By Loreen Berlin
Pinewood Derby, you say.
Been there, done that?
Seen it all?
The Pinewood Derby held in Garden Grove recently rivaled the Long Beach Grand Prix — well, in miniature — with flags, actual Nascar tires donated by the Irwindale Speedway and signs relating to car racing.
George Shearer of Garden Grove is the master-mind of the annual event for Cub Scouts, all Wolves, Bears and Webelos.
Shearer was the Cub master for Garden Grove Pack No. 548 from 2003 to 2014 and now is the ad hoc Pinewood Derby go-to-person.
“I’ve been in scouting since I was 8 years old and I’m an Eagle Scout,” said Shearer; “I came from a scouting family. My mother was involved on the council level. My boys also participated in the scouting programs, so I’ve been working with Scouts for more than 30 years and doing the Pinewood Derby for the Garden Grove LDS Stake since 2003.”
Shearer said he decided he was going to make the Pinewood Derby interesting and fun and so he began promoting it through the automotive-parts industry to raise money.
“I received donations of money, posters, banners and fliers. With the money, we were able to purchase the $500 aluminum race track we use, that’s 32-feet long,” he said.
Some big name suppliers who helped the Garden Grove Derby look top-notch professional include Federal Mogul Performance & Racing Parts, Goodyear tires, Nascar (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), Wagner Brake Components, Valvoline Oil and several smaller speed-shop suppliers.
No detail was overlooked by Shearer.
The track has an electronic finish-line controlled by a computer, so there’s no guessing as to who wins each heat. Each Cub Scout gets to race his hand-made car three times, once on each of the three tracks on the raceway, then points are tallied to find the top three winners overall, with a final race to determine the one top winner and then trophies are awarded. “
Twenty-one Cub Scouts participated.
“I set the track up the same way each year and hang flags from the ceiling the same way also, for consistency,” Shearer said. “And I like to keep the sign-in table in the same corner to keep it organized and to move the Scouts in and out of check-in quickly.”
Shearer said the Pinewood Derby is yet another activity for Scouts that provides help with the development of boys.
“They learn good sportsmanship and it’s a hands-on-building project with a family member, generally their father,” he said. “The boys sand the wood and paint and decorate the car, which encompasses so much in the way of a hands-on activity.”
Shearer said there are many different Cub Scout packs involved throughout the area and that he wanted to make sure the derby was a fun event for the whole family. That support was evident as not only parents, but grandparents and friends showed up to cheer the boys on.
“The Boy Scouts of America is a good organization for boys 7 to 10 years of age and we encourage them to join a local Cub Scout pack,” said Shearer. “Outside of the scouting program, there is also a National Pinewood Derby Association that boys can join.”
For those interested, there’s a Boy Scouts of America website on the Internet that lists all of the local Cub Packs and Boy Scouts in the area.
Cub and Boy Scouts are generally sponsored by schools and/or churches.
The Friday-night heat was sponsored by the LDS Church in their Valley View Building in Garden Grove and took in the cities of Garden Grove, Stanton, Westminster and some of Anaheim and Cypress. One Samoan family lives in Costa Mesa but travels to Garden Grove to attend church in the LDS Samoan Garden Grove 2nd Ward and also to have their Cub Scout boys participate with the other Scouts in Garden Grove.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Kyle Brodowski, a councilor in the Valley View building, and a real “master” of the art, drawing the boys in with a few questions here and there to keep their attention.