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Kinetic sculpture race

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Team Melvin crosses Humboldt Bay during the 2010 Kinetic Grand Championship

Kinetic sculpture races are organized contests of human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. The original cross country event, the World Championship Great Arcata To Ferndale Cross Country Kinetic Sculpture Race,[1] now known as 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.[2][3]

Race locations[edit]

Kinetic sculpture races are held in many locations:

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.[12]

Races were formerly held in Poland; Geraldton, Western Australia;[13] Clearlake, California;[14] and Prescott Valley, Arizona.[15]

World Championship[edit]

Duane Flatmo's Extreme Makeover crosses Humboldt Bay during the 2005 Grand Championship
Wet Paint enters Old Town Eureka

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 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.[16]

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 become the largest single event in Humboldt County.[17]

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.[16] In the early 1980s, Brown was referred to as the "Glorious Founder of the Kinetic Race" in a spectators' brochure.[18]

As the 1980s ended, a mineral water company began sponsoring the race, which adopted a family-friendly approach. Soon after, 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 92 feet (28 m) long sculpture Yakima KingFish was the longest ever raced according to its creator.[19]

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.[20] 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.[5][21]

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.[22] 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.[21] It was at this time that the races title was changed to Kinetic Grand Championship.[23] In 2009, the New Belgium Brewing Company became a sponsor.[24] In 2013, the annual Mother's Day Kinetic Klassic children's event moved from Ferndale to Eureka's waterfront Halverson Park.[25]

In 2014, the World Championship race course covered 42 miles (68 km), crossing a series of sand dunes, Humboldt Bay and the Eel River. The race began 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.[17][26] The race is broadcast live on local radio station KHUM.[27]

East Coast Championship in Baltimore[edit]

The 2011 Grand Mediocre East Coast Champion was Platypus. Built by David Hess, the two-ton sculpture is powered on land and water by 8 pilots, with an additional driver steering it along the 15-mile racecourse. Here, it races through Baltimore's Fell's Point neighborhood.[28]
Candy Haus won the 2010 East Coast Championship; here it enters the Baltimore Harbor at Canton.[29]

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 sponsored the race every year since.[30] On 4 May 2019, 22 teams brought 25 sculptures to Baltimore for the 21st East Coast Championship.[31] With the 2020 race postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next race was scheduled Saturday, 1 May 2021.[6] However, the 2021 edition was held as a "mini-race" owing to social distancing guidelines.[32] Twenty teams participated in the 22nd East Coast Championship on Saturday, 7 May 2022.[33]

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 miles (24 km) race begins with morning opening ceremonies and the Le Mans Start down Federal Hill to AVAM on the south side of the Inner Harbor, continues past well-known sites including the Maryland Science Center, Harborplace, the USS Constellation, the National Aquarium, and Fells Point, enters the water at Canton, continues with sand and mud challenges at Patterson Park, then through Butchers Hill and downtown to the finish line at AVAM in mid- to late-afternoon. An awards ceremony at AVAM concludes the event.[34]

In 2002, Baltimore's race included a loop around the Patterson Park ice skating rink, a challenging extension of the all-terrain aspect.[35] However, in the years since then the race occurs later in the spring to benefit from warmer weather – after the rink closes for the season.[36]

Rutabaga Queens and other numeraries[edit]

Early in the history of the Championship, contestants began to select an annual Rutabaga Queen.[26][37][38][39][40] with active Queens Pigtunia Swineheart (83/84), Queen Denise Ryles 2001,[41] Queen Mo "Mo Betta" Burke 2002,[42] Queen Mair "Jane Doe" Dodd 2003,[43] Queen Monica Topping 2004,[44] Queen Shaye "Flamebouyant Femme Fatale" Harty 2005,[45] Queen Harmony "Foxy Biloxi" Groves 2006,[46] Queen Emma "Emma the Emchantress" Breacain 2007,[47] Queen Kati "Lotta Paintbuckets" Texas 2008,[48] Queen Jermaine "Jermajesty" Brubaker 2009,[49] Queen Jennifer "Dinah Might" Thelander 2010, Queen Natalie Arroyo "G-ma" 2011,[50] and Queen Wendy "Sohotshe" Burns LaRutabaga" 2012.[51]

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 administer the Kinetic Grand Championship, 3-day Arcata to Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race,[5][21] and former queens participate in race administration.[52][53]

