Reinbeck Library caps off summer programming in (racing) style

Lincoln, left, and McKinley Bonjour – children of first-year G-R Superintendent Caleb Bonjour – smile for the camera while holding their family’s winning ‘Mario Cart’ pinewood derby car along with a couple of prizes. PHOTO COURTESY OF LENAH OLTMAN

REINBECK – Despite the temperatures this past week indicating otherwise, the calendar is zooming towards summer’s conclusion but that didn’t stop the Reinbeck Public Library from holding one last summer program – its first annual Pinewood Derby Race.

From August 1 through race day held this past Wednesday, August 16, 16 area families worked as individual teams to each design their own race car for the new event which was made possible thanks to the generosity — and curiosity — of Grundy Center resident Jim Lynch.

“Jim Lynch donated wooden toys to our library about a year ago including trains, planes, tanks, school busses, and an entire stable with horses inside,” Reinbeck Public Library director Lenah Oltman told the Sun Courier in an email.

“While we were thanking [Lynch] for this wonderful donation, I shared about the times that my dad and I would work on my car for the AWANA derby.”

Just a mere two months following that spark of a conversation, Oltman said Lynch contacted her to find out if the library would be interested in hosting a derby race — telling Oltmam he wanted to try his hand at building a track and some cars.

Grundy Center resident Jim Lynch pictured on Aug. 16 during the Reinbeck Public Library’s Pinewood Derby Race as he readies two cars on the track he built for the first annual event. PHOTO COURTESY OF LENAH OLTMAN

“We were immediately excited about this possibility,” Oltmam continued. “Jim donated everything. His time, money, energy, and knowledge of woodworking, speed and resistance.”

All told, Lynch built 16 cars for the library’s race, as well as a 32-foot track.

“We opened up [Pinewood Derby] registration on August 1 with the hope of getting 12 families to participate, [but] eight days later, we had all of our cars spoken for,” Oltmam explained.

Not wanting to disappoint anyone, Oltman and Lynch added four more cars, all of which were quickly spoken for as well by excited families.

“Sixteen families worked together to design their first Reinbeck Library Derby car,” Oltman said. “Seeing my own teenager working with their dad, the four-year-old and the 10-year-old is not something I see often. Imagining other families coming together to construct their own need-for-speed creations and experiencing these moments reminds us why we do library programming.”

A pair of winners in the Reinbeck Public Library’s first annual Pinewood Derby Race held on Aug. 16 in Reinbeck. PHOTO COURTESY OF LENAH OLTMAN

In addition to the race itself, the library created a ‘race day’ atmosphere for participants including a ‘pit stop’ stocked with walking tacos, ‘spare tires’ in the form of mini donuts, and ice cold pink lemonade ‘coolant.’

“You could just feel the room … the pride radiating from the kiddos’ faces …the bashful pride of the dads that put way more work into their little cars then they intended to,” Oltman said with obvious pride of her own for all of her participating families.

During the main event, the library’s programming coordinator, Cherie Eckhoff partnered with Lynch to run the races and work through the brackets.

Lynch himself released the competing cars with a snap down the indoor track he built.

Prior to the race, each participant was given the opportunity to check out all the race entries and allowed to vote for those that stood out – one vote for the overall fan favorite and one vote for the most creative design.

The Bonjour family’s ‘Mario Cart’ pinewood derby car which was voted both the overall fan favorite and the most creative design by participants in the Reinbeck Public Library’s first annual Pinewood Derby Race held on Aug. 16. PHOTO COURTESY OF LENAH OLTMAN

After all the votes were tallied, the Bonjour family’s Mario race car took first place in both categories.

“[The event was] absolutely incredible,” Oltman said when asked to summarize her overall thoughts. “I am sitting at my desk, now that guests have left, and I am finding myself overflowing with emotions. … This wasn’t just a program where the parents come out ‘for the kids’ – this was an incredible night for everyone!”

“Creating and encouraging opportunities for family engagement is vital in our communities.”