- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - When Don Stamper was a kid, competing in the Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby was a foregone conclusion.

To his disappointment, the derby was discontinued before he was old enough to race. Years later, Stamper competed in the derby through his children. This year, his grandson will be on the blocks.

The Columbia Daily Tribute (http://bit.ly/25sL4i1 ) reports that on June 12, the 25th consecutive derby will run. Stamper’s grandson, 10-year-old Quinn Felts, is competing for the first time. Last week, the Stamper family joined others to work on their cars at the Downtown Optimist Club. So far, 42 cars are slotted to race in the stock, superstock and masters divisions.

Fortunately for Quinn, it won’t be his family’s first rodeo. His mother, Tia Stamper, and uncle, John Stamper, both raced when they were younger; Tia actually won the stock race in 1992.

“It was always my dad’s dream to do it, but he never got to,” Tia Stamper said. “By the time I was old enough, I was automatically signed up.”

Tia said she values the family experience. “The time we get to spend doing this all together - it’s just a great bonding opportunity.”

Those experiences have kept derby director Rick McKernan involved for more than 10 years.

Families lined the walls of the Downtown Optimist Club to fine-tune their cars last Thursday, measuring weights of particular parts and using tools to tighten bolts on the brakes to ensure safety, as McKernan surveyed the scene.

“Kids’ dreams can start in a place just like this,” he said.

Don Stamper, a former Boone County commissioner who now works at the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said he took it for granted as a kid that he would be able to race. His hopes were dashed when it was discontinued in 1967, but he got a second chance when the event was reinstated in 1991. The next year, Tia Stamper won the local contest and placed seventh at internationals in Akron, Ohio.

Her claim to fame remains scoring a victory over Kenny Edwards, the brother of NASCAR driver and Columbia native Carl Edwards. She said the confidence boost she got from her victories made all of the effort worthwhile; she similarly has seen Quinn gain confidence while working on the racer.

Meanwhile, Don Stamper focused on tweaking the weight and steering of his grandson’s car, sharing his passion for the race with another generation.

“It’s funny that an older man can get so excited about something,” John said of his father. “This is the same dad I had 20 years ago. He just loves this stuff.”

___

Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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