Friday, August 20, 2010


Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Graand Kinetic Challenge entrant

When we started planning this trip, it was because I wanted to be in Sisters, Oregon on July 10 for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. We also wanted to go to San Francisco, see the redwoods and the coast, and also go to Portland. While researching, I discovered DaVinci Days, a festival held in Corvallis that honors Leonardo DaVinci. And part of this festival includes a Kinetic Sculpture Race called the "Graand Kinetic Challenge" (yes, 2 'A's in Graand). This sounded intriguing and it was held the weekend after the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, so we decided to extend the trip a few days and check this out.

Scott with some "interactive" intergalactic artwork

This was a really fun event (although I might be a little bias as the weather was really nice). In some ways it seemed like a science fair for college students and you could say that it was a festival for geeks, but it was really entertaining.

The event is held on the campus of Oregon State University. Most of the events took place inside the green space that is between 14th St., Monroe Ave., 11th St., and Jefferson Ave. The performances, food, and exhibits were all here, and there is an admission charge.

This is "Astro Chicken" (I'm not sure what all the sparkles are, but the automatic focus on the camera seemed distracted by them) part of the community art section that was located outside the festival area, in the green space just east of the main area.

The community art was made by individuals and groups before the festival and then displayed during the weekend. The theme for this year was “Space Odyssey.”

Unlike the community art, the sidewalk chalk art was created on Saturday while we watched. It was amazing how deep some of the colors were.

Registered participants are given a box of chalk and a concrete square and have three hours to create a sidewalk masterpiece.

West of the main area was the Grand Prix Electrathon. Electrathon race vehicles run on standard car batteries. The competition is based on speed and energy use.

Racers compete for the greatest number of laps around the 0.8 mile racecourse in one hour without recharging. There are specific specs the cars and the batteries have to meet in order to compete.

They had several hands-on exhibits geared towards kids that allowed them to learn that science can be fun, and there were exhibits promoting eco-friendly building, composting and alternative-fuel vehicles. There were several places at the festival that had trash bins, and also recycle bins and composting bins. Volunteers were there to teach you what can be recycled and what can be composted. The food vendors used plant-based plastics that will eventually compost.

There were also several performers including Rhys Thomas, a comedian and juggler who uses humor and juggling to explain gravity, centripetal force and air resistance.

The Main Event : The Graand Kinetic Challenge

Black Tie Affair, 2010 Grand Champions

A Kinetic Scupture is defined human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. It’s art on wheels.

Zorba the Zuke, won 1st place in the time category (2 hrs, 1 min) and 1st place in the engineering category

And the race is much more than a race. It is an unusual art show, a presentation of a team song, a parade and pageantry.

Blue and Fuchsia Giraffe, won 3rd place in the time category (3 hr, 44 min) and 3rd place in the engineering category

The race itself is run in different legs but requires racers to ride over 10 miles of city streets, over a man-made sand dune, across 3000 feet of sun-dried, clay pasture, through 200 feet of deep, thick, sticky mud, and down 2 miles of the Willamette River. All of this under pedal power, and usually in costumes.

Lobster Claus, won 3rd place in the pageantry category, top judges favorite, and best bribe

Of the 22 plus entrants, only 8 of them actually finished the race. Why do they do this? “For the glory!”

Kozmik Karavan

References :

To see more of my photos of DaVinci Days, go here: Corvallis and DaVinci Days on Flickr.

If you're interested in how some of the Kinetic Sculptures are put together, with comments on their construction, go to FiddlesWithBikes on Flickr. He is also the creator of the Kinetic Sculpture "Visualize Whirled Peas" which took 3rd Place in artistry.

Some other Kinetic Sculpture Races :

The annual World Grand Championship is held in Humboldt County, CA (Ferndale) on the last weekend of May.

The East Coast Championship takes place in Baltimore, MD in May.

The Kinetic SkulPTure Race is held in Port Townsend in October.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race takes place in Ventura, CA in October

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby happens in Philadelphia, PA in May.

Corvallis Lodging and Dining :

We stayed at the Rodeway Inn in downtown Corvallis and again we were in a great location. Since we were in Corvallis for the DaVinci Days Festival, we wanted a motel within walking distance and the one we stayed at was .75 of a mile away. The back of the motel faces the Willamette River and the Riverfront Commemorative City Park which runs along the river. Had we been able to stay the whole weekend and saw the river part of the Kinetic Sculpture Race, they would have gone down the river right across from the motel.

This is also where you can find the funky boutiques, upscale restaurants and bars, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

The Farmer’s Market didn’t just have the locally-grown produce you’d expect, you could also get crepes and pancakes. We got some tayberries, which are a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry, and very yummy.

We also ate at the DaVinci Festival, and it wasn’t your standard food fair, there was ethnic food and also a salad with chicken, strawberries, cranberries and nuts.


  1. Hi I recently came across your website and really like it. We live 30 minutes from Storm King; love it there! My family loves traveling to see quirky roadside attractions. We have a blog,“Go BIG or Go Home,” which chronicles what happens when our small-town family visits the “world’s largest”…whatever!

  2. What a cool event! I can understand why you made room in your vacation for it :)