The Kinetic Sculpture Race
Thursday July 28, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
California's Northwest coast is home to majestic redwood forests, rocky fog-shrouded shores and the Arcata to Ferndale World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race. This imaginative competition of human-powered art machines is perhaps the most ingenious race ever conceived. Since its beginning in 1969, the wacky event has fed the local economy and become part of the cultural fabric of Humboldt County.
The fun started when Ferndale artist Hobart Brown converted a tricycle into a five-wheeled ride-able sculpture. A friend bet he could do better and challenged Brown to a race during Ferndale's annual art festival. With good publicity, word of the race spread. Twelve entries competed the first year. Neither Brown nor his friend won, but a tradition was born.
Over the years the race grew from a short jaunt down Ferndale's main street to a three day cross-country endurance run over paved road and sand dunes; through muddy sloughs and water. Originally held around Mother's Day, the 1982 race, which encountered rain and 60 mile-per-hour winds, inspired a date change to Memorial Day weekend.
What started out as a joke between friends has become a cultural institution that brings several million dollars to the local economy that even has its own museum.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler with help from the Humboldt Historical Society, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
with help from the Humboldt Historical Society
Ringwald, George, "Mud, Sweat and Tears: Zen and the Art of Kinetics," North Coast Journal, May 1994, pp.22-25; Arcata to Ferndale World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race official website including a reprint of Crazy Contraptions, a Light-Hearted Look at Ferndale's Kinetic Sculpture Race by Stan Bennett, 1975, http://www.kineticsculpturerace.org