The PDX Adult Soapbox Derby in Portland, Oregon

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It’s like John Mayer sings, “gravity wants to bring me down.” This weekend, a legion of brave Portlanders will go toe to toe with the unforgiving law of physics + each other in one of the city’s best summertime traditions, the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby.

On Sat., Aug. 20 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., crowds will gather on the slopes of Mount Tabor (a literal volcanic cinder cone) to cheer on participants of the 23rd edition of the event, which features costumed characters careening downhill on their artistically scientific homemade carts.

You can almost feel the disapproval of racers’ parents, wherever they may be — but as the name makes perfectly clear, they are grown people who just happen to be kids at heart.

People line up at food vendor booths at the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby in 2019.

Food + drink vendors will be in “Blood Alley” and “The Pits.” | Photo via Jason DeSomer/Whatever.Photo

Jason DeSomer

🏎️ It’s all downhill from here

  • Co-founder Paul Zenk was inspired to create the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby when he witnessed a similar exhibition in the Mission District of San Francisco.
  • It’s occurred every summer since 1997, bar a two-year pandemic hiatus. In 2020, a miniature version was held instead.
  • Up to 10,000 spectators have shown up in the past. The contest is entirely volunteer run + free, although donations are much appreciated.
  • The track record was set in 2016 by Justin James (Team Rusty Rocket) at 71.10 seconds.
  • A 501(c)(3) since 2018, the nonprofit’s “Brush Clean-Up Crew” gives back to the community by helping clean up invasive plants in Mount Tabor Park.
  • 2022’s competition will honor Dennis Lee Roth, a fixture of the PDX Adult Soapbox Derby who passed away last year. He started as a course marshall in 2009, eventually moving to starting line officiant. Organizers will wear his signature straw hat in his memory.
  • An after party + awards ceremony will be held at Gigantic Brewing Company (5224 SE 26th Ave.) at 6 p.m.
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