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Montana’s first mountain soap box derby to coincide with Livingston brew fest April 8

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Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

After cutting, shaping, fitting and welding over 200 pounds of steel, Mike Ries of Bozeman and four of his co-workers are beginning to see their idea take shape.

“It’s going to be different,” Ries said of his two-person gravity-powered soap box car. With a single fat bike tire in the front and four smaller BMX tires in the back, this racer is anything but classic. “It’s actually a fairly simple idea, but [the design] allows the back to absorb bumps well,” Ries said.

Ries and his co-workers are preparing for the Adult Mountain Soap Box Derby held April 8 in Livingston, in conjunction with the annual Tap into Montana Brew Fest. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., teams will race in front of spectators down a quarter-mile of rocky, unpaved road, buckled into motor-less cars built by the participants. The fastest team will win $250.

“It’s the first ever adult mountain soapbox derby in Montana,” said event producer Frank Gazella, Jr. “Most [derbies] are on a paved road. We wanted to do something different and a mountain derby incorporates what Montana is about: rugged and a challenge.”

The course runs down an incline on Meyers Lane, south of Highway 191 in Livingston, and culminates in a turnout overlooking the Yellowstone River. Unlike most derbies, Gazella’s incorporates bumpy terrain and turns, so contestants will need to think about suspension, brakes and steering.

Tap into Montana is a weeklong celebration of craft beer in Montana, with the signature beer festival culminating the event April 8. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ERIK PETERSEN PHOTOGRAPHY

Tap into Montana is a weeklong celebration of craft beer in Montana, with the signature beer festival culminating the event April 8. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIK PETERSEN PHOTOGRAPHY

Gazella is the founder of Creek to Peak Wear, a Bozeman-based outdoor apparel brand, and is passionate about the outdoors. His passion fuels a creativity which sparked the creation of his clothing line last fall and is fanning his vision for the future. According to Gazella, the soap box derby is a fun and creative way to advertise his brand, and he hopes it will grow into a Montana-wide soap box derby series.

Spectators are invited to line the course to watch and cheer on the teams, and Gazella will be asking for donations that will support Gallatin Valley Land Trust, a non-profit organization that works to make a difference in land conservation and trail building in southwest Montana.

“GVLT is grateful to be receiving proceeds from the Soap Box Derby,” said GVLT Communications Director EJ Porth. “Creek to Peak adventure wear cares deeply about this special place and is committed to protecting it for future generations. We’re lucky to be partnering with them on a fun community event. Everyone wants to be a kid again and ride in a homemade race car, right?”

The derby comes at the tail end of Tap into Montana, a week-long brew fest in Livingston featuring over 25 craft breweries from around the state. This is the third annual event and encompasses a week of craft beer related events, such as beer pairing dinners, yoga at the brewery and beer trivia. Tap into Montana’s signature event, the Brew Fest, is April 8 from 2 to 7 p.m.

Big Sky’s Lone Peak Brewery is excited to be a part of Tap into Montana’s Brew Fest for the first time this year, and will offer two nitro beers at the event. Co-owner Steve Nordahl expects to bring a growler or two of a more unique brew as well.

Net profits from Tap into Montana will benefit the non-profit Vision Livingston, an organization that supports the long-term development of the Livingston community.

 For a complete schedule of Tap into Montana and to purchase tickets in advance, visit To learn more about Creek to Peak’s first ever Adult Mountain Soap Box Derby, visit

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