Wednesday, May 7, 2008

2008 Kinetic Sculpture Race

I know, I know, I should have told you that it was last weekend. I will get my act together now that the weather is warm and lots of things will be happening around town. Saturday, May 2, was the 10th annual kinetic sculpture race in Baltimore. I had never been before last year. My daughter is involved. She attends Carver Center for Arts and Technology. She is a Literary Arts student but also a member of the engineering club. They build a sculpture every year and enter it into the race. It is alot of fun for her and this is her senior year, so it was an important event. Not that her participation is the only reason I go. I already plan to watch again next year.

This race is the most non-competitive competition I have ever witnessed. Everyone cheers for everyone. The race begins at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Federal Hill. It winds its way through city streets and city traffic all the way to the Canton Water Park. There the sculptures are launched into the water where they must navigate a short distance from the shore and back. From the water park it is an uphill climb to Patterson Park. After winding its way uphill the sculpture must try to make it through a sand pit and then uphill through a mud pit. You can hear the cheering a mile away. From there they race their way back to AVAM for the exciting finish.

The sculptures vary in size, shape and theme. Some are powered by a single person and some have many peddlers and paddlers. There are the yearly favorite crowdpleasers like Fifi and the huge elephant. There are some that are slightly modified every year, like the wombat who was on a skateboard last year and had a jazz band on it this year. My daughter's school decided on a cobra this year. They constructed it largely from recycled soda bottles. It had a miniature Fifi dangling from it's tongue. There was a fire truck, with the most colorful contestants. There was the Running with Scissors entry. It was awesome.

The weather was perfect, warm, not hot. It was overcast, but no rain fell. I tried to catch my daughter at the water park since she was piloting the sculpture through that part, but I missed it as they were one of the first to go through that part. But it was wonderful to see the other competitors give it a try. It is wonderful to hear all the cheers. It is also a prime people watching event. I don't know why so many observers show up in costume, but they do.

There are awards given each year for the Grand Mediocre sculpture, which finishes in the exact middle of the pack and the People's Choice Award, the crowd gets to have a say. Unfortunately, the Carver Center Cobra, was forced to drop out after the water park due to a chain malfunction. But there's always next year.

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