A celebration of crazy creativity

Wit­ness art in mo­tion (and mud pits) this Sat­urday at the Kens­ing­ton Kin­et­ic Derby

Scenes from the Trenton Ave. Arts Fest and Kin­et­ic Sculp­ture Derby held in Fishtown on Sat­urday, May 21, 2011.

This week­end, get ready to see crazy con­trap­tions, lurch­ing mon­sters and whim­sic­al wheeled whirly-gigs dur­ing the up­com­ing Kens­ing­ton Kin­et­ic Sculp­ture Derby.

The event re­turns on Sat­urday, May 19 for its sixth year, in­cluded again in the Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest­iv­al, now in its sev­enth year.

The sim­ul­tan­eous events will be held on Trenton Av­en­ue at Nor­ris Street. The fest­iv­al runs from noon to 6 p.m., and derby teams will head off on the course at 12:30 p.m. and re­turn to the fin­ish line between 1:25 and 2:30 p.m.

A “kin­et­ic derby” is an urb­an race with obstacles like the now-dreaded mud pit on Trenton Av­en­ue. Teams at­tempt to nav­ig­ate while op­er­at­ing kin­et­ic sculp­tures of their own design.

After the race, un­til 3 p.m., at­tendees can vote on their fa­vor­ite team and kin­et­ic sculp­ture, and win­ners will be an­nounced at an award ce­re­mony af­ter­ward.

Henry Py­att, com­mer­cial cor­ridor man­ager for the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, was part of the team that or­gan­ized this year’s kin­et­ic derby. He said the event has only be­come big­ger and bet­ter over the years.

“We are really proud of how it has grown,” he said.

In fact, two years ago, the paired derby and arts fest­iv­al saw 8,000 vis­it­ors, and last year, more than 10,000 people shared in the fun. This year, he be­lieves the events could even draw a lar­ger crowd.

In or­der to present the best pos­sible derby for the grow­ing crowd, Py­att said mem­bers of the derby plan­ning team re­cently vis­ited Bal­timore, which also hosts a kin­et­ic derby.

That derby is longer than the Kens­ing­ton Kin­et­ic Derby, and began in 1999. By look­ing at what they have done, Py­att said, he’s learned more about what could be­ne­fit the loc­al derby.

“It really helps to see what a kin­et­ic sculp­ture that’s been de­veloped over 10 years looks like,” he said.

In Bal­timore, Py­att said, the course in­cludes a sand pit and a sec­tion where the derby com­pet­it­ors must float their con­trap­tions on the wa­ter.

“Bal­timore was really in­spir­ing to us,” he said. “But we want ours to be a little more artist­ic and a little less tech­nic­al…ours is more like a parade, while theirs is a race.”

In the Kens­ing­ton derby, sculp­tures are usu­ally made from re­pur­posed bi­cycles, and must be pi­loted by team mem­bers whose feet can nev­er touch the ground. The sculp­tures and must be pro­pelled solely through hu­man power.

This year’s derby route is a little short­er than last year – 2.65 miles, in­stead of last year’s 4.1 miles – but Py­att said it will cause few­er head­aches by short­en­ing the route and avoid­ing parad­ing com­pet­it­ors out to Gir­ard Av­en­ue.

While the derby has po­lice to con­trol traffic, Py­att said that last year the com­pet­i­tion seemed to im­pede drivers along that road­way, and or­gan­izers wanted to avoid that is­sue this year.

“We’re just go­ing to do that strictly to be bet­ter neigh­bors,” he said.

Also, this year’s derby will have three celebrity judges, in­clud­ing Bri­an Dwyer – Fishtown’s res­id­ent pizza ex­pert and world re­cord hold­er – as well as Joey Sweeney, ed­it­or of the pop­u­lar Philebrity.com, and Daily News colum­nist Stu Bykof­sky.

Py­att said Sweeney and Bykof­sky have has something of a his­tory of pub­lic dis­agree­ments, es­pe­cially over the is­sue of bi­cyc­ling in the urb­an en­vir­on­ment of Phil­adelphia.

With such a huge fo­cus on bikes as a ma­jor build­ing block of the kin­et­ic sculp­tures, Py­att said put­ting the two to­geth­er on a stage might help the men come to terms with their dif­fer­ences.

“They dis­agree on many is­sues, es­pe­cially the bik­ing is­sue,” said Py­att. “It would be good to get them to­geth­er. Let’s get con­ver­sa­tions star­ted.”

Also, city coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) will be on hand to present awards to derby com­pet­it­ors.

The derby isn’t the only draw, as the arts fest­iv­al will of­fer mu­sic from loc­al bands as well as food, crafts and art­work for sale from over 150 vendors.

Krista Peel, who or­gan­izes the arts fest­iv­al with her hus­band, Zak Starer, said that along with this year’s new vendors, there will be in­ter­act­ive events like free read­ings of tar­ot cards and nail man­i­cures.

“This year we’re shar­ing the street with the new build­ings on Trenton,” she said in an email mes­sage. “They will have a front-row seat to the coolest event in the city - a kin­et­ic sculp­ture derby and an arts and crafts fest­iv­al - right out­side their win­dow.”

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be con­tac­ted at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com.

If you’re go­ing:

The 7th an­nu­al Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest and the 6th an­nu­al Kens­ing­ton Kin­et­ic Derby will be held in tan­dem on Sat­urday, May 19, from noon to 6 p.m. at the in­ter­sec­tion of Trenton Av­en­ue and Nor­ris Street.

The arts fest­iv­al will of­fer more than 150 loc­al artists, vendors, live mu­sic and food, while the derby will be a design com­pet­i­tion cel­eb­rat­ing art and hu­man powered trans­it.

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it www.trentonave­fest.blog­spot.com or www.kin­et­ick­ens­ing­ton.org.

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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