The Eugene racers were chasing international glory on Saturday afternoon, July 16, vying to be the best in their sport in the world of track and field. Meanwhile, in another race in Corvallis, the contestants were just trying to cross the finish line during the Graand Kinetic 30 Challenge.
Contestants installed 14 steel, plaster, chain and circle sculptures in the parking lot at the Benton County Fairgrounds. A bright pink bunny beats a drum, a southeast wind caught a long Vikings pedal boat, and part human-powered artwork and part engineering were unleashed on the streets of Corvallis in a flurry of spinning legs and cartoonish horns honking.
Some tools walked slowly from the starting gate. The others went very slowly.
“Hurry up and come here, then hurry up and start, then hurry up and finish,” said Shane Muller, one of the volunteers at the race.
People also read…
Muller once rode with a team to make a statue called a kinetic killer whale. Mueller said the statue suffered in salty sea water at the hands of its previous owners during the races in Port Townsend, Washington, and at one point the whale was rusting so badly that it was unable to move.
“It goes from kinetic sculpture to yard art to landfill,” Muller said.
Muller keeps showing up at events because he wants to buy back, he said — possibly another machine source from someone leaving the sport — and because the community of riders, welders, artists, mechanics, engineers and others who keep it going appeal to him.
It mixes a bit of burnt vibes, Coachella, and Oregon Country Fair.
“It’s in my blood,” Mueller said.
Children’s Farm Home School students wore identical yellow jerseys for the team’s third year in the competition, atop a statue called Punk Rocket. The solar system model was suspended and rotated on top of the statue while the support team took turns on the bikes.
Someone didn’t sync their pedals with their teammates; Or someone didn’t smoothly shift gears – they weren’t sure about that – and stopped the machine.
A pair of supporting riders in clown makeup stopped with the machine, while one of them shouted “That’s not funny!”
On the other side of the fairgrounds, machines returning from a road circuit donned chunky, weight-distributed tire liveries and earned points with the umpires for designing their way out of the required ascent on a steep, loose sandy slope.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster was the first to come back off the road and required quite a few gearing and tire changes to make it over the dunes.
A circular cage resembling a hamster’s wheel, dubbed the world’s largest bitcoin, threatened to overturn, drawing a polygonal sound from the audience that stared at the clattering sculptures.
Bitcoin is dropping! Someone said, Sketch laughing.
Punk Rocket twice tried to take the most challenging line over the dunes, then completed the more common “easy” route on its third attempt, starting on a grassy slope rather than deep sediment.
In the absence of machinery, Eric Nielsen pointed to gallery-free spaces between a cattle barn and RV campgrounds where da Vinci’s days once held live music on stage. Elsewhere, vendors had served food and Oregon State University colleges had demonstrated cutting-edge technologies to excited children.
He said Nielsen chairs the board of directors of the non-profit organization that ran the festival for 28 years, before community support and dwindling funding conflicted with the coronavirus pandemic. The organizers ended the festival in 2020 and the name of the festival is now a banner for the Graand Kinetic Challenge which has emerged as a staple annual event.
But Nielsen said it’s not Not Optimistic that something could replace the day-long celebration with STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.
“We still have this place,” he said. “We still have this weekend.”
It will take community participation, Nielsen said, to figure out what festival participants will ask for.
“Perhaps the days of da Vinci, as we know, have run their course,” he said. “What next, Corvallis?”
The Kinetic Challenge continues Sunday, July 17, near Crystal Lakes Sports Fields in Corvallis.
Alex Powers (he/she) covers business, environment, and healthcare for Mid-Valley Media. Call 541-812-6116 or email [email protected]