Saturday 27 April 2003
It was gloomy in Baltimore the morning of April 27. But that didn't stop the crowds from coming to the greatest race on the east coast. The number and creativity of competitors gets better every year, and rain couldn't dampen that spirit. The weather improved as the day progressed. Here are pictures if you were foolish enough to be somewhere else, and memories if you were clever enough to be there.
Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime, development toward this day's frivolous delight would have been suitable inspiration for the effort of those 3 billion years.
the poodle returned for the ceremonial start, and ran the initial lap around Federal
Hill. Then this cheerful staple of past years retired to the AVAM garage. The Visionary
Museum's Mother Theresa Segreti had conceived a new, grander entry for this years race....
new Indian Elephant is a masterpiece! "Bumpo" comes complete with a waving Mahatma
Gandhi made of pantyhose on top. This is the only sculpture I've seen with a roof hatch
allowing a pilot to climb out on top (to share the saddle with Gandhi). During the second
water course near the Museum of Industry, Bumpo went off course, but her pilots took advantage of
the situation and started schmoozing with the crowd using her remote-controlled trunk. The
only problem was that the elephant requires a huge amount of time to reconfigure between water and
land riding, and is so big it held up the race interminably while pontoons were inflated and
ratcheted into place. Bumpo received the well-deserved People's Choice and Sock Creature
of the Universe for its sock puppet that all sculptures are required to carry.
teapot from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland was the most amazing new
sculpture this year. The Queen of Hearts is seen here peering out to steer, while the giant
teaspoons paddle the craft along. The whole crew was dressed up as characters from the
party. Not surprisingly, they won the award for Best Costume, and also for Best
Bribes. This large craft was amazingly maneuverable in the water, turning on a dime; I have no
idea how they controlled it so effectively in the water. This spouted delight comes from
The Make Believers, the same folks who constructed 2002's amazing "Stomp in the Name of Love" sculpture
propelled by Kinetinauts' grape-mashing motion which had the most novel propulsion technique I've
seen at any race, and this teapot shows the same attention to detail. For instance, you may be
able to see that the round porthole flaps they used to cover the spoon-holes were painted on both
sides to match the bright teapot motif. Lewis Carroll would be proud.
police were hot on the trail of Louie's Bone Wagon, the gorgeous dog sculpture, which did an amazing
job of capturing the canine spirit. The head and tail were semi-rigid and bounced
jubilantly, and the expression on its face is priceless. This was the work of Eli and David
Hess, and won the Engineering Award.
sculpture celebrated the wedding of two Baltimore commercial foodstuff icons--the one-eyed National
Bohemian beer man, and the similarly round-headed Utz potato chip girl. On land, two mountain
bikes were attached by wooden strips to the trailer; in water, the bikes were fastened to the
trailer and paddles propelled them. This culinary romance is the creation of Cindy Willow and
Jennifer Haines of the University of Maryland.
"SARS Patrol Team" had this peculiar design with its two pilots facing backwards, making
steering a challenge. While the design was implemented on an unlavish budget--air mattresses,
unadorned blocks of styrofoam, and a rickety frame of wooden sticks--they made it all the way
through the race and won the Next to Last award. By Jay Gelman and company.
Bulldog Seeks Bone
was built by students at Kennedy Krieger High School. One pit crew member skateboarded the entire race.
Minnie chased a bone made of girder toys held in front on a
long pole. As a bush-league entry, it did not enter the water. A Frank Lee production.
Hansson—the beaver guy—was back, but the rain prevented him wearing the Beaver Costume that was to
be the piéce de rèsistance of his sculpture. Without its encumbrance, he did, however, win the Speed
Award for finishing the course fastest. Be sure to check out the previous two years' beavers on
the links at the top and bottom of this page for examples of his past creativity.
the giant amphibious duck, was escorted by a crew of young students from the Catholic Community
School, who biked along the entire course like ducklings. They won the awards for Best Pit
Crew and Spirit of the Glorious Founder. Note the miniature duck just above the front
wheels, configured to look like it was steering. Unlike most ducks, Daley wears pontoons.
bold giant eye unfortunately didn't survive long into the race, so Mike Peters and the rest of Team
Eyeball were left driving an odd shiny aluminum contraption lacking its most dramatic component.
