really enjoy! Hope to see you in Akron someday!

Courtesy of Lisa Danahy, Executive Director of the Friendship Children’s Center and proud mother of two All American Soap Box Derby champions.