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How to host a Pinewood Derby event safely this year

A lot of things have been cancelled, pared down and changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but your pack’s Pinewood Derby season can totally still happen.

There are a couple of ways to make this favorite Cub Scout event happen. First and foremost, be sure to follow your local government’s rules and regulations, along with CDC guidelines. Those policies will help you in choosing how to run your event and allow you to stay safe and have a really successful race day!

Host a virtual event

  1. Choose a virtual platform. With Zoom, you can host free meetings for up to 40 minutes, and chances are, someone in your pack or den has a paid account that can host if you need longer. You can also make this a Facebook Live event, which will give your pack the opportunity to share your footage with your Facebook community during the event and at a later date. Both of these platforms give people the chance to comment and see other participants. For more details on digital safety, read this article.
  2. Pick the race location with care. Be sure to have a set-up that is brightly lit and where the camera has a great view of the racetrack. You’ll need a big space. A garage or basement are good options if you’re in a location that gets cold or has inclement weather, but a park is a good option for warmer places – just be sure to check your internet connection.
  3. Have good gear. I’ve tried to go live from my phone, and I am here to tell you that it wasn’t the best experience for anyone. A computer with a newer camera can provide better sound quality; use headphones with a built-in speaker so the host can move around and emcee it up from all areas of the track. To up the quality of experience even more for your Scouts, use multiple cameras – one on the finish line and one taking in the entire track.
  4. Set up strong logistics.
    • Set a specific drop-off date with specific times.
    • Create a space for cars to be dropped off with no contact – place out boxes or trays for people to put their cars in and use gloves for all car handling.
    • Next (and you can get as in-depth as you want here), if you want to host a mini check-in as a live event, you can set that up via whichever platform you prefer. If not, then you can simply have the host run through and do the weigh-ins and checks (again, use gloves for added protection when handling cars).

These are just a few highlights to note while swapping your race day to virtual. For more on hosting a race, check out this article and this checklist. (Note: the article and checklist were written before the pandemic, so you’ll need to adjust as needed for these times. It might require more time than normal to plan ahead.)

Host a socially-distanced race event

If your pack wants to meet in-person, first check out this restarting Scouting checklist. Again, follow your local government regulations and CDC guidelines for safely hosting gatherings. Instead of pulling together the whole pack, your in-person races may look like one or two dens getting together to keep the number of people down.

  1. Select your location carefully. Perhaps your local park has an area large enough to accommodate a race with lots of space to socially distance.
  2. Use cones or markers to set up family pods that are 6 feet apart – this will allow for stress-free watching. I also highly recommend bringing camp chairs to help everyone stay in their watch pods.
  3. Just like with all Pinewood Derby races, logistics are important. Decide ahead of time on how you are managing the drop-off of cars:
    • You can address this like the virtual event and have a drop-off point for cars, and then one person can handle the cars while wearing gloves.
    • The Cub Scouts could each handle their own cars so that nobody else touches them, taking their own race car through weigh-in, placing their car on the racetrack and then picking their car up when their race is over.

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