Kinetic Whimsy Machines Roll in Ventura

Imaginatively built cars lend support for the Turning Point Foundation.

AN OUTLANDISH, IMAGINATION-TESTING TASK: When you were a kid tasked with doing something a bit offbeat, you jumped at, beginning before you got all of the directions. Construct a rocket ship out of cardboard and aluminum foil? No problem, just tell me how high. Make a jungle gym out of couch pillows, one that goes higher than the dining room table? I'm on it. But put a similar task to a grown-up and the likely result is some hemming, some hawing, and a lot of over-thinking. That's one reason the world of kinetic sculpture building, and racing, is so in tune with those childhood ways of approaching an issue -- start with the dream first, and then take considered steps backwards, through the materials and what-ifs and can-dos. California is very good with putting dreams first -- we're sort of famous for it, actually -- which makes our state something of a hotbed for kinetic sculpture racing. They do it up north, every spring, around Humboldt County, and come the fall? Ventura is the place to be, and the Turning Point Foundation, an organization that supports "positive places of recovery for persons with mental illness," is the beneficiary of the day out on land and water.

YES, WATER: Part of the fun of a kinetic race, which involves whimsical machines shaped like ducks and shoes and beds or fill-in-the-blank, is to see how they perform on the sand and in the H20. Ventura's race, which rolls on Saturday, Oct. 18 in 2014, is also famous for its sticky, goopy mud challenge, which means those sculptures, which were so lovingly crafted, will get very, very filthy. It's all pretty uproarious, and there are many photos to take, and it is a pleasure to watch the teams work together (or get vaguely frustrated from a stuck-in-sand contraption, from time to time). The biggest pleasure, of course? Helping Turning Point and backing the community of Ventura. Roll/float on, kinetic muddy machines of wonder.

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