The Riverwest Art Cart Race: “View of a Born Loser”

by Mark Lawson / photos by John Ruebartsch

Yes, I’m a loser. A “Born Loser” to be precise. I’m a member of a team that has the most consistent record for losses in the little known genre of push cart racing. This colorful and exotic sport is alive and well here in Riverwest. It has been the kickoff event for at least four Artwalks. This year it will be the opening event for Center Street Daze on September 20. The race starts at 11 a.m. and is sponsored by the Riverwest Artists Association which also produces Artwalk (this year on October 4-5, noon to 5 p.m.). Each year a diverse group of teams assemble outlandish carts patched out of everything from wash machines to operating tables, and race them down the 800 block of East Center Street, around a pylon and back, solely under pushing or pulling power. A sizable crowd gathers for this event, which includes a judging stand and the occasional dog wandering into the street. One year the street closure sent a mysterious tour bus with police motorcade up narrow Weil Street, which worried all of us that the SWAT team would soon follow. Fortunately, the race was able to continue uninterrupted. Some of my favorite teams of past races were: Brad Blaeser’s dinner table cart (on which he and his wife dined on soup to the strains of a bass violin player. When they reached the pylon, a waiter came out and exchanged their soup for cornish hen), the Fuel Cafe team’s “hot” wash machine racers, the bed with multiple brides, the grisly operating table, and the exuberant kids with the swivel chair on casters. Yes they all beat us… So, getting back to the loser bit, my team, the “Born Losers” has really had some completely unsteerable carts. Last year we could barely make it to the finish line with a cart careening out of control throughout the entire race. During our first race as a team, our 1950s-era refrigerator cart started to drift dangerously close to the legs of one of the opposing team members, posing a very real possibility of serious injury. Gentlemen that we are, we lost the race avoiding this potential accident, which was captured on video for posterity. So, you may ask, why do we keep doing this when we lose every race? What is the appeal of this annual humiliation? Believe it not, we seem to believe that each year will be different. “This year our cart will really be cool,” is our common belief. The truth is, we will probably never build a functional cart. We will probably never win a race or really grow up for that matter. This is why we keep doing this race, because we don’t really want to attain the boring “maturity” that is so widely overrated. We have a lot of fun, and we get the impression that the crowd does as well. Come and see this year’s race, and judge for yourself. Are we all crazy or is this way better than reality TV and a monster truck rally all in one? See the thrills, the drama, the asphalt-burning action on Center Street. Saturday Saturday Saturday, September 20, at 11 a.m. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 9 – September 2003