11th Annual Pinewood Derby Montana Conference Pathfinders Convene for Race

March 01, 2007 | Conna Bond

Montana Adventurer and Pathfinder clubs converged at Mountain View Adventist School gym on Sunday morning, Jan. 28, for the 11th annual Montana Conference Pinewood Derby. At 10 a.m., the lights went down, and the races began.

Twelve years ago, when Larry Williams of Missoula initiated the derby, he had no idea it would eventually become the largest annual youth event sponsored by the Montana Conference. Williams works each year with Greg and Janice Hanson of Plains to coordinate the derby. Missoula church members host the event, and students from Mt. Ellis Academy assist.

From the start, Williams decided that every contestant should have a great time racing. Contestants are treated like royalty. “Any kid who walks in with a car and a smiling face can enter the race,” says Williams. A pit crew works behind the scenes to make sure every car runs smoothly throughout the day.

Greg Hanson introduced a computer scoring system that allows each contestant to race until the end of the day. Immediate race results and video coverage are projected on the wall behind the track for spectator convenience. Spotlights, bleachers and a PA system keep the crowd engaged during the four hours of racing.

"In a state where many small churches and scattered members are isolated from each other for most of the year, the derby is an excellent opportunity for Adventist youth to get together and realize they’re part of a larger community of believers," says Williams. "Montana kids start looking forward to next year’s derby the minute the last race is called."