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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2010 Race Report

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Saturday 1 May 2010

It was a warm and sunny day May 1 for the the twelfth Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race East Coast Championship. The Frog ended nine years of monotony by diving nose-down into the harbor twice. Many teams got stuck in the sand and mud—both of which featured fancy new timers to ensure that ACE sculptures failed to linger. Two sculptures managed to break down within five yards of the starting line—but one’s emergency repairs were so successful it went on to win the Championship.

Whenever dozens of artistic teams work independently, peculiar coincidences of theme are likely to arise. This year we had two odd conicidences. First, the simultaneous appearance of two anglerfish. Second, the novel appearance of two giant 6-pilot articulated caterpillar sculptures led by artistic umbrellas—each created independently and with a very different theme.

For 2010, is pleased to present new vantage points provided by the expansion of our team to seven members. You’ll see photos from a kayak (thanks to Water Posse volunteers) and other places we’ve found with new perspectives on the race. Our photos have also grown 44% more pixels since 2009 so you can see more detail.

The Champion: Candy Haus

Taking home the Grand Mediocre East Coast Championship was Candy Haus, with four pilots. Immediately after they entered the water, spectators realized they had no apparent means of aqueous propulsion as they began to drift. Then with astonishing precision the four pilots simultaneously reached out and removed the nearest giant lollypop, dipped the business end into the harbor, and began synchronized paddling. A wave of appreciative oohs erupted from the crowd.

Candy Haus began the race with tribulation: they broke down yards after the Le Mans start. They pulled out of the way so others could pass and began sculptural surgery. A few minutes later they were ready for the ascent of Federal Hill.

The pilots and pit crew sported green Alpine hats.

Candy Haus comes from the same Takoma Park team as 2009’s Snakehead.

They sailed through the sand, and broke the tape in style at the finish line.

They needed to dismount to get through the mud—which would have disqualified them from an ACE award, but continuous self-propulsion is not required for the Championship. On the left side of the photo, Becky’s Mud Vortex Timer went undeployed because they never ceased making forward progress.

Here the team receives its championship trophy—topped by gold-plated bicycle handlebars—at the awards ceremony.

Go Ask Alice

V. Advice from a Caterpillar

At last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and addressed Alice in a languid, sleepy voice....In a minute or two, the Caterpillar got down off the mushroom and crawled away into the grass, merely remarking, as it went, “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.”

Winner of both the People’s Choice and Pilots’ Choice was this stupendous blue caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland known for smoking a hookah, and whose three inch-height grows in significance when Alice is small.

To the left, the Caterpillar and its dramatic shadow leave the starting line at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). To the right, it arrives at a checkpoint at which a pilot was required to create a sketch in the theme of their sculpture.

The otherworldly blue face and body contrasted dramatically with green foliage and the pale blue sky.

Inside the caterpillar and invisible when the Caterpillar was in motion, etchings showing scenes from the story were embedded in the sculpture’s chassis.

The sculpture came from the team responsible for 2009’s Air Cosmonauts who run Mr. Rain’s Fun House, AVAM’s new restaurant.

As Fifi joins the other 6-pilot caterpillar in this year’s race heading toward the mud, the Caterpillar took a break before bypassing the mud altogether. Speculation was high that if the Caterpillar had conquered the mud, it might have won the Grand Championship.

Pit crew were festively costumed as Lewis Carroll characters.
Green grass at the Caterpillar’s base concealed pontoons that served it well on the water. The cargo vessels in the background came first in Baltimore’s history, then the yacht yard, then the 21st century amphibious Caterpillar based on the 19th century tale.

Los Baltimuertos

Baltimore’s own Make Believers team took home an unprecedented second consecutive prestigious Art award for Los Baltimuertos. This 6-pilot sculpture is a Baltimore vision of the Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos) as celebrated in Mexico. Those who have passed on are remembered with shrines of fruit, flowers, and gifts. The wagon honors Baltimore’s Arabbers—vendors who drove fruit and vegetable carts for over a century, although this wagon is drawn by two spectacular skeletal horses.

This is the ninth entry from the team led by Frank Conlan which has won numerous awards since they began making history with 2002’s The Grape Stompers. In 2009, their Art winner was Happily Never After.

