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Fun at the Opening Ceremonies

Mud Doctors, Kinetic Kops and Kinetinauts were out in full force Saturday April 26 dressed in their most party-like attire for the fifth annual National East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race, hosted by the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

Rain and cold temperatures did not stop the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) from kicking off its fifth annual National East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race. It seemed as if the day was going to be ruined, but the rain later stopped, and Bernie the frog, a Victorian teapot and over two dozen other human-powered engineering works of art went on to race for the coveted Mediocre Award, and a chance to compete in the World Championships in Ferndale, California. There, the winner would receive a classic 1957 Rambler car.

While the official race did not begin until 9:30 a.m., many arrived early with clear plastic sheeting and heavy raincoats in preparation for a day of fun-filled activities. Pilots and volunteers signed in at the kinetic registration table strategically placed under a ledge away from the rain.

Volunteer, Paula Waterman of Baltimore sat under the ledge in a multicolored dragon hat handing out whistles and information about were others could get a dragon hat too. “This is my second year doing this, I just love this,” she says. Waterman, and several other handy volunteers signed in teams as they arrived, and made sure they received a colored bracelet.

Fun is mandatory at the Kinetic Sculpture Race, so while early preparations went on, volunteers dressed as chickens passed out paper smiles on popsicle sticks, and multicolored beads as spectators looked on in awe at the big yellow duck and eyeball on wheels looming over the AVAM’s courtyard in the background.

Founder of the Kinetic Sculpture Race and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Hobart Brown, wandered through the courtyard chatting with reporters, volunteers and the 39 school children from the Catholic Community School in Federal Hill who helped Mark Ward, Deputy Director of the AVAM, build a 12- foot-high duck out of plastic milk cartons and bike parts.

Meanwhile on Covington and Montgomery Streets, in the back of the AVAM, heavier rain turned brake and safety test into a more difficult task. On more than one occasion race vehicles collided with the high stacks of hay and yellow tape at the bottom of the hill. Most pilots were able to stop their vehicles from plowing into the stack. The Shrimptastics, a Towson University team and shrimp salad on wheels, were fantastic as they came to a dead halt on the slippery hill.

After brake and safety test the opening song was played on kazoos, followed by the blessing of the feet, in which pilots were asked to lie on the wet ground with their feet in the air. Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the AVAM, then lead in the national anthem. Kinuanauts were now ready to take on the elements of the earth and trudge through sand, mud, water, cobblestone and the bumpy streets of downtown Baltimore in the name of fame and fun.

The wacky vehicles began the 15-mile long race from Federal Hill, through Canton and Patterson Park, and back to the museum in downtown Baltimore. They were set loose to conquer the city. The procession was greeted with horn honks, whistles, and others in sheer shock of seeing a 15-foot royal elephant made of pom-poms moving up Key Highway.

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Let the Race Begin: AVAM's Kinetic Sculpture Race: from setting and testing the vehicles to awarding the winners.

Winners of the 2003 East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race: Team Bedlam won the coveted Mediocre Award in the fifth annual East Coast National Kinetic Sculpture Race.