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Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore

Fantastic sculptures race through the streets of Baltimore, powered only by humans. For fifteen grueling miles, racers push, pull, and pedal their entries. The race starts at the American Visionary Arts Museum (which sponsors the race), goes up Federal Hill, into the harbor at Canton Waterfront Park, and finally through sand and mud at Patterson Park, before making it back to the museum. Held on the first Saturday of May, the event starts at 9:00 a.m., and (it is hoped) all of the contestants have made it back to AVAM by 5:00 p.m.

Here's my report from the race in 2011:

The Kinetic Sculpture Race is hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum.  The sculptures are amphibious, human-powered works of art.  The race covers 15 miles through the streets of Baltimore, and even a little dip into the Chesapeake Bay.

This year's race was fantastic in every sense of the word, from the sculptures to the attendees to the city sights all along the race.

The best sculptures were the ones that combined artistry with engineering skill.  Watching these wonderful works of art navigate the streets of Baltimore, I was struck with how much thought and energy must have gone into their creation.

"Go Ask Alice" was a 35-long blue caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.  Not only was it strikingly beautiful, but seaworthy, too!  Okay, so it strayed off course due to unfavorable winds.  But it floated, and after the water entry leg of the race, it was able to complete the rest of the race.  It was an engineering marvel, which also ejected "cat-a-poop" from its rear end.  It was an empty toilet paper roll with candy inside…a Tootsie Roll, appropriately enough.  As it floated by, you could hear the song of the same name by Jefferson Airplane.

"Pussy Galore" was not an homage to James Bond, but to the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons.  The detail on this sculpture was amazing.  Kitties everywhere:  on the carpet on the sofa, on the TV set, and flying through the air for no apparent reason.  It was powered by four people in cat costumes on bicycles attached to the front.  When it came time for the water entry, the bicycles were raised by a winch so that they stayed out of the water.  It may have been a little bit unbalanced in the water, but by shifting the kitties around, the proper distribution of weight was restored, and it did not sink.

"Am-Ish Sin Caballo" was an Amish buggy with pontoons on the side.  If you've never seen a buggy float before, here was your chance.  I'm certainly never going to forget it.  I never figured out the name of this sculpture.  My best guess is that "sin caballo" is Amish for "with pontoons."

Other notable sculptures included a giant brain called "Lobe Trotter," a snail named "Margot the Escargot," "Bob" from Takoma Park, and "Fifi Le Pink Poodle."  You can find out more about the race results at http://www.kineticbaltimore.com/, which is also where I picked up the valuable Spectator's Guide to the race.

There was more to look at than kinetic sculptures, however.  People dressed for this event.  Even I wore a red fez and a shirt with picture of a monkey wearing a red fez.  But that was nothing compared to the outfits I saw at the race.

I took many pictures, and some videos, and they be viewed by going to my Flickr set called Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, 2011.  I can't wait for the next race, and I'm already thinking about my costume.

P.S. There's also a Flickr set for the Kinetic Sculpture Race, 2014, and on YouTube you can view a 38-second video which captures the antics of "Tick Tock the Croc": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkmNQ-kueGc

Copyright © 2000-2010, Julie Mangin. All Rights Reserved. April 2, 2016