Kinetic sculpture race
Kinetic sculpture races are organized contests of human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. The original event, the Kinetic Grand Championship in Humboldt County, California, is also called the "Triathlon of the Art World" because art and engineering are combined with physical endurance during a three day cross country race that includes sand, mud, pavement, a bay crossing, a river crossing and major hills.
Kinetic sculpture races are held in many locations:
- Humboldt County, California hosts the annual World Grand Championship the last weekend of May. It spans 42 miles over 3 days.
- Baltimore, Maryland - the East Coast Championship sponsored by the American Visionary Art Museum covers 15 miles through downtown Baltimore and the harbor.
- Port Townsend, Washington
- Corvallis, Oregon - as part of their "da Vinci Days" Festival.
- Ventura, California - benefits the Turning Point Foundation.
- Klamath Falls, Oregon
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hosts a kinetic sculpture derby as part of the Trenton Avenue arts festival in the neighborhood of Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
There are other kinetic challenges, derbies and so on which follow some of the rules and traditions of kinetic sculpture racing, but are not an official part of it.
The concept of kinetic sculpture racing originated in Ferndale, California in 1969 when local sculptor Hobart Brown "improved" the appearance of his son's tricycle by welding on two additional wheels and other embellishments. Seeing this "Pentacycle," fellow artist Jack Mays challenged him to a race. Others later joined in creating a field of twelve machines that inaugurated the first race down Ferndale's Main Street during the town's annual art festival. Neither Hobart Brown nor Mays won; instead, the first winner was Bob Brown of Eureka, California whose sculpture was a smoke-emitting Turtle that laid eggs. The race received broad publicity when photos of Congressman Don Clausen riding the Pentacycle were seen nationally.
The event was repeated in 1970, and the course subsequently expanded to include cross-country terrain. When affiliated races were initiated in other cities and the course grew, the Ferndale event became the World Championship, and has grown into the largest single event in Humboldt County.
During the 1970s, the race adopted its present three day, cross-country format and became the "Triathlon of the Art World." Machines tackled mud, sand, water, gravel and pavement. Stan Bennett's book Crazy Contraptions chronicles the first five years of the race. In the early 1980s, Hobart Brown was referred to as the "Glorious Founder of the Kinetic Race" in a spectators' brochure.
As the 1980s ended, Calistoga Mineral water company began sponsoring the race, which adopted a family-friendly approach. Soon after, Yakima Products inc. a local manufacturer of sports racks and car storage boxes became interested in the race. The sponsors' financial support—especially the creation of the Kinetic Lab in Arcata—took the race to a new level of art and engineering. The Lab's 83-foot-long sculpture Nightmare of the Iguana was the longest ever raced.
During the 1990s, the race matured. Many contestants were younger than the race, having grown up with its philosophy, "Adults having fun so children will want to grow older," coined by Brown. As age and crippling arthritis limited his activities, he sold the race rights, the kinetic chicken logo and the trademark "For the Glory" slogan to a new not-for-profit agency called the Humboldt Kinetic Association in 2002.
The race course covers 41 miles, crossing both Humboldt Bay and the Eel River and includes a series of dramatic sand dunes known as "June's Dunes" and the aptly named "Dead Man's Drop" and the challenging Eel River exit at Morgan's Slough. The race begins on Arcata Plaza with the Saturday noon whistle; the race goes through Eureka and Loleta before reaching the finish line on the third day on Main Street in Ferndale.
Changing economics caused the sport rack company to leave the area and the water company to end their sponsorship. With no major sponsor and several years of county budget cutbacks reflecting statewide budget problems, the race experienced difficulties. In early 2007, Humboldt Kinetic Association abjured responsibility for the race. Race volunteers rapidly created Kinetic Universe, a new not-for-profit, to manage the 2007 race. In 2009, the New Belgium Brewing Company became a sponsor. In 2013, the annual Mother's Day Kinetic Klassic children's event moved from Ferndale to Eureka's waterfront Halverson Park.
East Coast Championship in Baltimore
In 1999, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore worked with Hobart Brown to start the first race in the Eastern United States, and has continued to sponsor the race every year since. On 7 May 2011, twenty-six teams brought 33 sculptures to Baltimore for the 13th annual East Coast Championship. The sixteenth annual race is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 3 May 2014.
In contrast to the rural flair of Humboldt County, the Baltimore race spans the city's urban center and is completed in a single day. The 15-mile race begins with morning opening ceremonies and the start at AVAM on the south side of the Inner Harbor, continues past well-known sites including Federal Hill, the Maryland Science Center, Harborplace, the USS Constellation, the National Aquarium, and Fells Point, has a water entry at Canton, an obstacle course at Patterson Park, and then returns through the city to the finish line at AVAM in the late afternoon. An awards ceremony at AVAM concludes the event.
In 2002, the race included a crossing of the ice rink in Patterson Park, a challenging extension of the all-terrain aspect. However, in the years since then the race has been held later in the spring to benefit from warmer weather—after the rink is closed for the season.
Rutabaga Queens and other numeraries
Early in the history of the Championship, contestants began to select an annual Rutabaga Queen. with active Queens Pigtunia Swineheart (83/84), Queen Denise Ryles 2001, Queen Mo "Mo Betta" Burke 2002, Queen Mair "Jane Doe" Dodd 2003, Queen Monica Topping 2004, Queen Shaye "Flamebouyant Femme Fatale" Harty 2005, Queen Harmony "Foxy Biloxi" Groves 2006, Queen Emma "Emma the Emchantress" Breacain 2007, Queen Kati "Lotta Paintbuckets" Texas 2008, Queen Jermaine "Jermajesty" Brubaker 2009, Queen Jennifer "Dinah Might" Thelander 2010, Queen Natalie Arroyo "G-ma" 2011, and Queen Wendy "Sohotshe" Burns LaRutabaga" 2012.
The 2004, 2005 and 2006 Queens were the founding members of the board of directors of the non-profit entity, Kinetic Universe Inc., created in 2007 to administers the Kinetic Grand Championship, 3-day Arcata to Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race, and former queens participate in race administration.
Other Kinetic Races select different botanical Queens, including the Rose-Hips Queen of Port Townsend, Washington. In Australia, having already a real queen, the race selects a Goddess to rule over the festivities instead.
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- "RoseHips Kween". Port Townsend Kinetic Race. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kinetic sculpture race.|
- KHUM radio, which covers the Humboldt County event.
- Kinetic Grand Championship race information for the Annual Grand Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race.
- Rutabaga Queens
- Photographs of 2006 race in the water
- Photos of the 2008 Race in Eureka
- KineticBaltimore.com including an extensive photo library of the East Coast Championship; Baltimore, Maryland
- Klamath Kinetic Challenge Klamath Falls, Oregon
- Da Vinci Days Kinetic Challenge in Corvallis, Oregon
- Prescott Valley, Arizona Kinetic Sculpture Race
- Port Townsend, Washington Kinetic Sculpture Race
- Kinetic Sculpture Race of Ventura, California
- Colorado Kinetic Sculpture Events