ELKHART — Dozens of spectators gathered at the Elkhart Municipal Airport on Saturday for the Elkhart Breakfast Optimist Club’s third annual Pinewood Challenge.

The derby-style race is a fundraiser for the club, which uses the proceeds to fund various youth projects throughout the year, its organizers said.

Participants competed in several classes, including a traditional one, which followed the rules of the Boy Scouts. The Outlaw Class, used the same size car base but its participants were allowed to have double the weight and more freedom in the material used. The third class was a box truck which entries had to have 10 wheels. The final class was a tractor-trailer or otherwise known as the 18-wheeler.

Pinewood Derby cars are small wooden models that youths made with optimist club members, according to Dick Griffen, a club member.

“We have a workshop set up on the second floor of The Black Crow where we bring children who don’t have the ability, tools, skills or knowledge to build these types of cars,” Griffen said. “The whole idea is to give them something to do that’s not on an electronic device. It gives them a sense of accomplishment when they build a car that performs well.”

The event was free to all participants and spectators.

The races were held on a track with an inclined start, set up at a place near the airport administration building.

Teams taking part came from a wide range of places, including the Elkhart Police Department, Elkhart Fire Department, Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, and NIBCO as well as many independent races.

“The Pinewood Challenge is a great example of a community-driven event that promotes the vibrancy of Elkhart,” said Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese. “It also affords the city an opportunity to showcase the airport as not only a catalyst for economic development but as a valuable recreational facility as well."

Sponsors for the event included NIBCO, Franger Gas, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Schwintek Inc., O’Reilly Auto Parts, Troyer Products, Hopman Jewelers, Master Automotive, Wicker Remodeling and Froggy’s Ball Service.

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