• This Is Rutherford

Event Recap: Rutherford Downhill Derby

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photos by Bonnie Corcoran, Sima Goldenberg and Jennifer Mazone


Chris Conti, Cooper Conti and Henry Jordan

Julia Alati singing the National Anthem

On June 15th, after the National Anthem was sung by RHS Junior Julia Alati, music, cheering and screams of excitement could be heard as Downhill Derby racers sped down East Pierrepont Avenue toward the finish line. This year the 3rd Annual Rutherford Downhill Derby attracted many participants and spectators . Founder of the RDD, Jeff Jordan, explained, “For the third year in a row, we were blown away by what people were able to design and build. There was a huge range of ideas with nearly 60 cars taking part in the race. Kids and adults alike have fully embraced the spirit of "dream, make and ride". We can't wait to see what people come up with for next year's race."

This event has become a highly anticipated family activity and is enjoyed by community members of all ages. “It was our first time at the Downhill Derby. I loved seeing how excited my son was to participate. It was also incredible to see the creativity apparent in all of the cars. It’s great to see so many people in town come together to participate in this event. It’s one of the reasons why I love living in Rutherford,” Brenda Hernandez told TIR.

Greg Recine and Hament Patel, Official Rutherford Downhill Derby Committee Members

The event showcased over 50 cars that are solely gravity powered. Each car was uniquely designed by its owner(s). Drivers younger than first grade were accompanied by an adult, otherwise drivers drove alone or with a friend/sibling. The racing lanes were surrounded by bales of hay to protect the drivers and all cars were inspected before the race to ensure the safety of the Derby cars. Ed Doherty told TIR, “It was a great day. I found the event to be very organized and the safety measures taken were perfect. Our boys had an accident with no injuries!”

Winner of the Best Town Spirit Award Charlie Conti and Jeff Jordan

Cars were separated into two classes: Maker and Soapbox. The Maker Class is made up of home built cars, while the Soapbox Class cars are built from a kit. Cars were judged by various community members representing different town organizations.

Alex and Jeff Shaari who won the Rutherford's Institute of Technology Engineering Award

The judges were asked to determine which car was the Most Patriotic, Best Theme Car, Most Town Spirit, Most Unique, etc. There were also awards given to the cars with the top 3 fastest times in each class and the Highest Time Car (Slowest).


Sarah Kupryk, third grade teacher at Washington School, explained, “I truly enjoy attending the Rutherford Downhill Derby to support my students in a setting that allows them to show off their ingenuity and creativity. It’s a great way for me to connect with my students outside of the classroom, but also a way for me, as a Rutherfordian, to feel connected with my community.”

Beth Toole and Jodi Cotugno at the Healing Hearts Table

There were also vendors and organizations who participated in the Downhill Derby on the lawn of the American Legion. Vendors included Ferazzolis Pizza, Colorful Face Painting, Journeys Through Glass, etc. Organizations included Healing Hearts of Rutherford, One Rutherford-Rutherford Public Schools, Meadowlands YMCA, etc.


“The Downhill Derby is a great opportunity to promote engineering, creativity, and critical thinking. It was a great family event and well organized by so many town volunteers. It was another example of a rich event that makes Rutherford such a special community to be a part of,” Sergio Alati explained.

Click on the arrow on the right to see the slideshow.



Soapbox Third Place- The Canoe

Soapbox Second Place- Ol' Hickory

Soapbox First Place- Racing in the Street

Maker Class Third Place- R2D2

Maker Class Second Place- Hot Rod

Maker Class First Place- Maker Depot Omega