17th Annual Boxcart Derby, Hopetown, Abaco

Monica, one of the local kids, with her newly painted face!

One of the coolest events in Hopetown takes place in late November, when local kids, big and small, gather together to race their home-made boxcarts down the one “big hill” in town.   Kids painted faces and sold hamburgers, homemade brownies, cookies, sweet rice squares, coconut candy, and popcorn.  Adults offered drinks and tee-shirts and raffle tickets, and the proceeds went to support local children’s sports and the community center.

Watch the Sea Gull Cottages cart head down the hill:

Below, find a video of the start of one race. Otis, the driver (and builder?) of the fancy white cart on the left, named “White Lightning,” has won all the races for the last five years.

Here’s a picture of Otis.  I love his outfit, don’t you?


Here is my favorite driver, the star of the show, as far as I was concerned.  She drove fast and skillfully.

Lauren, who drives really fast and won a lot of races
Lauren, who drives really fast and won a lot of races

I was happy to see a strong surge of girl power in these races.  Here is Lauren, in a speed trial:

The 80s car and it’s stylish driver getting a ride up the “big” hill.

Here’s a video of a string of carts getting a ride up the hill:

Two guys from Annapolis drove this cart down the hill.  In the final event, the slalom, they crashed into the bleachers, about one foot from where I was standing!
One of the carts made by kids in the local school.
Two kids confer with one another before the big race.
Everyone loved this friendly dog.
My personal favorite in the adult division.  Two women dressed up as Fred and Wilma.  Watch them in the video, below.

Did you know that the Official Drink of the Bahamas is the Swidgel?  There was a lot of Swidgel drinking going on.  Coconut water, a little sweet evaporated milk, and gin, for $5.   Maybe you have heard old Calypso songs about “gin and coconut water?” The drink is also called Gully Water and Sky Juice. I learned these last bits from Sandy Estabrook.   It’s intoxicating as heck, and delicious.  Tastes just like sweet milk.  All for the children, you understand.  Here are the official Swidgel sellers.  The guys driving the carts up the hill all day, from 10 to 5, labeled themselves the Swidgel patrol.  That’s what the tee-shirts said, with a red cross symbol beneath.  I’m pretty sure that they refilled every time they went up the hill.

Swidgel vendors

The most interesting person participating in the derby is an older woman who volunteers a lot on the island.  She has been here for at least 18 years, and has collected every single Big Hill Boxcart Derby teeshirt.  We loved watching her stylish and enthusiastic flag waving to identify the winner of each race.  Here she is in slow motion:

And here she is in action:

I can’t figure out how to take out the duplicate video, sorry.

There was only one black person, a child, in the entire race, and he didn’t want me to take his photo, so I didn’t.   Yeah, it was a mostly white affair.  Disappointing.  Race relations between Blacks and Whites are tense here in Hopetown.  The legacy of slavery is palpable here, grotesquely so.  But I’ll save my thoughts on that for another post.  We had a really good time at the derby.


Author: Kimberly Latta, Ph.D.

Psychotherapist, writer, artist, and independent feminist scholar.

One thought on “17th Annual Boxcart Derby, Hopetown, Abaco”

  1. Fun! I love the flintstone car! 🙂 See I obviously went home too early. I know nothing about this Swidgel! But I’m on it as soon as I get back! LOL. Travis will be there on the 15th. Me and the kids will be there on the 19th! Staying until January 4 for this trip. Hugs to you!


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