Layton • The fifth annual Pallet Grand Prix on Friday had all the thrills and spills of a professional race: Cars zooming down the track, drivers focused on beating their competitors, a vehicle veering off course, spectators cheering wildly and excited winners crossing the finish line.
The event — held by PARC (Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center) in the parking lot of Layton Hills Mall — also had the special element of building awareness of the untapped labor pool of people with disabilities.
"It’s just a fun, feel-good event for the community," said Chad Miller, marketing manager of the Clearfield-based PARC, a nonprofit administered by Davis School District that helps adults with disabilities learn life skills and find employment.
Seventeen companies and schools entered the grand prix and built cars out of wooden shipping pallets based on the theme of "The Hero Within." The cars and drivers’ outfits referenced Superman, Captain America, Batman, Angry Birds (they protect their babies) and other heroes of the participants.
There were just a few rules for the cars, including no engines and brakes optional. The drivers were PARC clients and the power was supplied by two members from each race team who pushed the car down a 150-foot track.
The cars raced two at a time in elimination rounds. In the end, the Princess Power team of Melinda Gulbranson and Roben Rogers, who took turns in the driver’s seat, won.
The two, appropriately dressed in pink princess dresses, were cheered on by a large crowd of supporters wearing princess power T-shirts. Their team was sponsored by"The Moms," a group of family members and friends of PARC clients who exchanged fist bumps with Gulbranson after her car finished first in the deciding race.
The princesses’ competitors had just as much fun and everyone made it to the end of the race, despite a mishap involving the entry from Clearfield High School. As the car holding school janitor Jeff Weston was being pushed down the track, it suddenly lost a wheel and veered off course.
The students in the pit crew scrambled onto the track and carried the car, with Weston still behind the wheel, across the finish line.
Although he didn’t win his round, Weston was happy with how the race ended. With a big grin on his face, he said of the students, "They are way cool."
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