(Photo by Tristan Fortsch KATU2) Organizers of The Thrill on the Hill hope to bring the excitement of gravity car racing to Vassar this spring. On April 29, homemade cars with two-person teams will barrel down M-15 like these racers in Portland, Oregon’s Mt. Tabor Park did during the 2016 PDX Adult Soapbox Derby.

Planners of Vassar M-15 gravity race: C’mon down

(Photo by Tristan Fortsch KATU2) Organizers of The Thrill on the Hill hope to bring the excitement of gravity car racing to Vassar this spring. On April 29, homemade cars with two-person teams will barrel down M-15 like these racers in Portland, Oregon’s Mt. Tabor Park did during the 2016 PDX Adult Soapbox Derby.
(Photo by Tristan Fortsch KATU2)
Organizers of The Thrill on the Hill hope to bring the excitement of gravity car racing to Vassar this spring. On April 29, homemade cars with two-person teams will barrel down M-15 like these racers in Portland, Oregon’s Mt. Tabor Park did during the 2016 PDX Adult Soapbox Derby.

Vassar’s venerable M-15 hill has seen its share of wackiness.
The city’s annual “Pumpkin Roll” – challenging folks to roll the orange orbs into barrels – occurs there. So did the now-defunct “Chill on the Hill,” where youths, with mixed success, tried to zip down a snowy slope on inflated tubes.
The “gravity race” planned for April 29 by the Vassar Lions Club, however, could take the hill’s zany history to a new height.
The event – billed as the “Thrill on the Hill” – is open to anyone age 18 or older, challenging contestants to compete in non-motorized four-wheel vehicles that travel down M-15 into Vassar and finish in the south parking lot behind downtown businesses.
Andrea McArthur, who is in charge of social media for the race, said that organizer Arlis Van de Veer was inspired by the city’s success with Riverfest in summer and the Pumpkin Roll in fall to create a spring event that incorporates the hill and the downtown area.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” City Manager Brian Chapman said.
The course starts at the top of the slope and features “a steep hill including an ‘S’ turn and a 6-inch-high ramp,” according to the “Thrill on the Hill” page on Facebook.
Each car can have no more than two occupants, but one pusher will be allowed per team to get the cars started barrelling down the hill at the start of the race.
Each race vehicle “must have at least four wheels, no motor, weigh under 200 pounds, have brakes and it must be steerable,” according to the Facebook page.
As far as what qualifies as brakes, that will be up to the judges’ discretion; both drivers and passengers will be required to wear helmets.
A technical inspection will take place before the race, and all vehicles must be cleared by the judges before 9 a.m. in order to compete.
McArthur said she’s looking forward to seeing what kind of vehicles contestants come up with. “One of the rules, other than helmets and brakes, is that there really aren’t any rules,” she said.
Drivers will compete in three classes: individual, college/university and business. Organizers also promise “The Barbie Car Race,” though details were scarce as of press time.
The entry fee for each car is $25, which entitles teams to two runs down the track, additional runs may be purchased for $10 each.
“It’s for a great cause, the Lion’s Club of Vassar,” McArthur said.
The Vassar Lions Club, like other Lions around the world, “support sight programs and services including vision screenings, eye banks and eyeglass recycling.”
McArthur, thinks the grown-up version of a soap box derby is a great way for people to revisit their childhood. “I picture some 40-year-old guy going, ‘I want to go again,’” she said.
Thrill on the Hill “has the potential to be a featured annual event for the community,” Chapman said. “We hope the crowd will be big and grow year after year.”
For more information contact Arlis Van de Veer at 989-823-2408 or Andrea McArthur at amcarthur@cityofvassar.org.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com
Caroline Goetze is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at caroline@tcadvertiser.com

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