Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leveraging Akron's Soap Box Derby: The Akron DYI Festival

Trailer for the Film 25 Hill
The above trailer is really pretty over the top (I guess I'm old) and hard to get through, still it's about something that's I think somehow valuable and worth saving.

I guess everyone has their own opinion of brands that are over or undervalued. To lots of folks, the name Soap Box Derby is forgotten, even though for several generations it represented almost everything we like to think of as American.

Exploration, perhaps, teamwork, tinkering and innovation--culminating in a race. Of course even racing cars without engines is linked with 1950's and 60's car culture.

In the mind it gets back to the primordial garage, where we know so much of our innovative economy was always born and reborn.

The Derby has fallen on hard times and a film is being made partly in hopes of spurring more support.

The Derby has lost key sponsors, including Chevrolet and Levi Strauss Co. over the years and in 2009, FirstMerit Bank demanded payment on more than $600,000 in loans.

But a new board is making some tough financial decisions to keep the Derby alive -- and in Akron.

''We are committed to making sure that the Derby survives,'' Bill Evans, the board president, told the Akron Beacon Journal. "The Derby is so inexorably linked with Akron's brand.''

Ironically all of this is happening at the very moment so many people are returning to DYI everything.

I'll take a slim shot and throw out the idea of building the derby into a longer Festival of Do It Yourself Culture. Something for all ages. Imagine for example demonstrations of new power ideas or solar car races. Perhaps it could actually have events spread from Akron to Youngstown or even further--but invite projects from around the country.

Sort of Burning Man for the common man. Science meets art meets fun on very practical level.

The question then comes up. Well, don't both Pittsburgh with it's Art's Festival and Cleveland's Ingenuity Festival attempt to do that? Yes, and really no. Both seem very focused as demonstrations of very local and hyper local creativity. The door is still very much open to anyone who wants to transend that and tap into a very deep powerful international trend.

No comments: