The ‘Triathlon of the Art World’ Returns to Humboldt County

Photo: Kinetic Grand Championship

The Kinetic Grand Championship, often referred to as the “Triathlon of the Art World,” is an annual extravaganza that amalgamates the worlds of art and endurance racing.

Each Memorial Day Weekend, this monumental spectacle takes place in Arcata, California, where unique and whimsical kinetic sculptures, powered by human force, compete over a challenging terrain spanning more than 50 miles through the verdant countryside of Humboldt County, covering roads, sand, water, and mud??.

The championship was conceived in 1969 by metal sculptor Hobart Brown. What began as a two-block dash down Main Street Ferndale, CA, has evolved into a three-day marathon, attracting a diverse breed of competitors – Kinetinauts – who put their bodies and their artwork to the test for the sheer glory of it. Each kinetic sculpture is a marvel of engineering and artistic creativity, often boasting kinetic elements like animated faces, fire cannons, and unusual drive mechanisms??.

Photo: Kinetic Grand Championship

The race begins at the stroke of noon on the Arcata Plaza, with the racers then setting off towards the Manila dunes, where they face miles of sand and the daunting “Deadman’s Drop.” Day one culminates at Eureka’s Halvorsen Park, where the public can marvel at the masterpieces up close. The subsequent days see the competitors crossing Humboldt Bay, trudging up the arduous Hookton Hill, and finally crossing the Eel River under Fernbridge, before reaching the finish line on Ferndale’s historic Main Street. The victors celebrate their triumph at the Final Awards Dinner, where accolades are given for Best Engineering, Best Art, Best Speed, and Best Pageantry?.

Photo: Kinetic Grand Championship

The race is not just about the pilots who power and steer these kinetic sculptures. It involves a dedicated team of pit crew members, who assist in navigating the varying challenges and repairing mechanical issues, and peons who fulfill whatever is required to ensure the team’s glory. The event also owes its success to a legion of volunteers who work diligently behind the scenes, ensuring the smooth running of the event?.

Photo: Kinetic Grand Championship

Spectators can enjoy the race from numerous vantage points along the route, from the Arcata Plaza to the Eureka Waterfront and the finish line on Ferndale’s Main Street. There’s also a sense of community spirit that permeates the event, with racers often generously sharing tokens, or ‘bribes,’ with spectators??.

The Kinetic Grand Championship is more than a race or a parade; it is a celebration of creativity, engineering, and human resilience. It adds a layer of uniqueness to the creative county of Humboldt, offering an engaging spectacle that’s as much a cultural treasure as it is a quirky competition?.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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