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Ohio Life

Oxford Kinetics Festival

The annual event celebrates wild and imaginative human-powered machines.

The crazy contraptions set to snake across Miami University’s campus on April 17 are as inventive as they are fun: Last year saw a La-Z-Boy recliner welded to a giant bike and a wooden teeter-totter suspended inside an enormous metal spool.

“You never know what you’ll see,” says wood sculptor Kate Carlier Currie. “This year, we’re expecting a giant dill pickle and a sculpture patterned after a bag of Grippo’s potato chips.”

Welcome to the Oxford Kinetics Festival, the college town’s annual homage to what Carlier Currie calls “human-powered anything.” The idea was sparked six years ago when Carlier Currie — then a member of Oxford’s city council — was charged with devising fresh ways to celebrate the town’s bicentennial. What began as a 15-minute race involving 12 people and their one-of-a-kind creations has, with the help of Miami University associate professor of sculpture Rod Northcutt, evolved into a daylong free event with close to 100 participants.

“Over the years, the festival has also elevated creative exploration to a place of importance,” says Carlier Currie. “We love the fact that kids can come and see grown-ups really taking fun seriously.”

In keeping with this year’s theme, Circus Fracas, participants are invited to self-power their creations in the family-friendly scramble race, which features an obstacle course filled with opportunities to experience under-the-big-top feats of strength, including boxing a dancing bear (that’s Carlier Currie’s geology-professor-husband Brian in the costume) and lifting barbells. Spectators can also join in the fun by learning how to craft a kite, build a rocket from a recycled soda bottle and concoct their own “fender-blender” smoothie by way of bike-pedal power.

All are welcome to roll onto campus for the festival, and those who need help with their creations can attend Saturday morning workshops led by local artists and Miami University professors during the month leading up to the event.

“This is not one of those festivals where you walk around and buy things to take home,” Carlier Currie says. “Because so many of us are artists, we are very geared toward making the event interactive and sharing our skills so other people can feel empowered to make cool stuff, too.”

For more information about the event, visit oxfordkineticsfestival.org.

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