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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2008 Race Report

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Saturday 3 May 2008

The tenth running of the East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race Championship in Baltimore was a dramatic spectacle! Forecasts of rainy weather cleared, giving us a delightful day. Only one of the twenty-eight teams even semi-capsized on the Harbor, but the sculptures were fantastic! Some of the water entries were among the best ever! The most dramatic kinetic advance was a live jazz band of Kinetinauts playing as they piloted their sculpture through the course.

Thanks to our team of four photographers and seven cameras, we are proud to present better coverage than ever before.  Some of the photos are awesome, if we do say so ourselves.

This race was the first since the death of the founder of Kinetic Sculpture Racing, Hobart Brown. Much of the race—including part of the opening ceremonies and one entire sculpture—was dedicated to Hobart’s memory. But thanks to his unique indefatigable spirit, Kinetic Sculpture Races all over the world serve as his fantastic legacy.

The Champion: Rat Rod

The tenth winner of the annual Grand Mediocre East Coast Championship was Rat Rod. A mechanical embodiment of the Rat Fink character by the late Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, it sported 3-wheel drive, 4 pilots (two visible and two hidden), and 5 wheels. It’s from the folks who created Goes to Eleven in 2007.

You can see the deployable exhaust pontoons—compare the location of the chrome pipes on the top photo and at the water entry.

The large rear “tires” turned into paddlewheels with supplemental inner tube flotation when the covers were removed.

Pilots are Glenn Lehman, Mike Cullen, Mike Phillips, and Sue Harris Phillips, who received considerable support from Jim McGuire.


Wilma & the WOMBATS

With thousands of witnesses, the world’s first human-propelled blue wombat New Orleans jazz band made its amphibious debut with a high-velocity plunge into the Baltimore Harbor. If there were any more creativity squeezed into one instant, it would collapse into a singularity.  They paused the music to brace for acceleration into the water, then plunged into the harbor with such force that both air-filled 55-gallon flotation drums on the front of the sculpture were completely submerged. Their crowd-pleasing Dixieland sound surged back once they were cruising on the water. The WOMBATS were a huge hit, a fabulous advance in the Multisensory Kinetic Arts. They easily won the People’s Choice award, for the people are wise.
Last year’s 1-seater Blue Wombat returned as the 4-seater Wilma & The WOMBATS (Wayward Outcast Musicians Battling Apocalyptic TribulationS).  Here it’s being towed by the PLATYPUS out of the water.  Wilma has the transmission from a Toyota MR2, with 2-wheel drive. Wilma and the PLATYPUS are the work of Kinetic Genius David Hess of Phoenix, Maryland.
Sculptures have often played music during the race—but using recordings and a stereo. Wilma’s WOMBATS, however, are a seriously good band that played New Orleans jazz as they drove the sculpture.  The lead WOMBAT was Aric Wanveer on the trombone.

Their pit crew were Hereford High School students costumed as Australian animals.

Wilma is more sculpted than most entries. The dramatic stance, muscle tone, and posture give Wilma a great deal of exciting character.



Wilma was accompanied by the return of the lovable Pokey the PLATYPUS (Personal Long-range All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe).  Pokey comes equipped with hydraulic steering and brakes, and didgeridoos.

Like the WOMBAT, Pokey created a huge splash when she hit the water, soaking the media and race officials on the pier.

By using automobile components, David Hess’ sculptures are extraordinarily robust—some sculptures would crumble to bits if they dove into the water with such gusto.

Pokey encountered trouble in the sand, and had to back out and try again.  But after some fixes, she then proceeded handily through the sand and mud.

Pilots were David Hess, Eli Hess, George Hess (the eldest at 70 years of age), Mike Myers, Eric Salisbury,  David Ferraro, Mic Ferraro, Peter Machen,  Jeff Jennings, Mark Gibson, and Tim Duke.



HB1GF featured giant brains in a tribute to Hobart Brown, 1 Glorious Founder of the first Kinetic Sculpture Race. It is the creation of the Gugliuzza family of Hyattsville, creators of 2007’s Air Farce One.

They won the Engineering award because the judges continually expected that their craft would produce some sort of dramatic failure, yet it chugged through every obstacle.

At the water entry, they unfurled a large scroll and read its tribute to Hobart.


