Orange Crate Derby racing started in Chula Vista in 1968. The Chula Vista Jaycees ran the race through most of the 1970s. The race was run down H Street from Hilltop Drive to 1st Ave. Here are some photos courtesy of Lane and Lance Newman, twin brothers who raced in the 3rd Annual Orange Crate Derby in 1970 and won.
The Star News covered the race:
In September 1979 Kirk and Pat Dolan ran the first Orange Crate Derby in Bonita. Kirk and Pat moved to Bonita in August 1978 where they attended their first Bonitafest. They noticed that the fest really didn’t offer an activity for children. Kirk had seen an Orange Crate Derby in Irvine and presented the idea to the fest committee. Many in the Bonita business community welcomed the idea and supported the event with sponsorship, material and money. Kirk made several trips to Irvine to meet with the Orange Crate Derby committee there to find out how to go about conducting a derby. He returned with ‘Instructions on How to Build an Orange Crate Car’, ‘How to Operate a Race’ and ‘Rules and Regulation’. Kirk and the newly formed committee went to work. Kirk built the starting ramps, the ‘Christmas Tree’ starting light pole and the electronic link to the starting ramps for that very first race in Bonita. These are still in operation today.
Opening day for the first race was an exciting day. There was a rally to explain safety rules and T-shirt were given to all the race kids. Trophies were awarded to all first, second and third place winners in each division. Even the adults got into the spirit of the day and raced the hill. The Orange Crate Derby was a hit for Bonitafest and has continued to be a hit for the area for the last 29 years.
The Race has been a two-day event held on Saturday and Sunday usually in the August or September Time Frame. Saturday are for testing out the cars with wheels assigned and for first timers to get used to the hill before race day. Early in the beginning and even today it was decided that all racecars would be issued wheels, and lubricant for the race so to make it fair for all cars.
At first they held the race in Bonita at Briarwood where we had to split the road so traffic would go up one side and the race on the other as part of the Bonitafest. As the area built up we moved to Rancho Del Rey East in Chula Vista. There we raced for a couple of years, then due to growth we ended up to where we are now at Rancho Del Rey East. It’s a little steeper hill than when we started but the excitement hasn’t changed. We ended up having to cut the ramps down to help slow down the cars a wee bit. The Average Speed when hitting the finish line is approximately 32 miles an hour. We have run our event with family participation mostly the parents of the kids racing. We have the local high schools run the food booth and the proceeds they make goes for equipment for the sports events and the safety crew catching the cars at bottom of the hill or up at the starting ramps are explorers from the fire or police department. Over the years the parents, at times, would run down in their kids cars to try the hill. Three years ago one of our committee members built two adult race cars that would hold up to a person over 6 ft and we have been having races for adults between the kids races ever since.
For the past 33 years Lee Roberts and Al Hooper have been involved with the Orange crate derby, at first volunteering then taking it over and running the event. They wrote “All through the years we were fortunate to meet a lot of great racers and their families. Listening to the strategies from how they built the car to how to drive down the hill to gain the win. With all that it was what kept us going every year. We thank you all for the wonderful ride. Lee and I have new adventures we are pursuing, so it’s time to pass the race over to another club that will keep Orange Crate Derby alive, but we will still be around. The Chula Vista Rotary will be taking over the race, which we are excited about, as having new fresh ideas to build the event up is always a plus. We are looking forward to seeing the results on the web site and following the event.
Al Hooper & Lee Roberts”
August 26, 2012
The race wasn’t run the following year in 2013 and then Chula Vista Sunrise Rotary and Chula Vista Sunset Rotary took over the organization for the 2014 race. Tom Calhoun was the race organizer in 2014, in 2015 the race organizers were Carole Eklund and Trish Rogers. Trish Rogers organized the 2016 race.