Kensington derby connects community with spokes and wheels

Artists, tinkerers, and bike enthusiasts paraded around the streets of Kensington in a celebration of community and being wacky at the Kinetic Sculpture Derby on Saturday.

The fifth annual neighborhood parade sponsored by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation featured more than 25 human powered floats and whimsical wheeled vehicles.

A crowd of spectators from the Trenton Avenue arts festival lined Norris Street to cheer the flamboyant bikers as they rode across a mud pit finish.

“Sometimes you feel like you want to create something. Not for the money, but just for the hell of it,” said Donato Pignetti.

Pignetti, an electrician who works around Kensington, built a caterpillar like sculpture with co-pilot Steffen Brinkmann, a few friends and their kids.

The team welded old bikes and loose parts for last year’s derby, and used more than a thousand CDs and 2500 paperclips to create this year’s design.

For Tom Carr of Frank’s Kitchen artist collective building a kinetic sculpture was all about the wheels.

“We couldn’t find wheels big enough,” said Carr about their five vehicles. So the group hand-made and engineered massive wheels out of plastic irrigation piping.

Carr towered above the other cyclists in his rig called the Sand Reckoner enjoying a bird’s eye view as neighbors of Kensington and Fishtown watched the bikers roll by.

Kensington residents Lena Helen and Paul Filanowski rode along with the local food co-op’s cornucopia float made from recycled materials including mechanical chickens.

Filanowski said the derby brings the neighborhood together and allows artists to embrace their clever sides.

Melissa Koerner, an account from Baltimore, dressed in an apron and bonnet said she heard about the derby during a similar ride in Maryland and decided to bring her Amish themed bike buggy to Kensington.

Tinkering with bikes has become a hobby for Koerner and she plans to return to Kensington for the sculpture parade next year.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.