If you look closely, the rear cart wheels are paddlewheels for the water portion of the race, and black pontoons loft the cart. The horses provide their own flotation by being constructed of rigid closed-cell foam.

The 2009 Art trophy broke before they got it home; the 2010 trophy didn’t even make it out of the awards ceremony in one piece. Note to trophy artists: hot glue does not adhere well to glass.


From the depths of the Chesapeake Bay came Chessie, a 25-foot long monster brought to the surface by the city’s dumping into the Harbor ice and snow from the past winter’s blizzards. This is the fifth entry from Tony Walker and friends, who created 2009’s Rocky Horror Picture Shoe.

Chessie’s mandatory homemade sock creature was custom-knitted for the race, and showed such care as she dangled as bait in front of the sculpture like an anglerfish that Chessie won the Sock Creature of the Universe award.

In the photo to the right, Chessie mauraudes a bicyclist along Pratt Street in Harbor East.

Seen from above just after the start, Chessie was one of the first sculptures to pull away from her parking space.

Chessie’s mouth was hinged to open and close as they navigated the racecourse. There’s no end to the benefits of putting a giant articulated fierce mouth on the front of a sculpture, not least of which is the appearance to passers-by that it is planning to consume anything it approaches.

Chessie’s paddlewheels performed admirably in the Harbor, another example of a sculpture that clearly showed the benefits of being tested in water before the race.

Anemone Antics

Also from the depths of the sea came Anemone Antics, a giant pink aquatic animal that roamed the streets of Baltimore with its friendly clownfish. This 2-pilot sculpture comes from Bethesda, and was easily recognized throughout the city.


The PLATYPUS (Personal Long-range All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe) returned with a new propeller hat, massive new rudder controlled from the upper inner tower, and a stylish new emergency disc brake mounted on the driveshaft.

Sporting eight propelling pilots, one steering barnacle, and a bonus barnacle up top, PLATYPUS is easily the most massive entry in the race. When she reached the mud, some pilots jumped off and support crew heaved with all their might to bring her through. This extraordinary effort earned her the Best Pit Crew award.

This year, Pokey also came equipped with a swivel barbecue grill used for the crew’s lunch, perhaps in homage to 2009’s Hot Beef Injection.

Heavy Metal

Coming from the Sollers Point Technical High School, Heavy Metal sported a variety of impressive engineering designs. The pontoons rode on land above the sculpture, but pivoted down for the water entry. (You may also recognize the pontoons from 2009’s Engineering-award winner Cheese Racer.)

Dry ice provided a cloudy water entry.

With her flag, Heavy Metal resembled Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware. Her two spare tires were mounted high on the back for ready access.

However, her tires seemed too small to propel through the mud. As the Timekeeper peered at the Mud Vortex Timer cascading away the seconds in the 2-minute aqueous hourglass, Heavy Metal’s pilots and crew heaved with all their might to extract the sculpture from the Mud Mongers’ goo.

There was a new award this year, the Fill in the Gap award, from the “Judges who always complain about the award they want to give, but can’t”. Becuase Sollers Point students machined the entire drivetrain on the sculpture, rather than using off-the-shelf components, they clearly understood the mechanics involved in Kinetics.

She also required portage across the sand, but sailed through the finish line showing little sign of damage from her 15-mile journey.

The Creature from the Lansdowne Lagoon

The Creature from the Lansdowne Lagoon arose from Lansdowne High School’s Student Government, Arts & Communication Academy and Engineering, Science & Info Tech Academy. It bears a wide variety of trash removed from the school-side pond.

A lantern lure dangles out of its head as predatory bait, just as on an anglerfish.

The Ramp Master reveals some angst while clearing The Creature for the water entry, perhaps foreseeing that it would immediately steer into the rocks. For their turmoil on the water, they won the Golden Flipper award for the “most interesting water entry”.

Once a rope was securely attached, a pit crew member kept the Creature on a short leash to ensure it did not deviate further from the racecourse.

Early in the morning, the team prepared for the athletic rigor of the race with a stretching regimen—including one member with a colossal green dorsal fin.

Après race, the sculpture stowed compactly atop a minivan.

The Moderately Famished Caterpillar

The Moderately Famished Caterpillar, another 6-pilot giant caterpillar sculpture with an umbrella on the front, this one bearing blue wings, purple antennae, cheerful gravity-roll eyes, and a pointy red nose.

