Our season of festivals ends each year with a contest. You can’t win by being the best. The results have no value except to amuse. It’s a celebration of imagination, combining art and adaptive mechanics. It’s a Kinetic Sculpture race! No advanced degrees required.
The vehicles must be human-powered. They must be built to travel on land, in water, and through daunting mud pits. The top trophy, the Mediocrity Award, is earned by the entry judged to be the exact “middle of the pack”. Contestants base their vehicles on bikes, wagons and carts. The designs evoke fantastic animals, cartoons, and low-tech. They have many sizes of wheels, paddles and pontoons. Some belch fire, make animal noises, or play music.
The race is protected by Kinetic Kops who are encouraged to take bribes, and the entire consortium is presided over by our Rose-hip Kween. Entrants perform skits and songs, and a dance is held the night before the race.
The original event was accidently founded in 1969 by California sculptor Hobart Brown when, after “improving” his son’s tricycle, he was challenged to a race. Other artsy locals heard about it, made their own wacky vehicles, and demanded to paticipate. Port Townsend was the third town to adopt the tradition. We’ve been at it since 1983. Hobart piloted his personal vehicle off the Earth in 2007, but his intent to showcase “adults having fun so kids will want to get older” lives on. These races are now held in American cities, and internationally.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather, a silly time was had by all, and the festivities were filmed by a DJI Phantom quadcopter personal drone. It’s interesting to think that 21st Century technology was being used to record this contest of low-tech, human-powered transportation.
For you dedicated Invisible Mikey spotters, I ended up in some long-distance footage of the race. Between 3:36 and 4:15 (also in the freeze-frame below), you can see me, sort of. I’m at the left corner of the crowd at the water’s edge where the vehicles are entering. I’m dressed all in light khaki, in front of a person wearing bright red. I’m taking some of the photos that appear above.