By Adam Martin, Photos courtesy of kineticists.org
To the best of Jonathan Sterner’s knowledge, the Solstice Kinetic Sculpture Race is the second longest running race of its kind. Sterner is the Event Coordinator for this year’s race, scheduled for June 21 at Union Reservoir right here in Longmont. It promises to be a day of fun for everyone involved, from spectators to competitors, and at just $10 per car, it’s inexpensive to boot.
What Is Kinetics?
For those unfamiliar with the idea, kinetics is where art and engineering meet. Competitors build machines designed to travel over both land and water in order to complete a three-mile course that will take them in and out of Union Reservoir more than half a dozen times. Racers include everyone from what Sterner calls “backyard mechanics” to professional engineers who enjoy taking on fun side projects away from the office.
“The machines are human powered amphibious works of art,” Sterner explains. While the event is a race, teams are judged on far more than speed. Points are also awarded for theme, creativity and general “funness” of the machine’s design. For example, last year Sterner’s own team entered a nurse shark machine—a huge amphibious vehicle that looked like a shark, complete with a nursing hat, and team members dressed in scrubs.
The fastest teams will complete the course in about 45 minutes. The slowest teams generally take about two hours. While most of the teams in this year’s event are comprised of experienced racers, there are a few new comers, as well.
“Because there are so many veterans,” Sterner said, “most teams finish. A lot of first-years don’t.” Untested crafts rarely manage a smooth debut, often breaking down or sinking during the course of the race. However, the event is not highly competitive. Instead, participants tend to cheer one another on, often helping to make on-the-spot repairs to competitors’ crafts as needed. There is a spirit of community surrounding the entire day.
And, even if some teams don’t get to cross the finish line, that’s okay. The event is about a lot more than the race.
The Summer Solstice, which marks the first official day of summer, occurs on June 21 this year, and it’s no coincidence that the race falls on the same day. While the race, now in its 35th year, has always been about a good time, there’s a real emphasis this year on cultivating a family-friendly party atmosphere.
In addition to the race activities the day will include other ways to enjoy an afternoon on the beach. There will be live music throughout the event, featuring several local bands from the Longmont area, including Craig Cornett and the Phast & Wreckless, The Vinyl Underground and the Michael Scott Band. Food vendors will be on-hand, ensuring there will be plenty of tasty treats. Organizers are currently working on getting a permit for a beer garden, as well.
Additionally, anyone is welcome to bring a picnic if they prefer, making it possible for the whole family to enjoy the day for less than the cost of a single movie ticket.
A Whole Day Of Fun
The day kicks off at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies and craft judging. Then, at 2:15, kids will have a chance to test their engineering skills in the Kid’s Recycled Raft Race. Any child can register for the kid’s race, which takes place in shallow water on the swim beach. Last year, participants were limited to cardboard and duct tape to construct their rafts. This year, they’re allowed to use any recyclable material, including cardboard, bottles, cans, plastic containers and anything else that would be fit to toss in your recycling bin.
“The point of the kid’s race is to make Kinetics a really family friendly event,” said Karen Schaub, organizer of the event. The emphasis is on having a good time, not finishing. (In fact, the “Titanic Award”, given to the kid’s team whose craft sinks in the most dramatic manner, is highly coveted!) All participants will receive an award for their efforts.
At 6 p.m., swimmers will take to the water in the Solstice Swim, which gives participants the option to compete in traditional swimming races. There will be .5 mile, 1.2 mile and 2.4 mile races.
Finally, the day will end in spectacular fashion with a Beach Bonfire at 8 p.m. As the bonfire kicks off, organizers plan to launch a sea monster sculpture into Union Reservoir. At dusk, the sea monster will be set ablaze, promising a memorable sight to finish off the day.
“ The machines are human powered amphibious works of art.”
If you’d like to get involved, it’s not too late. Sterner was quick to point at that a basic craft can be built in just a few day’s time with little investment. Additionally, event organizers are still accepting volunteers and will happily put you to work if you’re willing to help out.
It’s also worth noting that any proceeds made from the event will be donated to Union Reservoir to help fund upcoming improvement projects.
You can find out more about the event, including a full schedule, race maps and instructions for registration, on the event’s website at kineticists.org. Whether you’re interested in helping, racing or just enjoying the sights and sounds of a day on the beach, be sure to put the Solstice Kinetic Sculpture Race on your calendar.