Aloysius Brown-Montgomery clutched the small trophy in his tiny fists.
The 2-year-old stood on his Big Wheel, looking at the swarm of kids eating hot dogs and cotton candy.
His father, Aloysius Montgomery, didn't want his son to lose his prize.
“Put it under your seat,” Montgomery told him.
The boy lifted the seat on his Big Wheel and slid the trophy into a compartment.
Young Aloysius earned the trophy in the 31st annual Big Wheel Derby held Sunday afternoon at Miller Park, 2707 Redick Ave. The annual event, organized by Bob Rodgers, is intended to show children younger than 10 that they are important to the north Omaha community, he said.
“A trophy is something kids can take pride in,” he said. “I want to show these kids that they are important. That's why everybody gets a trophy.”
Rodgers, 63, and event volunteers gave away 200 trophies to participants who raced their Big Wheels or bicycles in small groups of four or five.
“But they have to finish,” Rodgers said. “If they fall or get their chain caught up or whatever, they have to cross that finish line. It's just like life. Just like they have to finish school and stay away from drugs, they have to finish to get rewarded.”
The trophies were donated by people and organizations throughout the area and then customized for Sunday's derby. For example, Rodgers took trophies donated by bowling alleys, removed the bowler figures and nameplates and replaced them with bike figurines and small brass plaques.
Mary Flowers, who assisted with the event, said the purpose of it is to show children that they can rise above adversity and be successful.
“We are trying to do anything that will uplift our kids,” she said.
“There might be violence in our neighborhood, but we want parents and kids to remember that it is OK to come outside and have a good time.”
The popularity of the event also brought out football coaches interested in recruiting players.
John Manna, coach of the Junior Mavericks Football Club, said he recruited 26 kids Sunday.
“We just want to get these kids so we can teach them leadership skills, and it's about raising awareness for the importance of education,” he said.
He was joined by Tim Clemenger, coach at Northwest High School, where many of the neighborhood's children will attend.
“It's absolutely everything,” Clemenger said. “Not only are they learning basics like how practices work ... but they're learning the expectations of what it takes to play high school sports.”
The event's longevity means that kids who raced years ago now are bringing their own children, Rodgers said.
Cameron Koonce, 34, said he participated as a kid and has regularly brought his son, Cameron Koonce Jr., to the event.
Young Cameron, 10, displays the trophies on a shelf in his bedroom, with one more to add on Sunday. He also has the first trophy won by his father.
Koonce said he hopes the derby can continue to be a positive experience.
“To compete is just a good accomplishment,” he said. “Someday I hope he can pass down some of those trophies to his son.”