KHUM interview with Amy Berkowitz

On August 22, at 4pm, I sat down, virtually, with Amy Berkowitz from KHUM, and we chatted about the Kinetic Kompendium. You can hear the interview here:

Some of the topics we discussed were: Kinetic history, and the dramatic impact the race has on the Humboldt community once a year. Amy mentioned that 140,000 folks come to the county for the race weekend. That’s a lot of folks! Not to mention that the race has been going on for 50 years. It is the biggest single event that happens every year in Humboldt county.

We talked about the fact that Amy’s dad, Robert Cogan raced with Aly Krause’s Egret Team, and Wheels Of Justice, and was on Duane Flatmo’s Calistogasaurus. He raced with the Quagmire Queen when Hobart was running it for the last time. Cliff Berkowitz, Amy’s husband was also on the Queen that year. Amy remembered “being up to my armpits in stinging nettles trying to push the collapsing Queen through Loleta.”

Amy’s son, Alexander, raced when he was 14 on a sculpture named Buffy the Killer Bunny, in 2005. It was built by Lizard from Area 51 (who built Porpoise with a Purpose, Devilfish, and Cosmic Wiener Dog) and Rob Dog, (Rabid Aqua Bat)

He provided a document that claimed he was from the future, and that he had time-traveled back to race. The officials were on board, making the Berkowitz family the first to have 3 generations of racers.





Just got off the phone with Keith and Tappy Nelson of “Melvin.” Sometimes this labor of love is really fun. Listening to their stories was great. To celebrate, here are a few “Melvins” from over the years (Tracy Norman Rempe photos). Which “Melvin” was your favorite?

melvin 1997

melvinmelvin 1996 via rempe

melvin 2007 kerrigan

Junk Race 1975

In 1975, Stan Bennett and Larry Eifert cooked up the idea of closing off  Main Street, in Ferndale, on a Sunday (because they knew the local law enforcement would have the day off) to hold a “Junk Race.”

The idea was simple: get all their kinetic sculpture friends to dump giant piles of building materials onto the street, roll out some welders, and assemble a sculpture – in one day – that could be propelled down the street.

Here is what they came up with, photographed – I believe – by Stan Bennett, and shared with me by Andria Ottaway. This story will be featured in the Kinetic Kompendium when it is published.

First off, here is some awesome junk.

pile of junk

Next, roll out those acetylene torches, and get to work!

junk race street blocked off

There are kids everywhere. Hanging out, watching their dads and their dad’s friends make something ridiculous to roll down the street. Below is Jim Ottaway, pounding a 50-gallon drum into a wheel-like construct.

jim ottaway building

Below is Jim Ottaway riding his sculpture down the street, or at least standing on it. Hobart Brown is in the foreground speaking with Mrs. Shaw, whose family was one of the first families living in Ferndale.

junk race jim ottaway on sculpture hobart chatting a lady up

Below is Larry Eifert, so pleased with his sculpture, whatever it is…

larry with his sculpture

Here is the actual “race,” which was the result of the day’s labor. Thanks Stan and everyone!

junk race the race

Hobart’s People Powered Bus

In 1987, Calistoga water hired the artist Duane Flatmo to paint a mural for their offices. While he was painting, he talked about the Kinetic Sculpture Race, and urged the Calistoga folks to attend, and see for themselves what a crazy event it had become. His enthusiasm for the race was contagious, and before long, Calistoga was sponsoring the race.

Hobart Brown and Bob Iorg had built the “People Powered Bus” during the Coors and George Killian’s sponsorship years, so folks fueled by free beer pushed and pulled the machine over the 3-day course. It was fun, but not the kind of human-powered machine that Hobart and Bob had envisioned.

Hobart and Bob tried to install pedals, chains and sprockets which would power the “Bus.” The first year the Bus crossed the starting line under its own power, everyone was surprised. The fact that it threw chains long before it reached the sand was inconsequential, and the moment went down in history.