The chassis consisted of 6 loosely connected bicycles, and the racers made no attempt to ride through the mud and sand. Instead, they dismounted and walked their bikes through.

This is the fourth entry from the spirited team that created 2009’s Hot Beef Injection, 2008’s It’s Ben Hur, Hon and 2007’s Acme Kinetic Sculpture.

At the water entry, they inflated a large emergency raft into which they all clambered. This would have met even the ACE rules had they brought all their bicycles and everything else along.

At the end of the race they sailed across the finish line with wings flapping.

Going to Hell

Going to Hell brought smoke to lend a brimstone look (but not smell) to their water entry. This was an update of 2009’s Going to Hell entry with a new welded frame, larger head, and large purple tongue. Here, the Ramp Master completes his inspection of the sculpture from Falls Church, Virginia.

Here they made it through the sand—but only by standing on their pedals in the posture characteristic of those lacking the low gears necessary for effective sand propulsion.

Until Patterson Park, the sculpture was almost always in the lead, and was on track to win the Speed award.

Unfortunately, they suffered another mechanical breakdown between the sand and the mud, and dropped out of the race. Last year, they had a similarly successful opening two-thirds of the race, followed by a similarly catastrophic end. For their repeat performance, this year they received the Golden Dinosaur award for the most memorable breakdown.

They were piloted by four devils—one in a blue dress. All sported red horned helmets—showing that even a simple addition to a bicycle helmet can provide a significant extension of a sculpture’s theme.

They gave out excellent bribes consisting of devil temporary tattoos. Marking spectators and race officials with tattoos is a superb bribe, much better than commercially packaged candy that many teams provide to Kinetic Kops citing them with race infractions.

They performed well on the water as their demon flew overhead.

However, their pontoons being mostly underwater indicate that if the wind had risen or the sculpture’s weight shifted, they might have rapidly capsized due to the Pontoon Effect. Remember that effective pontoonage ensures that each of two pontoons is capable of providing buoyancy for the entire sculpture’s weight.

Safari Attack

The Gottwald family of Great Falls, Virginia returned with Safari Attack in which they outrun a fifth-wheel charging rhinoceros in their “Land Rover”. Their rooftop baggage during the land portions of the race was reconfigured into highly stable outrigger pontoons for the water entry.

Safari Attack showed the Gottwald’s consistent effective engineering that won 2009’s Grand Mediocre East Coast Championship with Goin’ Griswold.

By the time they crossed the finish line, the rhino was so exhausted from charging them that they removed it from the back of the sculpture and put it on the roof with the zebra and tiger.

Scrum Roll Racer

The Chesapeake Women’s Rugby Team created Scrum Roll Racer, a 4-pilot sushi tray. With one pilot in front disguised as wasabi, the other as pickled ginger, and the two in back as makizushi rolls, they cranked their front-wheel drive, rear-steering tricycle through the race. They won Best Costumes for their thematic garmenture.

On the water, they broke out paddles designed as giant soy-sauce packets on sticks. Flotation consisted of a wide variety of plastic bottles stuffed into the frame.

With three sets of twin wheels and low gearing, they cranked through the sand and mud, but needed pushing (and did not receive an ACE therefore).

Mobile Media

Mobile Media had a custom bicycle-component pit crew chassis followed by a custom automotive-component sculpture chassis. The instruments here aren’t just for show—the pilots played live jazz throughout the fifteen-mile racecourse.

For their musical spirit and audience-created artistry, Mobile Media received the Spirit of the Founder award.

Mobile Media comes from the same Baltimore team as 2009’s Voodoo Air, and 2008’s award-winning Wilma & the Wombats.

Jemicy’s Veke Versa Boat, Squid Man, Kraken, Cabrena Octopus & Calamari

The Jemicy School returned with five entries, and Veke Versa Boat, their largest ever, showed that they’ve been learning a lot about engineering. With four pilots toiling under a large cloth tree octopus, fat stubby tires, and extremely low sand and mud gears, they churned through all terrain on the racecourse to win both an ACE award for following the most stringent race rules and also the Engineering award.

It used the chassis from 2008’s Viscar Boot #3 entry as its foundation.

Here you can see the Veke Versa Boat slowly cranking through the mud in its low gears. Progress was slow—the green Mud Vortex Timer at the lower left corner shows most of their time is gone—but they made it through the mud just in time as the crowd roared.

