Drivers, start your engines. Or at least stretch out your hamstrings.
The Official Dignowity Hill Pushcart Derby is back for its 11th lap. After a two-year hiatus, the popular neighborhood event will resume on Sunday, March 26, from 2-6 pm in Lockwood Park.
“With $3.1 million in investments for Dignowity/Lockwood Park on the May 6 ballot, it’s the perfect time to highlight the beauty of the area and bring attention to the great things that are going on in this historic neighborhood,” Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association President Brian Dillard said.
Registration is open through March 23 for teams of three in adult and “cookie cruncher” categories. A team of six may register one cart and race it in both categories, as long as the “cookie cruncher” team is entirely under age 14. Walk-up entries will be accepted on the day of the event until the roster is cut off at 32 teams.
Rina Belardi, the co-founder and proprietor of the derby, is happy to see the event rejuvenated. She started the derby in 2005 with then-husband and renowned local artist Cruz Ortiz. When they divorced, she got the derby. The event waxed and waned over the years as a centerpiece of the rapidly changing community.
What began as a fun event catering to artists became a community tradition. As Dignowity Hill’s population saw an influx of young professionals, the pressure grew to professionalize the derby as well. People wanted food trucks, live music, and smoother operations. Several opportunities arose to hand it over to other organizations, but Belardi wanted to preserve the soul of the inherently scrappy event.
“We want to continue to make this an event where the entire community is brought together for a great time. Community presence is the best crime deterrent, and we like this event to exemplify that presence,” Belardi said.
After the October 2014 derby, Belardi had a hard time getting the next year’s event up and running. Two years went by with several attempts to settle on a date, to no avail. With a full-time job and family obligations, her schedule didn’t allow her to drop everything and host the pushcart derby.
Thankfully, the neighborhood has more energy than ever, and the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association‘s active events committee stepped in to help Belardi run the event. The 2017 date stuck.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to bring our neighbors together and create a positive presence,” DHNA Events Chair Donalda “Dee” Smith said.
The two-year lapse has generated extra enthusiasm for the event.
In the past, registration has been slow in the beginning, but Belardi said this year interest has been strong. To encourage participation, nonprofit organizations, including churches and schools, as well as event sponsors, will have their registration fee waived.
Two food trucks, Papa’s Burgers and Flavor of Favor, will be on-site to feed hungry racers and spectators. DJ Rigo Luna is scheduled to perform. Belardi has also received notice from Mayor Ivy Taylor’s office that she is planning to captain a pushcart, as she has in years past.