Hillbillies used the PVC-pipe pontoon strategy that had proven disastrous two years earlier for
another competitor who immediately sank. On this sculpture, though, the pipes were fastened
more securely, and they navigated land and sea with festive matching outfits. Note the
explosion-of-feathers creature perched atop the sculpture.
found this pitiful statement of irony lying in the gutter--a soggy cardboard sign that had fallen
off a sculpture suffering in the rain.
However, in the greatest Don Quixote spirit, James Vorosmarti & company pulled their Impossible Dream sign out of the gutter and refastened it to their sculpture. During the race, their windmill lost one of its vanes, they took on dozens of gallons of water in the water course and looked in danger of sinking, and you can see how hard they had to push through the mud! But they persevered and finished the race. No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.
The mud this year was too thick and deep--not a single sculpture
made it through under its own power. In previous years, a few especially well-designed
vehicles were successful, but this year they had a foot thick of solid mud was too much for even the
best design to slog through under its own power. The mud sucked off folks' shoes, and people
were diving into it--until one boneheaded teenager ran all the way through the mud and dove into its
shallow edge at the far side, smashing his head into the pavement two inches down and requiring
frog returned for a second year; despite its amphibious nature, it required as much
pedestrian-assisted pushing through the mud as all the others.
piloted this Roadboat vessel, complete with mermaid mud flaps. He suffered an early
breakdown, which was too bad because he designed it so he could propel it on land by rowing like a
rowboat. His sculpture couldn't continue on land, but the kinetinaut continued undaunted in
the water, and won a Golden Flipper award for having the most interesting water entry.
He promises to return in 2004 with an improved Roadboat.
Paulsen's superhero vessel had a matching paddle. During the mud section, he got stuck like
everyone else. But where they really stood out was when he and a member of his pit crew ran a
rope through the metal loop at the front of his sculpture, and tried to pull it out. Since the
rope wasn't actually tied to the sculpture, but was loose through the loop, they began
a vaudeville comedy routine--they'd almost synchronize their heaving, but over and over again
one of them was a second or two behind the other, so they'd alternately heave at the slack and at
the other person's grip, rather than pulling the sculpture forward. After quite a few tries,
they finally got synchronized enough to pull the sculpture onward.
cute rat struggles up the hill after the first water entry, but was at home on land and sea.
Their shirts read Equipe du Rat. This most artistic of one-person crafts was created by
Theadora Brack; Drew Shelton assists in the uphill climb.
sculpture called "Bedlam" won the Grand East Coast National Mediocre Champion award
for finishing in the middle. It's created by Bobby Hansson and Bill Lepley of Chloe
Fabricating, in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania, with Maggie Creshkoff and Jan Loney rowing.
Shrimptastic float from Towson University was exquisitely detailed, including fabulous shrimp
costumes for the pilots and support-shrimp on bikes. Like the teapot folks, these guys
definitely know how to make an artistic statement in the Spirit of the Race. They won the Pilot's
the shrimp paddles used by the Shrimptastics for water propulsion, the giant celery pieces, and the
delightful floppy shrimp feelers attached to their helmets. I'm going to check out the
Fallston Seafood Restaurant to see if the food's as good as the sculpture. (And don't miss the
volcano sculpture in the background.)
volcano started the race with smoke billowing from its cone, but the early downpours quenched its
fuming. Nonetheless, this great hunk of creativity survived the water courses admirably, and
had a particularly easy time driving into and out of the water. Jeff and teacher Phil Brauer
of Carver High School in Towson created it.
There was also a Dragon of Death in the race, but I somehow managed to miss it in my photos.
The photos on this page were also featured on Slashdot and Wired simultaneously.
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