Hagan Presents First Bill Making Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby State Race
District 156 State Representative Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons, presented her first bill on Monday, February 27, that would declare the Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby as Georgia’s official Soapbox Derby. The bill passed in the state House of Representatives with 168 votes in favor.
“I’m proud that my first House bill directly impacts the 156th District and young Georgians,” Hagan emphasized. “By making the Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby Georgia’s official derby, we shine the spotlight on a program that has a long history of positive influence and fun for our youth and their families, and we encourage others around the state to participate. With all the negative influences our children currently face, like drug use and social media, I feel that this [action] is a timely measure. The impact this program can have on their lives cannot be overstated.”
The thought for this bill began several years ago, when Lyons Main Street Director Daphne Walker met a lady who began the Swamp Gravy folk life play, which has been named Georgia’s official folk life play. “We discussed how that came to be, and she said name it and claim it,” Walker explained.
“Since our Soapbox Derby has been running for 31 years, investments were made in a permanent track, plans are being made for a new building to house the cars and equipment, continued from page
and our committee is going strong and bringing home world champions from Akron (Ohio, where the national races are held) every year, I thought it was time we claimed the title,” she said. “I saw Representative Hagan at our [Lyons Christmas Parade] Grand Marshal’s Breakfast and asked her about it. She was thrilled with the idea and took it to the House of Representatives.”
Hagan primarily sponsored the bill, currently referred to as HB237, but State Representatives Bill Werkheiser (R-157), Devan Seabaugh (R-34), and Matt Hatchett (R-155), have also joined in supporting this cause. The bill began in the House Committee of Special Rules, who favorably passed the bill to the floor on February 15.
Several Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby and City of Lyons representatives traveled to Atlanta on February 27 to witness the vote. Among them was Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby Director Jonathan Gordy, who is excited for the effect that this bill may have on the area. “I think the bill was an awesome idea by Representative Hagan. She is a very special person and an asset to our district! I believe this bill will help put eyes on the [Southeast Georgia] Soapbox Derby and will be able to bring Soapbox racing to the forefront in our community, therefore increasing tourism to our small town and increasing a sense of community,” he remarked.
Gordy continued, “We strive on having the most open, fair, and honest form of competition and racing that there is. It’s also an awesome way for parents to bond with their children. I know from personal experience that it’s helped my youngest son and me to bond and have a closer relationship with each other.”
He added, “I hope that the bill will pass through the Senate. Representative Hagan and I talked on the phone recently about what committee it was going before, and I know she’ll fight to get it through with the help of Senator (Blake) Tillery, (R-Vidalia). The bill being passed will be a great honor for the Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby.”
As the bill states, the Southeast Georgia Soapbox Derby began in Lyons in 1992, hosting approximately 20 cars racing in one division. Since then, the race has grown, as an average of 50 cars competing in four divisions each year, including a division for drivers with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The derby has seen great success, as 3 previous world champions have qualified at this event.
Since it’s approval by the House on February 27, the bill has been passed by the State Senate which referred it to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee to review. The date of the future Senate vote on the matter has not been determined.