The 56-foot “Dragon Ass” kinetic sculpture will be one of many racing in this weekend’s Kinetic Skulpture Race in Port Townsend. (Tina Kerrigan)

The 56-foot “Dragon Ass” kinetic sculpture will be one of many racing in this weekend’s Kinetic Skulpture Race in Port Townsend. (Tina Kerrigan)

Kinetic skulptures to race through Port Townsend

34th annual race to feature human-powered kooky creations that move.

PORT TOWNSEND — The strange contraptions of the Kinetic Skulputre Race are back.

The theme for this weekend’s 34th annual Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race is “In Search of the Holy Gear!,” a play on the title of the Monty Python movie.

“It’s a race of human power sculptures that can drive on land, water and through mud,” said Marilyn Kurka, head judge.

“Essentially, it’s kind of an amplified bicycle race.”

A pre-race meet-and-greet is set from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Old Whiskey Mill, 1038 Water St. People are urged to dress in their “kostumes” and meet the racers.

Many racers will display their skulptures outside the restaurant, race organizers said.

On Saturday, the “wanna-be” parade will begin at about noon. The parade will wind down Water Street to the American Legion Hall. All are welcome to join the parade, but no political messages or advertising will be allowed.

After the parade, racers will climb up the Monroe Street hill, only to come speeding down in hopes of stopping near the skate park to test the brakes of their sculpture. Then racers will pedal their skulptures into the water from the Salmon Club boat ramp next to the Northwest Maritime Center at 431 Water St.

According to Kurka, this is often the first time racers get to test the flotation of their creations. Many don’t make the cut, she added.

In the evening, those older than 21 can attend the Rosehips Kween Koronation Ball, starting at 8 p.m. at the Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St. The band for the evening is Tubaluba, a Northwest horn and funk band.

“It’s a shoulder-to-shoulder affair with no camera allowed,” Kurka said. “What happens at the ball stays at the ball.”

At about 9:30 p.m., Kween Kontestants, those vying to be the Rosehip Kween for next year’s race, will compete by strutting their stuff and showing off some creative costumes. The winner will be crowned at about 11 p.m.

All those who attend are encouraged to come dressed in costume and enjoy the beer from Port Townsend Brewing. Admission is $15 at the door on a first-come, first-served basis, and the capacity of the Legion is 500 people.

“The ball is one of our biggest fundraisers for next year,” Kurka said. “It really helps us pull this off every year.”

The race will start at “low noon” on Sunday after The Krooning at 10:30 a.m. and a sobriety test just before noon.

Kinetic skulptures will line up outside the Legion Hall for the second section of the race, up to Lawrence Street to Aldrich’s Market.

They will then head out to Fort Worden State Park for a sand course, slog through the mud at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and then down San Juan Avenue toward Safeway, where they will take a break.

They will then pedal down through the boat yard and finish back at the Legion Hall by about 5 p.m.

The award ceremony is set from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Racers and spectators are encouraged to come dressed in medieval costumes this year to follow the “In Search for the Holy Gear!” theme.

According to Kurka, the skulptures are meant to be a combination of artistic creativity and engineering skill — with a dash of performance from the riders themselves.

“It’s a bunch of artists, geeks and some bicyclists who join together to make a team,” Kurka said.

“Really these things are a work of art, and the race itself is grueling.”

Last year, 21 teams raced but only five crossed the finish line. This year, the field is a bit smaller. About 16 teams are expected — mainly because some veteran racers have banned together in one 56-foot sea serpent called “Dragon Ass.”

The festival draws hordes, Kurka said.

“We’re the last big festival weekend of the year, so we sell out hotels,” she said. “Some of it’s racers, but a lot of people come to watch.”

Teams must finish with all team members and an intact sculpture. Everyone gets a prize, whether they like it or not, according to Kurka.

In an effort to bring in the community, all prizes are donated from local businesses and, according to Kurka, organizers usually get 100 to 125 local sponsors each year.

“It’s a great community effort,” Kurka said. “We hope that little shout-out to them gets people to go shop there.”


Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at

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