West Columbia’s first Kinetic Derby Days festival great weather, great fun, great idea!
West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – The City of West Columbia held its first Kinetic Derby Day festival on Saturday under absolutely beautiful skies, moderate temperatures, and in a way that brought families, friends, neighbors, and guests to the city on the river. It was an old-time, small town festival in a new city that’s in the process of exploding with growth and reinventing itself in a great way. Somehow, the organizers reclaimed that small town feel where everyone was willing to talk to one another; a village atmosphere in a city that’s mirrored across the Congaree by the largest metropolitan area in our state. Saturday, those guys across the river had nothing on us!
Event goers could feel very safe letting their child walk across the street to the store or to go get a sno-ball at the nearby Pelicans. The waves from the crowd were enthusiastic and genuine as the floats of the parade went by, and everyone waited in anticipation of the next, “Give it a push and let gravity do the rest,” racer that came blasting, or poking, down the hill on Meeting Street between Brookland United Methodist and the 400 block where the road went back to uphill from down.
Sometime just before 10:00 a.m., Meeting Street was closed, and the short parade began. It started with a police car of course, followed by the talented drum-line of the BC High School Band. Some of the entries were the creative cars and racers slated to race later in the morning while a few were simply floats that reflected the eclectic personalities of the teams who made them. The official website of Kinetic Derby Day said regarding parade floats, “Some creative inclination mixed with a dash of kinetic savvy will do. Bust out with your own human-powered “Strandbeest” or pedal a cruiser in your best tutu with your toddler twins in tow — it’s all good.” The parade was short, but the crowds didn’t seem to mind and if they have the work ethic and willpower to make this happen next year, I think that it will be bigger and better.
The parade was quickly followed by some kinetic derby car warmups and then the races were own. A kinetic derby car can have no stored power, no motors, no rubber-bands, no springs, just people pushing for about the first ten yards and then the Meeting Street hill and gravity did the rest. Some were hugely successful and fast, others not so. It really didn’t matter who won as far as I could tell; it was simply a matter of the fun that went into trying.
The highlight of the race had to be the finish line. There, just after a dip in the street that bled off any speed you might have, you got to pile into a pile of un-cooked Adluh Flour yellow grits that stopped the racers quickly. It had to be a dump truck full and when else would anyone get the chance to spill that much grits and then play in it without getting into trouble?
After all this went down, the fun moved up to State Street from Meeting where the road was blocked to Spring Street with something for everyone. There were art displays, music, food trucks, and more as everyone in the family could find something to do. The schedule included pop-up performances by the BC Drumline, David West who did some painting live, the Airport High School Show Choir, Monifa Lemons who recited poetry live, Emma Kate McLain performing contemporary country music, Kristen Harris & Sean Thomson of Appalachain Fuzz, others who did live folk music, and a variety of other enjoyable things to do. Even the Columbia City Ballet had a troupe there dancing.
If you got hungry or thirsty, there were the food trucks or a good selection of restaurants and eateries within walking distance. Everyone seemed to want for nothing as even the many churches in and around the area loaned their lots for parking. The whole thing was a blast and a perfect way to kick-off your summer season on the city by the river.
Several people were credited with making this day possible but no matter whose idea it was, it was a big hit! The city and its staff did a great job of getting things ready, and their employees seemed to all be there for the right reason, to make West Columbia and its offerings welcoming to the public and fun. By day’s end, everyone had a blast! Some met new neighbors and solidified friendships with old ones, and everyone who came spent a day in some perfect weather in the heart of the beautiful district that makes up a part of old West Columbia. The only folks that might not have had the greatest time they’ve had in awhile was the crew who had to clean up all that grits!
The first Kinetic Derby Day Festival was a home-run in my opinion and I hope and pray there will be another. If so, I’ll be there watching those goofy floats and racers of every ability go from A to B with vastly varying degrees of success.