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2014-06-07 at 16:10

Off to the races

By Matt Vis,
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THUNDER BAY -- Gregory Augruso admits his first run down the hill in a soapbox car was a little scary.

The eight-year-old got past that initial fear quite quickly, crossing the line ahead of his competitors in each of his first two runs at the annual soapbox races down the Waverley hill on Saturday.

“When you get used to it, it’s not that bad,” the young racer said.

Despite morning showers that resulted in a nearly five-hour delay, the 11th annual races in support of the George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation ended up hitting the track.

Foundation executive director Mary Anne Comuzzi said many of the participants and their families look forward to the event all year.

Taking the time to build the cars is such a substantial commitment organizers were determined to have the event go ahead.

“The rain isn’t going to stop us. There isn’t a thing we can do about Mother Nature so we just arrange things accordingly. They’re on the hill and having fun,” Comuzzi said.

“They get to do this once a year…They want to come out and we want to accommodate and get them on the hill. We thought we’re not going to call the whole event and the rain has subsided.”

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Gregory was driving a car that predates his own birth. His set of wheels was built 11 years ago for the inaugural event and has been passed down throughout the family.

The last two years his older sister steered the car as she pursued the Queen of the Hill title and when his soapbox career ends he will yield the steering controls to his younger sister.

Safety is of primary concern to organizers, especially with the wet track conditions.

Paramedics with Superior North EMS volunteered their time to be on hand and provide any necessary first aid.

While the cars do pick up quite a bit of speed going down the hill, there have never been any severe incidents.

All the cars are pre-inspected prior to going down the hill and have safety features such as harnesses and helmets while any poles and other hittable obstacles along the course are covered with mattresses to soften any potential impact.

“There have been a lot of precautions taken,” said primary care paramedic Ryan Ross. “We try to cover all our bases.”

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