Monday, May 28, 2012

The Kinetic Sculpture Race

ARCATA, Calif.—The 44th annual Kinetic Grand Championship launched its three-day “Triathalon of the Arts” Saturday with the usual melee that took over the Arcata Plaza, before the noon whistle blew and nearly 100 whimsical human-powered wheeled sculptures shot off on the traditional 42-mile race over roads, sand dunes, mud and Humboldt Bay.

“For the Glory!” is the cry as articulated dragons, giant wing-flapping birds, Bigfoot, a 40-foot fire ant that shot balls of fire into the air, and more than 200 costumed support troops on bicycles took three wild laps around the Plaza and headed west toward Samoa. (Times Standard story.)

The original Kinetic Sculpture Race was the creation of Ferndale, Calif., sculptor Hobart Brown, who built a five-wheeled tricycle for his son in 1969. Inspired, other local artists challenged the pentacycle to a race down Main Street, and the annual tradition was born.

Since then, Arcata’s Kinetic Race grew into a three-day festival of art and engineering that has drawn thousands of spectators and competitors, and has inspired similar sculpture races worldwide, from Australia to Baltimore.   

Brown died in 2007, but Humboldt County kept the dream and the “Glory” alive. “Three Rutabaga Queens got together to form Kinetic Universe and run the race,” says the event’s website. “Kinetic Universe is adults having fun so children desire to grow older. We strive to promote Art, Sustainability and the sport of Human Powered All-Terrain Sculpture Racing around the world through the Kinetic Grand Championship.”

Here are some images from the Day One of this year’s ridiculous race.

Ted Pease

The Peace Crane gets its inspection before the start of the three-day race over roads, sand and Humboldt Bay.
Tweedle Dee’s mother.

The Lost Coast Brewery’s Fire Ant Wagon.
The Fire Ant crew doesn’t lack direction.
Bike rack, Arcata-style.
Kinetic Race judges are known for their somber, deliberative character.
Kinetic Kops—The finest in law enforcement and bribe-taking.
Kinetic officials are the model of decorum.
Thankfully, Kinetic Medics are poised to assist.
The Fire Ant is ready to BLOW.
It does make a nose noise...
Members of the Kinetic BadAss Queen’s Court.
Kinetic Kop Highway Patrol.
Kinetic Kops.
This Kinetic Kop cited me for a Race Day Violation of Out of Control Moustache. Like he should talk.
The Kingfisher revs up at the starting gate.
The Lost Coast Brewery’s Fire Ant lets go a spectacular fart.
Sasquatch puts his Foot down.
Officialdom at Kinetic Race Day.

Bigfoot’s Big Foot.
Hot Chili Peppers
Team Hot Chilis included ground support from a drum band and dancers.
On the sidelines above the Sidelines Bar.
“Safety” inspections are an essential part of the Race. As are bribes.

The Rutabaga Queen bestows her blessing.

It’s a dog-friendly event

The Roadkill Wagon (“No guts, no Glory”) . . .
. . . featuring buzzards and their own roadkill snacks.
The Peace Crane pit crew in a pre-race moment of reflection.
People- (and dog-) watching is as good as the competitors.

The sister team of Hot Chicks before the start . . .
. . . share a smoke. Good prep for pedaling?
Bribes—like this one from the Hot Chicks—are essential to success. At least as important as brakes and flotation.

Actually, in some ways, Race Day looks much like every day on the Arcata Plaza.

A brace of young spectators.

A silver slipper from the Blue Lake Casino sweet-talks the Kops.

As the noon start nears, the crowd is pressed back to the sidewalk.

And they’re off!

On Day One, the 3-day race scrambles five miles to the Manila Dunes and the dreaded Dead Man’s Drop to navigate soft sand and mud. On Day Two, the machines enter the water in Eureka to sink or swim across Humboldt Bay. And for survivors, there’s the final push to the finish line at Ferndale on Day Three. For the Glory!

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