When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly is an extraordinarily cute wide-eyed winged porcine entry from the César Chávez Public High School in Washington, DC. They received the Next to Last award; they weren’t fast but they did complete the race.


Fiah Twuck

The Make Believers returned with their 7th annual entry, Fiah Twuck. This amazing team remakes their sculpture every year, and are experts at creating solid-looking sculptures that are light enough to ride on unreinforced bicycle wheels. For instance, the truck’s front grill is a modular plastic shelf painted silver. The bright red playful tribute to firefighters did marvelously in all terrain.

Their enthusiastic squad included three people dressed as fire (complete with sparks shooting from their hats). They won the Best Pit Crew award. Costumer Andree Maslen’s designs were inspired by photos in the Fire Museum of Maryland of 19th-century uniforms. The hats are made out of plastic flower pots; and gold-painted chicken toys replace the golden eagles found on front of the original helmets.

Captain Larry Klemm led pilots Frank Conlan, Eric Jack, and Karen Klimek, all from Baltimore. Pit Crew were Fiah Chief Peter Stern, Holly Tominack, Michael Rios, Rocco Andrews, and Jim Russ as Sparky the dalmatian.

The headlights were operational.
Make Believers founder and kinetic genius Frank Conlan looks out from the sculpture in Fells Point.


Think Tank

The veteran It Cain’t team returned with a militant pink peacenik theme in Think Tank. The sculpture was so fast and effective on all terrains that it won both the Speed award and an ACE award for successfully adhering to all the extra-rigorous ACE rules. Pilots were Richard Price, Michael Shening, Krista McKim, and Karin Olsen.

The pink foam tread required cajoling to stay on track, but floated far better than most tanks.
The airzooka cannon atop the sculpture launched giant smoke rings.



The American Visionary Art Museum’s Fifi returned in her role as race mascot, this year with a Marie Antoinette theme. Her long-legged bewigged pilots pedaled the 13-mile course in high heels and won Best Costumes.


99% Chimp

Tony Walker created 99% Chimp as a tribute to the genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees.  They won both Best Bribes and Tony’s third consecutive ACE, following on 2007’s Alzaruba’s Recycled Ocean and 2006’s World Peas.


It’s Ben-Hur, Hon!

When you look from the right side, It’s Ben-Hur, Hon! is a chariot from Ben-Hur. From the left it’s modern Bal’mer. On the right, the barnacle chariot-rider’s hat is a Roman legion helmet (using a red floor brush), and from the left he has a beehive hairdo straight from Hairspray. This team built last year’s Acme Kinetic Sculpture featuring Wile E. Coyote in just 3 weeks. Captain Paul Seiffert leads pilots Beth Venderhoff, Jason Williams, Dave Gray, and Alan Schittman. They started working on this sculpture just before the death of Ben Hur star Charlton Heston. Their hand-crank propeller was surprisingly effective in the water. They won Pilots’ Choice, selected as the favorite by the other racers.


Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors is a 12-foot tall sarcastic response to parenthood from a group of neighbors from Severna Park, Maryland, who are new to the race this year. Bill Jaeger leads fellow pilots Paul Kaus, Pete Bourgeois, Peggy Jaeger, and Charlie and Denise Goepel.


Jemicy Three: Revelation, The Sneaky Moose, and Viscar Boot Attempt #3

The Jemicy School has been entering the race since 2004, and submitted three entries this year. Together the three sculptures won the Spirit of the Glorious Founder awarded by Queen Shaye and Queen Emma who had come to the race from the Kinetic Kingdom of Humboldt County, California.

This is Revelation, made of found parts and intended to be the simplest and cheapest sculpture in the race.
The Sneaky Moose is a remake of one of their sculptures from 2007, and won an ACE award.
Viscar Boot #3 is the third attempt of that name, in memory of their 2004 clacking wooden sculpture that broke down on the starting line and won that year’s Worst Honorable Mention. This year, they won an ACE.


Garden of Kinetic Delights

Garden of Kinetic Delights is a tribute to the religious visions of the late gothic artist “Anonymous Botched”. It’s a medieval cart of monsters of the unconscious on their way to the Garden of Kinetic Delights, a tragic view of human existence and the triumph of sin. Don’t miss their helmets in the form of a funnel and a rabbit. It was sponsored by Artex Fine Art Services of Landover, Maryland. The team is made of Artex employees and museum professionals who would prefer to remain anonymous.



