Kinetic Whimsy Rules Willits

Steampunk tomfoolery, delightful music, and Kinetic Handcar Races are just up the 101.

Malicay and Wife/Mendocino County Museum

KINETIC CORNER OF THE STATE: The town or county or region you grew up in was probably known for something interesting. Maybe the making of embroidered handkerchiefs or the baking of rich butterhorns or an annual storytelling festival that involved campfires and harmonicas and ghost tales. A certain stretch of pretty in Northern California, pretty close to the 101 but not strictly, has lots of good things to be known for -- redwoods being some of the biggest -- but kinetic prowess is way, way up there. Look to the annual Kinetic Grand Championships over Memorial Day Weekend each year, which sees a lot of offbeat vehicles take to the roads, and waters, around Arcata and Ferndale and bucolic points around Humboldt County. And look to gatherings like Kinetic Carnivale and Grand Ball, which traipses into Willits on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23, all in support of the Mendocino County Museum.

THE KINETIC CARNIVALE... absolutely involves machines and wonders of a kinetic, DIY, whimsy-weird nature. There shall be the human-powered Kinetic Handcar Races, and the Gypsy Time Travelers will arrive with Florence the Freightliner, "a fully realized land yacht" (you probably never knew you longed for a fully realized land yacht, but once you behold this sublime creation, you'll set to plotting). The troupe also will engage in "fabulous storytelling with live anvil accompaniment." Just when you've been longing for some live anvil, it comes along, much to your delight. Steampunk is truly one of the themes, or at least vivacious vibes, so plan on learning how to make steampunky sock squids and clock-face collages and goggles and such. 

A DAY ADMISSION TO THE FAIR... is ten bucks, and a ticket to the dress-up-goggles-and-all grand ball is $35. The Kinetic Handcar Races go down and up and buzz and whirr early Saturday afternoon at the Skunk Train Depot, if that's your must-catch. And while regular autos still rule the 101, and various roads through Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, we still predict a future-fantastical day when kinetic vehicles are seen on a regular basis around NorCal. The area is well on its way to that day, seeing the whimsical people-moving machine hub it has already become.

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