It’s anybody’s race. Feb. 18 marked the beginning of this year’s registration period for Forest Park’s annual West Suburban Down Hill Derby to be held Saturday, May 21.

“It is fun for not only the racers but for the spectators,” said Larry Piekarz, assistant director of the Forest Park Park District.

The cars are “like a soap box that the kids and parents, uncles and friends build. They decorate it, they race it down the hill. It is a project to help parents and kids get together,” he said.

To register for the race, participants must submit their name, team members, and purchase a car kit that includes the frame of the car and its wheels. The kit is the starting point for all construction and helps assure the cars are safe.

In addition, racers and their teams will need plywood and decorations for the car, which can be done in any fashion the team chooses.

One year, Piekarz said, a racer decorated his car with airplane-style ornaments.

The derby is the brainchild of commissioners Michael Espinosa and Greg Kolinek.

“We wanted everybody to be involved. Last year, the overall winner was Robert Dwyer, who had possibly the ugliest
car. It looked like it was going to
fall apart,” Espinosa said.

The car, however, proved the fastest and proved that looks can be deceiving.

Car kits will cost $105 this year, but returning racers need only pay the $25 entry fee, as long as they have kept last year’s car kit.

“It is nice to see all the support from the people who come and watch the races. Win or lose those kids have a great time,” Piekarz said.

Before the race, all cars need to be checked out by volunteers and commissioners to ensure safety.

Participants will race in heats of two, separated by age group into five distinct categories: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and adult.

Racers can register at the Park District of Forest Park, 7501 Harrison St., in Forest Park. For more information call 366-7500.