The sixth annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby (KKSD) took place over the weekend on Saturday, May 19. The derby is an outdoor, all-day affair that included more than a few giant, moving, human-powered sculptures. It is supported in part by a Knight Arts Challenge grant.
More design competition than race, participants in the KKSD ride around a set course and end their journey in a giant pit of mud, which is actually a qualifying step for those whose sculptures make it that far. The route winds its way from Fishtown, up into the Kensington neighborhood and back again – a tedious trek for the sometimes bulky or mechanically questionable creations in the competition.
Every year the kinetic sculptures coincide with the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, a gathering of artists, designers, local food vendors and more. These two simultaneous events are both fun and family friendly, with the intention of connecting and enlivening this North Philly neighborhood. With estimates from the 2011 derby hovering around 10,000 attendees, the arts festival and derby definitely bring out a crowd.
A few highlights from this year’s crew include a group of beehive hairdo drag queens toting a little doll holding a sign that encourages everyone “Don’t be such a drag!” There were of course the faux-Amish participants who make the interesting observation that the recognizable horse and buggy transportation of our Amish neighbors is itself a form of kinetic sculpture. Also seen around the festival were some really big bikes, a flying saucer-like robotic vehicle, and a number of giant plush cat heads, knights and all sorts of other quirky characters.
The late spring weather couldn’t have been better, with beautiful, sunny skies and the cobblestone area for the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival is reminiscent of the neighborhood’s past. The old industrial feel of Kensington along with a retro fire engine that came out to show off its bright red paint job most certainly made some residents sentimental, while the zany derby festivities kept everyone’s spirits high.
All in all, the KKSD is a spectacular way to spend a warm Saturday in May. The energetic crowd and the many vendors offer a lot to see and take away, and one thing is certain – you just never know what you’re going to see at the Kinetic Sculpture Derby.