Camelot comes from Eldersburg Elementary School, led by art teacher Denise Ovelgone. In the Eldersburg tradition spanning 4 years, the sculpture transformed during the race. It started as a gigantic castle.

At the waterfront, they took down the walls and continued as a DaVinci-style airplane made of wood. Their pit crew was dressed in medieval costumes and performed a dance before the water entry. Camelot won the Art award.


Nice Tots

Nice Tots is a bowl of the best tater tots in town, sponsored by Ale Mary’s of Fells Point. Pilots are Thomas Rivers and Paul Peckacheck. They had the cunning and fortitude to win an ACE award.


Otter Chaos

Otter Chaos is a centrally-hinged umbrella-equipped entry from the Gottwald family of Great Falls, Virginia. Don’t miss their cute otters on the pontoons.


Fish Out of Water

Fish Out of Water is a father-daughter team from Falls Church, Virginia.  They designed and built their entry in the 2 weeks after the application deadline. Pilots Greg and Julianne Kelly were competing in their first sculpture race.


Pirate Punks

Pirate Punks is an amphibious treasure chest from the Baltimore Lab School, entering for their fifth year. In the past, their entries have always been in the Bush League—meaning that they completed the entire race except the water. (There were no Bush League entries in 2008.) This year, as you can see, they participated fully! Pilots include Laura Parkhurst, Andrew Merritt, Denise Walker, Nick Cain, Matt Wagoner, Matt Tennies, and Matthew Kokoslea.

They won the Hobart Brown Look-a-Like Sock Creature award for their mandatory sock creature dressed like Hobart and with a face silkscreened from a photo of the Glorious Founder.



Coca-Cobra is from the Baltimore Carver Center for Arts and Technology. It is a remade version of last year’s Sea Cat. They have been competing since 2003, when they entered an amphibious human-powered volcano. Pilots for much of the course were teachers Phil Brauer and Duncan Clements.

On the water, students Emily and Yasha took over.  They won the Golden Flipper award because the sculpture lacked sufficient pontoonage, and plunged Yasha into the bay, a victim of the Pontoon Effect. Undaunted, he swam around the pier with the sculpture, while Emily rowed the sculpture around. It was a clear violation of the 8% Total Body Wetness Rule that stipulates that racers must generally remain dry, and their race completion time received the appropriate penalty.

In a normal year, about three sculptures suffer catastrophic failure on the water. This year, however, not a single sculpture capsized, and this was the most dramatic problem experienced at the Canton Waterfront!


UMBC’s You’ve Got What It Takes

The University of Maryland Baltimore County returned with You’ve Got What It Takes, which this year took the form of a Moai with a kinetic smile. Note the interesting configuration of pilots in which one faces forward and three face backward.

At the mud, the pilots exited the sculpture (in technical violation of the rules) and pushed it. But they suffered a major crash that separated the foam stone idol from the sculpture. For this they won the Golden Dinosaur award for most memorable breakdown. They carried the Moai for the rest of the race; you can see it being hefted over a bollard as the pit crew raced through the Inner Harbor.


Nautical Nymph

Nautical Nymph is the first entry from the Kinetic Sculpture Team at the University of Virginia Art Department in Charlottesville. It has one pilot and one barnacle, and features Undine, maiden of the sea. The pilot was Erika Atzl of Alexandria, Virginia. The corseted barnacle riding in back was Jessica Brown of Gainesville, Virginia.

A Barnacle is someone who rides on a sculpture but doesn’t propel it. According to the rules, a barnacle must weigh at least 93 pounds, and “Barnacles may not in any way assist in the movement or propulsion of the sculpture and must stay seated while on the course. The Barnacle may direct and encourage the pilots by yelling and being an annoying backseat nudge, but must refrain from using really bad, ugly words.”


Green Racer X

Green Racer X is the world’s most environmentally-conscious dragster from the Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia, who have been astonishing race spectators since they won both Worst Honorable Mention and Best Pit Crew at the first annual Baltimore race in 1999. They’ve added bamboo to their previous Auto de Trash entry. Pilots are Vance and Skyler Lehmkuhl.

Even though they broke off their front wheel in the sand and skipped the mud, they did finish the remainder of the 13-mile racecourse.