Squid Man was one of the four smaller Jemicy sculptures, here drooping a hose in traffic on Pratt Street, but also winner of an ACE award.

Kraken showed how a small lightweight sculpture can succeed in the sand with just three narrow tires. It also received an ACE award.

Cabrena Octopus approaches the mud. As soon as a sculpture stopped making forward progress, Becky the Timekeeper flipped over the aqueous vortex hourglass countdown timer giving two minutes for a sculpture to clear the mud. Becky and the timer come from the American Physical Society of College Park.

Cabrena Octopus also won an ACE award for making it through all obstacles fast enough without help on forward propulsion.

Calamari was the final Jemicy entry, sporting octopus sock creatures, and also winner of an ACE award.


T-Wrecks was a late-built entry from Crofton, designated by its creators as a candidate for the Golden Dinosaur award. It had 3 pilots, and in the Godzilla tradition, one plane and one helicopter. It shot water from its nose. They dropped dino-eggs through the tail, consisting of brown-painted easter eggs filled with candy and plastic police, and won the Best Bribes award. They were the only sculpture to finish after Fifi.

Got Milk?

It took some figuring, but the Got Milk sculpture consisted of a woman pushing the two pilots in a stroller, which the Kelly family of Falls Church who created it described it as “a journey to find milk”.

They closely followed front-runner Going to Hell sculpture most of the race—and pulled ahead when Hell broke down to win the Speed award.

Carver Cobra II

The Carver Cobra II comes from Towson’s Carver Center for Arts and Technology, and is a remake of 2008’s Coca Cobra sculpture which sank at the water entry.

The large hemispherical paddles attached to their wheels provided very effective water propulsion.

Twitter Jay & the Recyclists

Johns Hopkins University students and the Digital Media Center entered Twitter Jay & the Recyclists for a second year, with lessons learned from 2009.

Their drive train was notably better, and their flotation barrels were replaced with large foam pontoons carried atop the sculpture on land. However, as soon as they entered the water, the pontoons revealed that they were not solidly attached. The sculpture slipped lower and they chaotically floated higher. Pilots reached their oars over the pontoons to propel the entry around the pier, while a pit crew member pulled it with a tether. The Recyclists’ theme seemed to contrast with the many bits of foam cast into the harbor when their pontoon scraped against the pier.

As can be readily seen, 2010 Twitter Jay’s engineering on land was vastly improved over 2009 Twitter Jay, which had to be carried most of the racecourse!

Big Bamboo

The Dumpster Divers from Philadelphia have been racing every year since 1999—a record for Baltimore Kinetic persistence matched only by the sponsoring American Visionary Art Museum. This year, they brought Big Bamboo, made of hand-picked trash and home-grown bamboo.

Big Bamboo was designed as a dragster, and from the side, the large rear wheels hid the pilot and made it appear as though its sock puppet were driving, complete with his own steering wheel.

This year there was a bit of excitement when they entered the water and tilted somewhat, but they soon righted themselves and proceeded around the pier without undue calamity.

Big Bamboo looked quite similar to 2009’s Green Racer, famous for its dramatic Harbor flip.

AVAM’s Fifi Joins the Circus, Bumpo the Circus Elephant, Circus Rat, and Frog

The American Visionary Art Museum, as sponsor of the race, also produces a set of animal entries as Kinetic Inspiration. This year, three of AVAM’s four sculptures shared a novel theme: joining the circus.

Fifi Joins the Circus had a clown hat, clown nose, and bow tie, and radiated pink glee.

After a dramatic splash into the water, her pilots’ spatted high-heel boots plunged into the harbor with every revolution of the pedals.

Her pit crew also had thematic costumes, including a strong man who was helpful at getting her through the viscous mud. Nonetheless, Fifi lagged behind other entries enough that she won the Next to Last award. (Anybody can be last, but it takes a bit more effort to be next-to-last.)

We also direct your attention to the gentleman who appears to be hanging off Fifi’s nose.

Bumpo the Circus Elephant had Anemone Antics in hot pursuit through the wild pastures of Patterson Park.

Bumpo was supported by a crew of muscular circus acrobats who performed crowd-pleasing gymnastics on the pier. Bumpo wore a tasseled fez, fringed umbrella, and stripped banners.

