If you've ever wondered about the mobility of a massive, pink, fluffy poodle, or about the buoyancy of a "boat" constructed of otters, then this is the event for you. Sponsored by the American Visionary Art Museum, the Kinetic Sculpture Race is a showcase of some of the best-looking -- and most durable -- human-powered sculptures on the East Coast . . . or anywhere. It's also an open-air people-watching extravaganza, complete with costumed spectators and copious cheering. If your kid digs costumes, now's the time to break out the capes, boas, masks and cowboy hats, as costume-wearing is highly encouraged and very much part of the overall scene. Rubber chickens also figure prominently, as do paper smiles-on-sticks. Silliness --and oversized animals -- abound.
The race, which begins at Rash Field, near the Inner Harbor, covers 15 miles and runs about eight hours. Each sculpture is subjected to a variety of tests, including a swim through the harbor, a spin through the sand and a slop through the mud, and each test -- though sometimes quite tough on the sculptures -- is enormously entertaining to watch. An official spectators' guide, outlining the approximate times of each "trial," is published shortly before the race; check the Web site for this guide, so you know when to show up for what. The water portion of the competition is always held at the Canton Boat Launch, and the sand and mud portions are always held at Patterson Park. It's safe to say that there will be a fair amount of lag time between each test (remember that each sculpture is human-powered, meaning that it's pedaled, paddled, etc.), so be wise and take advantage of these breaks by grabbing lunch at one of the many fine nearby establishments. Oh, and don't forget your sunscreen. Or your camera. Or, if you're planning on observing the mud portion, a pair of shoes that you don't mind getting filthy.
American Visionary Art Museum