The Great Handcar Regatta of 2009

Three cheers for Oakland-based photographer Neil Girling! Longtime readers may recall his beautiful work from this 2007 post about California’s thriving underground circus scene. More recently, Neil braved scorching temperatures and hoards of cheerfully chafing, corseted quaintrelles to bring Coilhouse the following photo essay about the second annual Handcar Regatta. A tip o’ the topper to you, good sir, and thanks again. ~Mer

The Screaming Vortex races down the track.

September 27th saw the second installment of the Great Handcar Regatta, an afternoon of nonsensical anachronism, whimsy and ingenuity in Santa Rosa, CA. Though temperatures burned hot in the triple-digits, many thousands of spectators and participants flooded the Railroad Square historic park, perusing vendors, sipping refreshments, seeing live music, and — of course — watching the races.

Rock*N*Roll Sunday School Fixed Gear, powered solely by running, crosses the finish line.

Official MC Les Claypool provided commentary to the thronging crowds, which were said to have reached nearly 10,000 (a keen-eyed friend said Tom Waits was among them), many of whom were dressed appropriately old-timey for the occasion.

[Scads more photos after the jump.]

The races, of course, were the main attraction of the day. Originally intending his creation as an art car for Burning Man, David Farish mused over using two conveniently parallel, long and abandoned train tracks as a raceway a little over two years ago; fortunately, he spoke to the right people — production-minded Spring and her collaborator, Ty — and thus was born the first Handcar Regatta, with the below car (on left) as its first contestant.

Mr. Farish and handcars Murray the Fish and Hennepin Crawler from team Krank Boom Klank.

Not all of the vehicles were quite so “practical” as the several pictured above; one unusual entry was the Bobsled, which consisted of little more than a platform on four large blocks of ice. More amusing than that, however, was that they won their heat (no pun intended).

Rail Skins by team Nordic Track, whose melting ice blocks provide a near frictionless surface to glide down the rails.

The main stage, a fresh-from-the-playa art car, was nothing short of incredible. One half was the front porch from an old cabin with a weathered tin roof, a band featuring a washbin-bass and washboard percussion, and an elderly dog; the back was a complete kitchen with curtains in the windows, and a full range and oven (which output cookies all day). Bands such as Thee Hobo Gobbelins and the Baby Seal Club entertained the crowd with live music.

Brooke and her chicken on the Front Porch stage while Thee Hobo Gobbelins play.

Calamity Lulu, appropriately dashing for a day at the races.

Tiff “Toy Surprise” on her makeshift throne.

The Two Penny by Todd Barricklow.

Spring’s lovely daughter.

The ever ridiculous Fou Fou Ha! atop Whaaan-dom Tantrum Pampermonium by Krank-Boom-Clank.

Pirate Brian and his fully-articulated mechanical hand-puppet.

Despite the ghastly heat, a fine day was had by all, and none can wait to see what the good Dr. Erasmus P. Kitty concocts for next year.

3 Responses to “The Great Handcar Regatta of 2009”

  1. Scott Hales Says:

    Interesting site you have here.. ; )

    (btw, I loved the handcar regatta.. : )

  2. choklit Says:

    Thanks to Mr. Nightshade for so brilliantly capturing the glory of the day!

    Next year, we expect all Coilhausers to turn out and join in the merriment…

  3. Stache Says:

    Yes wish Mer could have been along for the fun. Thanks to Neil and Nadya for braving the furnace. Wish I had more time to chat but t’was nice to finally meet you, Nadya.