Locals will not have the chance to race soapbox cars on Nash St. in the second annual Nash Dash, formerly set for May 11, after the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners (BOC) denied the soapbox derby a special use permit, citing safety concerns.
“The intent of the event is exactly the type of thing we want to see here,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said. “But it’s our duty to ensure that our citizens don’t have to foot the bill for unlikely, but nevertheless devastating, risks.”
Nash Dash needed a special use permit from the town due to its size of 100-plus attendees and its requirement of closing a street.
Organizers applied for the special use permit at the beginning of 2019, but staffing changes and other complications within town administration pushed back the permit approval process until a BOC meeting on April 8, barely a month before the event was set to happen.
“There was a delay in the permit process and we dropped the ball,” Stevens said. “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the town for that.”
Those behind the Nash Dash modeled the event’s safety regulations after the Kirby Derby, a Raleigh soapbox car race that started in 2002.
“We’ve been committed to safety and mindful of liability concerns from the beginning,” Nash Dash organizers said in a statement about the race cancellation on their website. “With best practice precautions...that include: event insurance, rules stipulating adult racers only, barriers at the course’s curve, a racers’ waiver, volunteers keeping spectators off street, helmets, a pre-race safety check, and more.”
Still, within the niche field of soapbox racing there are few experts, and Stevens said Town of Hillsborough officials were not willing to make way for an event that had room for dangerous liabilities.
“The Town of Hillsborough has no expertise in this area — nor do we know of anyone who does — and the town would be the only entity held responsible,” Stevens said.
Moving forward, Stevens said that the town hopes to work with organizers to craft an event that captures the quirky community spirit of the Nash Dash while also eliminating some of the safety concerns.
“We are hopeful to continue working with the town to plan an event that will be approved,” event organizers said in the website statement. “While the Nash Dash won’t be held May 11, stay tuned — we will be in touch as we work towards a solution!”