Volunteer Mike Burek at the Montague Soapbox Races
Running your own Soapbox Race isn't too hard, and can be organized in just a few months. You just need a half-dozen committee members and a bunch of volunteers on race day. And a positive attitude! If you are in any of the northeaster states, please consider being part of the Northeast Soapbox Association, which is free.
Location, Location, Location
The very first thing you need to do is figure out where the race will be held. A good hill has at most two turns, good speeds, is smoothly paved, and ends in an open area. Think about the various hills in your town, and whether they might meet these basic criteria:
The race track / hill should be at least a quarter mile long and not be dangerous to go down in a small, sometimes rickety, home made vehicle. Speeds shouldn't be less than 35 MPH at the bottom, but not much higher than 50 MPH, unless you want to run a "pro" class. Where you start out on the hill will determine bottom speed. You can test this by putting your car in neutral and starting on the hill from a dead-stop. Be aware of any sharp curves, and see how far you go to determine the finish line.
The hill should end in a long flat section that is open on at least one side for spectators and vendors. Both sides open would be best.
There should also be space for the announcers platform.
The road should be able to be closed to all traffic for up to eight hours.
You need enough parking for the number of spectators you estimate will come. Montague's first race in 2010 had about 1,600 spectators. If you average, say 2.5 people per car, 1,600 people would arrive in about 640 cars. It would be good to have a large parking lot, or local parking in town if the hill is nearby. You can also mandate car pooling for local parking.
Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
In addition to securing your location, you will need to gather various supplies
You will need some sort of PA system and a platform with chairs and tables for the announcers to sit, watch, and ... announce.
You will need ATVs or golf carts or tractors to pull the carts back up to the top of the hill, so each racer can go down twice for two "heats."
Speaking of carts, you will need space to stage the carts at the top of the hill, and the bottom after they pass the finish line, waiting to be pulled back up to the top
You will need space to inspect the cart to ensure they're safe, and the people to do the inspections. Carts should have brakes and be solidly built, and the racers should have helmets and other protective gear.
You will need sponsors. Lots of sponsors, as the only other revenue is racer and vendor fees, which together will only garner a few hundred dollars (unless you do all the food yourself). Additional income can be made from selling merchandise such as t-shirts, cups, posters, etc. A 50/50 raffle is always good, too.
You will need many various supplies, including hay bales, walkie talkies, stop watches, clip boards, etc.
Fiscal and Legal Considerations
At a minimum, you will need to set up a bank account or a line-item fund in an existing account, take out the insurance, and be the official organization associated with the event when taking in and spending money, meeting with the police and fire departments, parks and recreation if this is a fundraiser for them, and the select board for the licensing and permits.
You would need to build a committee of at least six people, each committed to actively participate in building the event and taking on specific duties, such as manager of volunteers, vendors, sponsors, etc. On the day of the event it takes about 40 volunteers.
It sounds like a lot of work, but many hands are many hands, and there's nothing like race day when the creativity and smiles come out.