Kinetic Airways

Bob Buerger of Frederick brought back Kinetic Airways for its ninth year. For the third straight year, he sought an ACE award, but instead suffered a catastrophic breakdown. Last year, he had a mechanical failure on a giant pothole at the water entry (you may remember the Baltimore City pothole crew that fixed it). In 2008, he had a brand-new transmission but after losing his three lowest gears was unable to complete the sand portion of the race. Bob has also raced in the World Championship in Humboldt County, California.  As you can see, Bob pulled a wheelie getting up the ramp at the water exit.


AVAM’s Bumpo, Frog, and Rat

In addition to Fifi, AVAM raced three other standard-bearers. Here, Bumpo the elephant tears through the finish line tape. Bumpo came equipped with a hand-crank blender and prepared mango lassis they distributed throughout the race.
The Frog suffered a serious (but not fatal) eye injury.
Penitent Kinetic Monk Brother Joe carried the pontoons for The Rat through the mud.



Popemobile is dedicated with love and reverence to the memory of John Paul II. It was piloted by Ross Dixon and Carolyn Black who founded the UMBC kinetic team. They managed to win an ACE award, but only through the most dramatic perseverance. On the water, their rear-wheel drive design meant that the floating tires didn’t get any traction—until one of the pilots straddled the back of the sculpture to weigh it down. Even then, they were unable to climb the ramp out of the water with pedal power, so they leaned over the handlebars and cranked the tires by hand. Combined with their duct tape construction, the judges awarded the Worst Honorable Mention given to the sculpture “whose half-baked theoretical ‘engineering’ did not deter its pilots from the challenge of the race.”

Nice hats!


Festivity Among the Crowd

Many spectators, pit crew, volunteers, and pilots dressed up to a delightful extent. Here are some of them.

We will miss you, Hobart.



Special Thanks to the Baltimore City Police

In the past few years, the Baltimore City Police have been featured in a variety of TV shows like Homocide and The Wire. While these programs claim to portray life as it really is, not one single episode shows the police at the Kinetic Sculpture Race. In real life on race day, there’s always a police boat in the harbor, and several officers escort the race throughout the city.

The photo at the far left shows how the race can be serious work. In the afternoon, the sculptures head east along Pratt Street on the north shore of the Inner Harbor. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the sculptures are going the wrong way, directly opposing traffic. The motorcycle officer and car support are clearing the lane for the Garden of Kinetic Delights to lead a caravan of festivity through the heart of Baltimore. This race would simply be impossible without the Baltimore Police.

Sometimes, officers have difficulty maintaining a straight face when working with us. That’s good—the whole point of Kinetics is for everyone to have a good time.

Thank you, Baltimore City Police.


The Team

The 2008 KineticBaltimore team consists of five members:

Andy Carruthers
(our new member)
Chief Photographer and Visual Storyteller Extraordinaire
  Michael Cooney
Ramp Master and Crowd Wrangler
Johanna Goderre
Director of Benevolence
    Karen Wallace
Supreme Instigator of Kinetic Finery, Mad Haberdasher, and Festivator of the Masses
Tom Jones
Creator of Fine Websites, Maps, Spectator’s Guides, and other Paraphernalia to the Kinetic Trades, and Kinetic Seer #746 ordained by the Glorious Founder, Hobart Brown.

To see others’ coverage of the race, be sure to check out the Links page.

Show individual pages
  1. 2008 Champion: Rat Rod
  2. Wilma & the WOMBATS
  4. HB1GF
  5. When Pigs Fly
  6. Fiah Twuck
  7. Think Tank
  8. Fifi
  9. 99% Chimp
  1. It’s Ben-Hur, Hon!
  2. Running with Scissors
  3. Three from Jemicy
  4. Garden of Kinetic Delights
  5. Camelot
  6. Nice Tots
  7. Otter Chaos
  8. Fish Out of Water
  9. Pirate Punks
  10. Coca-Cobra
  1. UMBC’s You’ve Got What It Takes
  2. Nautical Nymph
  3. Green Racer X
  4. Kinetic Airways
  5. AVAM’s Bumpo, Frog, and Rat
  6. Popemobile
  7. Festivity Among the Crowd
  8. Thank You, Baltimore Police
  9. The Team

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The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
If you have suggestions about making this site better, or questions, e-mail Tom at