Local twins keep soap box tradition alive

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2017

Soap box derbies run deep in the Farmer-Smallwood household. The skills of making their own soap box racer and racing it have been passed down through generations for the past 25 years.
In their second year of racing, the youngest generation, 8-year-old twins Chloe and Cooper Farmer, competed in the annual Deborah Washington Soap Box Derby in Moss Point, in which they had to face each other in an elimination round.
The twins’ grandfather, Fred “Papa Fred” Smallwood, has been helping his children and grandchildren compete in soap box derbies since 1992, teaching them how to build their cars from scratch and helping his grandson place 1st in the regional races in 2008.
Soap box derbies are a dying tradition across the nation, grandmother Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said, but the Smallwood family continues to enter the races.
“These derbies are a lot of fun for the kids and entail a lot of work to get the cars ready,” Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said. “We love it because not only do we just enjoy the races, but it’s a time for our family to bond and get together to have a fun time.”
Chloe and Cooper Farmer helped build their cars over the past two years. Weeks before the race, they were instructed by their grandfather on the inner workings of the race cars.
The first task the West Side Elementary students had was to varnish the body of their race cars and from then on it was “turn this bolt and tighten that screw” to put the finishing touches on the cars, Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said.
In each of the past two competitions, the twins faced each other, which can get complicated for the family cheering them on.
“All I was thinking is that I don’t want to have to deal with the loser. But we cheer them both on and they know that one person has to win. There are never any hard feelings between them,” Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said.
The soap box derby face-off consists of two races to determine who moves on. Last year, in the twins’ first year of racing, Cooper Farmer’s car crossed the finish line seconds before his twin sister’s. In the second round, Chloe Farmer’s car passed her twin brother’s, but did not win by a large enough margin to advance.
“At the end of the race last year, Chloe said to Cooper, ‘Just wait, I’m gonna get you next time,’ with no hard feelings. We were so proud of each of them,” Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said.
This year the same events played out, with Cooper Farmer in the lead at first. However, Chloe Farmer stuck to her promise, defeating her brother with a better average of the two rounds, winning the heat to move on to the next round. Chloe Farmer finished 5th overall in her division.
There are four divisions in the soap box derby, including stock, super stock, super kids and masters. As the Farmer twins get older, Sandi Farmer-Smallwood said they hope to advance through the divisions.
“They take a huge interest in racing and it makes the whole family proud. We love cheering them on,” she said.

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