Jack Healy tries out his new vessel, called “Screaming Bubbles.” (Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record)

Jack Healy tries out his new vessel, called “Screaming Bubbles.” (Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record)

Souped up and sudsy in Langley

Racers in the annual Soup Box Derby readying creative rides for Aug. 25

By Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record

When Jack Healy says he’s into copper bathtubs, he isn’t joking around.

That’s exactly what he’ll be “into” Sunday, when he goes “a-splishin’ and a-splashin’” down First Street at Langley’s annual Soup Box Derby.

Healy and the rest of the crew from Artisan Crafted Home in Langley are putting the finishing touches on their tub-mobile racer now, and it’s quite a sight to behold.

The derby begins at 10 a.m.

As a sponsor for this year’s Soup Box Derby, Artisan Crafted Home has gone all in with what’s been dubbed “Screaming Bubbles” — and for good reason. The so-called vehicle is custom made from a genuine copper bathtub and attached shower head, both of which are sold at Jack and his wife Suzanne’s online business offering upper-end bath fixtures and hand-crafted vessel sinks to homeowners around the world.

With the copper bathtubs selling for up to thousands of dollars each, it’s hard to fathom how one was commissioned into service for Langley’s zaniest thrill ride and infamous “grudge match.” But this one happened to get unearthed and repurposed from a storage crate, tucked away for years because of a slight imperfection that rendered it unfit for sudsy service.

Jack Healy tries out his new vessel, called “Screaming Bubbles.” (Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record)

Jack Healy tries out his new vessel, called “Screaming Bubbles.” (Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record)

With the help and creative cleverness of longtime neighbor and real-life racing friend Mike Deilke, Healy repurposed that abandoned copper vessel into the Screaming Bubbles for South Whidbey’s cherished downhill race car competition in which nobody loses and every entrant gets a trophy. It’s all about ingenuity, costumes, wacky design and “a little bit of that Langley weirdness.”

The only steadfast criteria are as follows: The vehicle must be easy to steer, capable of braking and propelled by gravity alone. Helmets and shoes are a must.

John Lawson, one of the event’s volunteers, relates the history behind Langley’s Soup Derby, which is presented as a charity event by the Langley Community Club and Langley Main Street Association.

Now in its 47th year, the first Soup Box Derby hit the streets in 1972 as the brainchild of The Soup Coop, a once-thriving local restaurant.

In keeping with long-held tradition, so-called “grudge matches” form toward the end of the race, pairing off with “frenemies” for final competitions. “Bragging rights become important,” explains the event organizers.

Rumor has it that Healy’s finished aqua-racer will somehow involve bubbles and crash helmets made from shower caps, and that bathing-beauty drivers will switch off throughout the event. The lyrics of singer Bobby Darrin’s old hit will never ring truer than when the copper tub makes its debut at the Soup Box Derby next weekend.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper to the Herald.

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