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Let’s put the funk back into Auburn

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This weekend Auburn rocked with a playoff football game, the Festival of Lights parade and much more low-cost, high-quality, family entertainment. What makes this community shine is its spirit. That’s why it’s important that Auburn go back to its roots to get funky. Bring back the Auburn Funk Soap Box Derby. Every one of these successful family events, which also include the Auburn Community Festival, Cruise Nites, Party in the Park, and even the Gold Country Fair, rely heavily on volunteers and resident support. A group of volunteers, some motivated by Jimmy Wall, one of the characters that makes Auburn unique, met Saturday to get enthusiasm rolling for the return of the funk box derby. Keith Hentschel, a local financial adviser, and Al Blanca, a past chairman, are among those leading the effort to return the downhill soapbox car ride to Auburn. The annual soapbox derby was held from 1981 to 1992. The Funk Soap Box Derby drew thousands to Downtown Auburn and garnered international media attention. The reason it was called a “funk” soapbox derby can be found in the first three letters, F-U-N. It’s all about fun. Blanca pulled his old funk-box racer out of the garage to show Journal Motoring Editor Andrew DiLuccia for a Nov. 18 front-page article. Blanca’s derby car sported a toilet seat on the steering wheel, gold pans for headlights, brake shoes made of ASICS running shoes and bicycle wheels. It also had a radiator box but no engine. The creativity of Auburn-area residents never ceases to astound. Not convinced? Check out the scarecrows at the Auburn Community Festival. Kurt Barton’s entry from a few years back was so extraordinary that the California State Fair displayed it prominently this year in a new Wild and Wacky exhibit. Or, see Dr. Kenneth Fox’s unique statues on Auburn Ravine Road or check out some of the illuminated floats in the Festival of Lights Parade. Auburn-area residents are clever, fun and willing. And what better way to showcase our fun-loving community than a return of the Auburn Funk Soap Box Derby? There are many serious issues that surround our community. We are faced with economic challenges, ageing infrastructure, declining enrollment and much more. But our spirit — the Gold Rush spirit that is inherent in these foothills we call home — lives on. Hentshel, Blanca and other volunteers were scheduled to meet this weekend to discuss the return of the derby. They deserve community support. The Auburn Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Association, Auburn City Council and Auburn Recreation District should all embrace a return of this uniquely Auburn event. Let’s have some fun and celebrate our foothills home. Bring back the annual Auburn Funk Soap Box Derby.