Circus Rat also wore a festive hat and its crew wore matching tasseled fezzes.

The Rat’s banner bears the insignia of the “Ratline Brothers Bubonic & Scaley Flea Circus”.

In the background as the Rat team rushes to get through the mud, you can see Chessie, the Moderately Famished Caterpillar, Twitter Jay, and Fifi all catching up.

The Frog looked exactly the same as it has every year since 2002.

Perhaps in despair, the Frog took a nose-dive into the harbor immediately after entering the water. A few minutes later, as it was coming in for landing, it took another nose dive.

Finally, somewhere between the water entry and Patterson Park, the Frog lost its right eye in some sort of gruesome accident.

The Boatercycle

Every few years, someone gets the curious idea to create a sculpture out of wood. Boatercycle took a more refined view of that concept, attaching two wood pontoons to a custom extended bicycle frame. They were spotted at numerous locations throughout the race pushing their sculpture and were given the Worst Honorable Mention award destined for the sculpture “whose half-baked theoretical ‘engineering’ did not deter its pilots from the challenge of the race.”

But they did complete the race!


Racers get the glory, spectators get the frivolity, but the massive heaving mound of toil that keeps entropy at bay for the Kinetic Sculpture Race comes from the dozens of volunteers performing countless critical jobs.

We celebrate the Chickens who assist and inform the crowd, the Checkpoint Charlies who keep the racers on course, the Kops who keep some semblance of order, the Mud Mongers and Sand People who construct the obstacles, the Timekeepers and Countdowners who keep the race on schedule, the Kayak Patrollers keeping sculptures from blowing out to sea and provide a photographer’s seat, the Medics who keep people healthy, the Boat Ramp Cleaners who remove the trash from the harbor, the Finish Line Holders who give the racers a target to cross, and everyone else who gives their time and energy to the race.

It is a celebration of Baltimore’s boundless capacity for frivolity that thousands gather to put aside their own individual difficulties—fatigue, responsibilities, jobs, loved ones gone, chemotherapy, and everything else—to celebrate teams of racers who have applied sweat and effort for weeks and months to create wheeled works of art that, with even more sweat and effort will overcome the absurd challenges of the course (more or less).

Thank you, volunteers, for making this possible!

If you might want to volunteer in 2011 or 2012, Join the Volunteer E-mailing List.

Festivity Among the Crowd

Many spectators, pit crew, volunteers, and pilots were well-costumed for the day. Here are some of them.

The Kinetic Baltimore Team

Kinetic Baltimore had a team of seven volunteers stationed throughout the race and leaping from site to site in a choreographed yet chaotic logistical ballet to provide you thorough details of the race proceedings on this website.

From left to right:

Thomas McKenzie: Zoetrope Documentor.

Amy Swackhamer: Head Race Commentator.

Johanna Goderre Jones: Director of Benevolence. Almost a year ago, Johanna became the wife of...

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.

James Riordon: Ramp Master and Crowd Wrangler.

Karen Wallace: Supreme Instigator of Kinetic Finery, Mad Haberdasher, and Festivator of the Masses. See her work on

Paul Robinson: Emergency Backup Camera Operator.

Show individual pages
  1. Champion Candy Haus
  2. Go Ask Alice
  3. Los Baltimuertos
  4. Chessie
  5. Anemone Antics
  7. Heavy Metal
  8. The Creature from the Landsdowne Lagoon
  9. The Moderately Famished Caterpillar
  1. Going to Hell
  2. Safari Attack
  3. Scrum Roll Racer
  4. Mobile Media
  5. Jemicy’s Veke Versa Boat, Squid Man, Kraken, Cabrena Octopus & Calamari
  6. T-Wrecks
  7. Got Milk
  8. Carver Cobra II
  1. Twitter Jay & the Recyclists
  2. Big Bamboo
  3. AVAM’s Fifi Joins the Circus, Bumpo the Circus Elephant, Circus Rat, and Frog
  4. The Boatercycle
  5. Volunteers
  6. Spectators
  7. The Team
4/19/2024 5:15:36 PM   1:25   2:   3:1   4:   5:   6:   7:   8:   9:1   10:   11:   12:   13:   14:   15:   16:   17:   18:   19:   20:   21:   22:   23:   24:2   AllInOne:3
The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
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