This is Atlanta with Alicia Steele

Atlanta Downhill Challenge

Watch This Is Atlanta on PBA30 Atlanta's PBS StationThe soapbox derby is a time-honored American tradition that, in many circles, is a relic from a past era. Despite the nostalgic appeal of 2x4s, wood glue, recycled bike wheels, and steering ropes, how many kids today want to labor over constructing a gravity-powered wooden car when they can have the instant gratification of a video game, virtually racing in a digital roadster?

So, it’s up to the adults, or at least that’s what one could surmise from the turnout at the Atlanta Downhill Challenge. Fun-seeking grown-ups (and a few brave kids) build their own cars each summer and hurtle down a hill at the Starlight Six Drive-in. Cars must not exceed 250 pounds and should have functional steering and brakes.

Beyond those few stipulations, the variations are limitless, and many car builders compete with the zaniness of their designs more than with their speed on the course. The fun extends to the atmosphere surrounding the Downhill Challenge, which features bands, beer, food, the Atlanta Rollergirls, and the crafters of the Indie Craft Experience.

Proceeds from the Downhill Challenge go to benefit the non-profit organization Georgia Watch. As a consumer rights advocacy group, Georgia Watch promotes education in the areas of health care, insurance, and finance and also lobbies legislators for protections against consumer fraud and identity theft. But it’s unlikely that such lofty goals as patient safety are in the minds of the drivers in the Downhill Challenge. They’re too busy worrying about their own safety and that of unwary spectators!

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