For the first time in its history, downtown Newnan will close its roads to motorized traffic on April 15 for an all-day festival, which will include a soapbox derby.
The derby is a fundraiser that benefits the Coweta Community Foundation, Bridging The Gap, and the local Boys and Girls Clubs.
Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation is “very proud” to be the title sponsor for the event, but this role is much more than a gesture of goodwill, according to Yamaha Vice President Bob Brown.
Only a few weeks ago, a design workshop was held at the Boys and Girls Club where each child participating in the derby put to paper their own dream design.
However, with two kids assigned to each car, the designs were destined to be unique, Brown said.
“Some designs wound up being the result of merging two ideas into one car,” he said.
Undaunted by the challenges of incorporating these unique designs, Yamaha engineers from the factory in Newnan lent a hand to the young students to help make their designs a reality.
In just three weeks' time, Yamaha engineers took the designs, and created and assembled these 10 unique soapbox designs from scratch.
Last week, the kids got a chance to visit the Yamaha factory to see their visions materialized and got to work assembling their dream cars.
“The kids were really engaged, turning wrenches, and our engineers were digging it,” Brown said. “I’m not sure who enjoyed it more. I think there was an equal inspiration on both sides.”
Each child’s design is handcrafted by Yamaha engineers and sits atop a welded steel frame, featuring components from some of Yamaha’s most capable ATVs, with tires and tubes donated by Maxxis.
But this sponsorship is more than just a goodwill gesture for a noteworthy community event. Yamaha’s unique capability of designing, testing and assembling the products it makes gives these children a hands-on glimpse into a world of engineering possibilities, Brown said.
“The whole soapbox competition has a number of avenues for kids to get interested,” Brown said. “You have STEM aspects, engineering, tech – you can go as deep as you want and the spirit of challenge that lives within the DNA of Yamaha has surfaced in the hearts and minds of the children with this exciting project.”
Next, the kids will finally get a chance to test-drive their creations at the Newnan Centre before the main event gets underway on April 15.
Kristin Webb of the Coweta Community Foundation said the organization is always grateful for partnerships within the community, but cited Yamaha’s involvement as especially exciting.
“Last week, you could really see the adults as well as the kids getting into the spirit of things at the build night for the cars,” she said. “It’s the kind of teamwork we try to foster all year round, but this Yamaha team is truly exceptional. Coweta County is going to have a blast at the Rock & Road Festival, and for the Foundation, thanks largely to Yamaha, this Soap Box Derby is just the icing on the cake.”
Webb noted this is by no means the first time that Yamaha has shown up as a community leader. She noted that when Newnan High School’s band lost instruments in the 2021 tornado, Yamaha was immediately pulling strings, so to speak, within the company’s instruments division to make sure the youth got new instruments in time for marching season.
The soapbox derby kicks off at noon on April 15 at the Newnan Carnegie Library.