Saturday Art: Humboldt County’s Joyful Tri-Althalon of the Art World

Memorial Day Weekend in  North Humboldt County becomes a mobile festival of art as the Kinetic Grand Championship rolls from Arcata to Ferndale. The people-powered sculptures–marvels of art and engineering with moveable parts like blinking eyes, mouths that open and close, and swinging arms, wings and tails–take three days to circumnavigate the Arcata Plaza, go over sand dunes, ride along the ocean, cross bridges, go around the bay and ultimately cross the mouth of the Eel River into Ferndale on Monday of Memorial Day.  The sculptures and riders actually enter the water, slough through mud and spend two nights (including a private camp out for riders and their volunteers with bonfires, and other Humboldtian activities.

Designed for bicycle propulsion, the sculptures and their the entourages, the beautiful landscape they ride through, the tongue-in-cheek rules, and the Race motto

Adults having fun so children will want to grow up

all smack of Humboldt Whack. It’s part steam punk, part stoner and pure fun–goofy, lighthearted, environmentally sound, fantastical and imaginative. And it’s Humboldt’s biggest tourist weekend as hundreds of bicyclists follow the race and gather at the finish line in historic Victorian Ferndale, celebrating the winners at The Ferndale Fire Hall.

Founded in 1969 when artist Hobart Brown fixed up his son’s trike and had a race down the main street of Ferndale–starting a Humboldt tradition that has spread to Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Baltimore, Maryland and all the way to Perth, Australia–the Race is now run by Kinetic Universe, a non-profit board of mostly Rutabaga Queens (the royalty of the race) dedicated to the continuance of this outrageous (and somehow very Humboldt) tradition.

Rutabaga Queens


photos: Maureen Burke, by permission

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