In 1969, a friendly macho bluff between artists spawned an all-terrain art race like nothing seen before: A glittery, sweaty, rolling celebration of art, engineering, athleticism, and above all fun. Ferndale CA artist Hobart Brown was and will forever be hailed as Glorious Founder of Kinetic Sculpture Racing, and he ruled as King of a scene that quickly inspired copy-cat events and spinoffs around the world.
Photo by Tina Kerrigan
By 1973, a friend of Brown – it had to be Barbara Ludwick, right? So many details get lost in all the fun – decided this fabulous party needed a queen. We do know Ludwick coined the traditional kinetic racing battle-cry motto “for the glory!”
She declared herself The Rutabaga Queen, and some time later – maybe in 1978? – there came to be a Rutabaga Ball which serves to this day as a fundraiser for the race and a coronation for a new Rutabaga Queen each year to preside over this colorful, wacky world.
Photo by Bob Doran
The Rutabaga Ball is an irreverent three-round tournament that turns the traditional beauty pageant on its head while kind-of-sort-of maintaining the structure of those competitions: Ballgown; Questions and Answers; Talent; and something called “Water Crossing,” which is the kinetic kingdom’s retort to a conventional swimsuit competition. And as within the rest of the kinetic race, bribery is officially encouraged, and contestants take the opportunity to show off their creativity with unique, small, handmade gifts for the pageant judges.
Photo by Terrence McNally
Photo by Tina Kerrigan
The job of the Queen, according to Hobart Brown, was always “to have more fun than anyone, almost to the point of obnoxiousness.” But when the organizing body of the race disintegrated in 2006, the Rutabaga Queens got serious about their kingdom. They got Brown’s blessing to found the nonprofit organization Kinetic Universe, to preserve and promote the art and sport of kinetic sculpture racing. And they took on the responsibility of operating the event, inheriting an impossible, sprawling, expensive logistical nightmare spanning five municipalities and three days.
Some of them even found the time to become racers.
None of this, it should be noted, is required in the official duties of the Rutabaga Queen.
Many twenty-first century Rutabaga Queens have chosen active roles supporting and running Kinetic Universe’s Kinetic Grand Championship, serving the community they love, and leading many who consider competing for the crown to ask themselves “what exactly am I getting myself into?” But the official job description of the Rutabaga Queen remains pure.
Have fun, fun, fun.
Photo by Jeff Schmitt
Here, Through The Eyes of Women follows 2007 Rutabaga Queen Emma Breacain, 2004 Rutabaga Queen Monica Topping, and Reigning Rutabaga Queen Susie Kidd, aka Glorya Kiddnetica, as they talk to three brave souls who have thrown caution and conventionality overboard to find their place in this weird little community and make a run for the crown: Lady Lasagna of Luncheonshire, aka Karri Thallheimer, a real live school cafeteria “lunch lady”; Sparkle Lumina, aka local belly dancing sensation Shoshanna; and Roller Derby star and mental health specialist Candice Campbell, aka Princess Candie from the Land of Confections.
Photo by Jessica Eden
Between recording and airing this episode, the Rutabaga Queens have been inundated with applications, and have had to change the venue for the May 21 Rutabaga Ball to the infinitely more spacious – you might even say “Queen Sized” – Arcata Community Center. The contestant pool currently stands at seven queen hopefuls, but only one will wear that crown and the title of 2016 Rutabaga Queen.
For more information, visit www.kineticgrandchampionship.com, or http://www.rutabagaqueen.com.
To listen to and/or download this segment click the following link TTEOW Rutabaga Queen 5-9-16