Other Kinetic Races select different botanical Queens, including the Rose-Hips Queen of Port Townsend, Washington.[54] In Australia, having already a real queen, the race selects a Goddess to rule over the festivities instead.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stein, Mark (27 May 1985). "Truly Moving Art : Zany Race Features Human_Powered Sculptures". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Weird and wonderful in Humboldt: Art hits the road in Northern California's annual Kinetic Sculpture Race". Sunset Magazine. 24 May 2006. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Humboldt County: A place apart". Salt Lake City, Utah Deseret News. 1 June 2003. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Kinetic Grand Championship". Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Sims, Hank (24 May 2007). "Kinetic konfusion". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Kinetic Baltimore". Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  7. ^ "LowellKinetic". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture Race". Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  9. ^ "DaVinci Days, Corvallis Oregon". Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Kinetic Sculpture Race, Ventura, California". Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  11. ^ Supreme Organizer. "Klamath Kinetic Challenge, Klamath Falls Oregon". Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby". Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  13. ^ a b "What's on – Kinetic Sculpture Race in March". Rotary Down Under Magazine. February 2004. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Lake County Events". Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Kinetic Sculpture Race trophies are fun pieces of art". Prescott Valley Tribune. 9 September 2008. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  16. ^ a b Stan Bennett (1975). Crazy Contraptions: A Light-hearted Look at Ferndale's Kinetic Sculpture Race. Low Tide Lumber Company.
  17. ^ a b "Mediocrity Trumps in Oddball Race". Wired. 29 April 2003. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  18. ^ Mitchell, Linda (22 May 2003). "Against the Tide: Hobert Brown fights to preserve his zany race". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  19. ^ mpayant (2 June 2015). "The Wild, Crazy Glory of the Strangest Race You've Never Heard Of". Outside Online. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  20. ^ Greenson, Thadeus (15 February 2008). "Kinetic Queens take to the ring". Eureka Times-Standard. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  21. ^ a b c "A kinetic save". Editorial. Eureka Times-Standard. 24 May 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  22. ^ Ringwald, George (20 May 1999). "Kinetic Countdown". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  23. ^ Sims, Hank (11 May 2011). "Kinetic Universe Responds To Browns Legal Threat". Lost Coast Outpost. Lost Coast Communications. Retrieved 10 May 2014.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "New Belgium – Events > Kinetic Grand Championship". New Belgium Brewing. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  25. ^ Richards, Dev (9 May 2013). "Every Mom's Kinetic Dream". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  26. ^ a b Brown, Hobart; Wilson, John (1990). Kinetic Sculpture Racing, A Complete Guide: Founder Hobart Brown Tells All. Hi Heart Publishing. ISBN 1-879312-07-7.
  27. ^ "KHUM-FM website". Lost Coast Communications. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race 2011 Race Report". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  29. ^ "Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race 2010 Race Report". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  30. ^ "Kinetic Sculpture Race". National Public Radio. 29 April 2001.
  31. ^ "Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race 2019 Race Report". Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race: Race Report: 2021 Honey, I Shrunk the Kinetic Sculpture Race". Kinetic Baltimore. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  33. ^ "2022 Race Report". Kinetic Baltimore. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  34. ^ Williams, IV, John-John (6 May 2006). "Peculiar contest puts artsy crafts in motion". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  35. ^ "Joo Chung's Galleries : Kinetic Sculpture Race (4/13/2002)". Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  36. ^ "A Brief History of the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race". Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  37. ^ Hillinger, Charles (16 April 1979). "No one cares who wins: People power propels world's nuttiest racers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  38. ^ Foster, Julia M. (30 April 1995). "Move over, Indy 500 | Kinetic Sculpture Race blends ingenuity, endurance and humor". The San Diego Union – Tribune. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  39. ^ Lauer, George (28 May 2000). "A Kinetic Sideshow on Wheels". The Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  40. ^ Cochrane, Myles (17 May 2011). "Royal invite to the Rutabaga Ball: This year's Rutabaga Queen to be crowned in Arcata Saturday". Eureka Times-Standard. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  41. ^ Faulk, James (28 May 2002). "Glory to the racers". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  42. ^ Crove, Lisa (19 June 2002). "Humboldt Pie – Mo Betta (2002)". SF Weekly. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  43. ^ Doran, Bob (20 May 2004). "The Hum". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  44. ^ Doran, Bob (19 May 2005). "The Hum". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  45. ^ Johnson-Stromberg, Ann (27 March 2006). "Some call it Rutabaga flambe". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  46. ^ "Kinetic Trash Fashion Show". Eureka Times-Standard. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  47. ^ Beech, Kai (25 May 2010). "All For the Glory". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  48. ^ Doran, Bob (1 July 2011). "Kinetic Klash Kontinues". North Coast Journal. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  49. ^ Garmire, Sean (26 May 2009). "A curious contest: Kinetic race sculptures scramble to the finish". Eureka Times-Standard. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  50. ^ Arroyo, Natalie (7 July 2011). "Last Call for Coho: An iconic species on the brink in the Mattole Valley and beyond". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  51. ^ Goff, Andrew (20 May 2012). "Bringin' da Heat! Your 2012 Rutabaga Queen: Sohotshe Burns!". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  52. ^ Cochrane, Miles (17 May 2011). "Royal invite to the Rutabaga Ball: This year's Rutabaga Queen to be crowned in Arcata Saturday". Tri-City Weekly/ Eureka Times-Standard. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  53. ^ Doran, Bob (19 May 2011). "Rutabaga Scramble". North Coast Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  54. ^ "RoseHips Kween". Port Townsend Kinetic Race. Archived from the original on 17 September 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011.

External links[edit]

World Championship[edit]

Other races[edit]