Making a derby race car hasn’t changed much in 40 years. You need a block of wood, a couple of screws, and wheels. You need to cut and sand the wood and paint your car. You need to put lead in it, but your car can’t weigh more than 8 ounces (227 grams). And you need to show up at the race.
What has changed in 40 years is the Super Saturday event hosted by the Illiana Calvinist Cadet Council. The event combines the derby and the traditional Cadet-A-rama.
“The Cadet-A-Rama dates back to when I was a Cadet in the last 50s,” said Ken Dekker, a Cadet counselor who got involved with the Illiana Council in 1976. From the event’s beginnings, the Calvinettes (the club for girls) participated. The gym was filled with projects, and merit badges were handed out. The derby race was always held a month or two earlier. But when the Calvinettes club became the GEMS club and was divided into three regions, attendance declined. A lot of work went into organizing multiple events.
So the leaders of all the groups combined everything into “Super Saturday.” Now the year-end celebration includes 25 councils (regions), and close to 500 people turn out for the event.
“We try to make it a party,” Frank Zacek said. Zacek, who has served the Cadets for 26 years, is the chair of the Super Saturday event.
“This is about teaching leadership skills,” Zacek explained. Building a derby car is also “about spending quality time with family. You have the power to turn off the TV, videogames, and phone, and sit down at the kitchen table and work on something.”