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Take bike, add creativity - go

Phila. derby is the latest in the kinetic-sculpture movement.

Kevin Musselman provided half the power for a flying-pigs entry. The cyclists pedaled amid clouds of white balloons.
Kevin Musselman provided half the power for a flying-pigs entry. The cyclists pedaled amid clouds of white balloons.Read more

First there was Northern California, where the annual three-day Kinetic Sculpture Race began in 1969, the summer of the legendary Woodstock Festival.

Then there was the American Visionary Art Museum, which began its 15-mile Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race in 1999.

Yesterday, Philadelphia, the city of firsts, clinked and clunked its way into history.

A bit late.

It was the first Kinetic Sculpture Derby, an hour-long parade of eight bicycle-based contraptions through three miles of the streets of Kensington.

"It's not a race," said derby spokesman Kevin Musselman, 22. "It's a test of endurance, artistic ingenuity."

Musselman powered one of the smallest entrants - a two-person bicycle laden with more than 50 small white balloons - while he and a companion wore pink jumpsuits and pig noses.

"The balloons are serving as our clouds," Musselman said. "We're flying pigs."

The derby was staged a block from Frankford and Susequehanna Avenues as part of the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival.

The event showed the jewelry, clothing, ceramics and such of about 80 entrants on a blocked-off section of Trenton Avenue.

Perhaps the most flamboyant derby entrant was staged by Andy Dyson, 47, executive director of Neighborhood Bike Works, a nonprofit agency at 40th and Locust Streets.

"We get donations of used bikes from the community," Dyson said in an interview. In after-school and Saturday programs, "each kid learns how to fix a bike and gets to keep it. . . . We hope people learn working in a team, problem solving."

Flamboyant? Oh, yes.

How about a two-headed, 10-tailed bird that, Dyson said, consisted of "two tandem bicycles welded together - four wheels, four riders."

Oh, and flapping wings, too.

Followed by a 10-person pit crew on nine other bikes, with most of the 10 helpers wearing papier-mache birds' heads.

And they were needed, Dyson said after the race, because on a cobblestone street about halfway through the derby, "something broke and we had to hammer it back together."

Flamboyant might define the nation's other kinetic contests.

The self-styled oldest is to be run Saturday to Memorial Day from Arcata to Ferndale in Humboldt County, Calif., 200 miles north of San Francisco.

In a Friday phone interview, Shaye Harty, president of the nonprofit Kinetic Universe Inc., said one of the 35 expected entrants this year is called "The Deliverance Truck."

On a bicycle chassis is what looks like an old delivery truck. "There is a kinetic grandma on top of the sculpture," she said, "in a rocking chair, [a grandma] with moving arms."

Harty spoke of other kinetic sculpture events in Corvallis, Ore., and Prescott Valley, Ariz., but knew of only one on the East Coast - in Baltimore.

Until yesterday.

On Trenton Avenue, Bob Phillips made a stir as he steered his iron-wheeled bike along, a 60-pound skeleton moving arms and legs over the front wheel.

A Fishtown metalworker who graces his railings and grilles with artwork, he called the skeleton "a dragon from hell."

Hmm. And his age?

"I'm 46, going on 17."

View video of parading sculptures nationwide via