After launching a streamed shoebox version of the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby in 2020 and then canceling the event last year altogether, the full-scale race is finally back on, in person—and this week you can get a sneak peek of some of the competitors.
From 4 to 6 pm on Friday, July 1, Gigantic Brewing is welcoming back the summer tradition with a beer release party and gravity car show at its Tap Room and Champagne Lounge on Southeast 26th Avenue.
Racers, both new and experienced, will line up their vehicles cruise-in style so attendees can spend time admiring the craftsmanship of each one before they’re hurtling down Mount Tabor in August at speeds typically too fast to appreciate the details.
The race’s new signature beer is a limited-run ale with a unique anamorphic label that’s best viewed with an accompanying set of 3D glasses—an effect that’s meant to mimic the cars’ breakneck pace. It’s also the latest in a series from Gigantic and the Unipiper-led nonprofit Weird Portland United, which aims to celebrate all things quirky in Portland.
The Derby itself—now a city pastime that began in 1997—is scheduled to take place Saturday, Aug. 20, at Mt. Tabor Park. Typically, 42 teams with a maximum of five racers each will compete, and anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 spectators pack the grassy cinder cone for the event.
Of course, gathering that many people together in one place has been off-limits the past two years. In 2020, the pandemic prompted derby organizers to turn shoeboxes into cars, which then sailed down a miniature version of Tabor via livestream. There were prizes for both looks and speed.
Last April, the race was called off again due to ongoing COVID restrictions, but the event officially announced it was going forward this February, with organizers saying they had enough time to plan a derby that they knew might face some challenges. At this point, however, it appears things should be able to proceed without any restrictions.