Best Push Cart Race Ever

article and photos by Tess Reiss, Center St. Daze Director

On a perfect fall day, dozens lined the street in front of Fuel Cafe in anticipation of the annual Push Cart race sponsored by the Riverwest Artists Association. Normally held in conjunction with Artwalk, the race was moved up to Center Street Daze to allow more artists to participate and was open to anyone who wanted to give it a go. Carts had to have a human rider and be created, not pre-made. The rules of the race were “minimalist.” Register your cart with Mark Lawson. Do one lap down the street from Fratney to Bremen, make the turn around the orange cone, and race back up the street to the start line. The panel of “celebrity judges” included Pamela Anderson (aka: Katinka Hooijer), Vince Bushell, and Liz Humphrey of RAA. No race is complete without the cameras, so John Ruebartsch, official photographer of the race, was ready to capture it all for posterity as was Darlene Hagopian, official videographer of every hilarious race since the beginning. Nine carts entered the race to admiring comments from the crowd:

  • ALIEN by Hell on Weil St. (Paul “Nitro” Atwater, Pete “The Lubricant” DiAntoni, Paul “Frictionless” Finger, and Katie “The Torch” Swoverland).
  • Born Losers Mark Lawson, Keith Nelson and Daryll Jensen
  • Paper Airplane Susan Reddy
  • Quarters Rock Paul Setser, Dan Fischer, Jr. and Pete Fischer
  • River Horse Team Captain Jeremy Frach
  • Swami Dolla’ Bill sponsored by Jackpot. Bill Richards, Jaia, Amirah, Viviana, and Flora Wytch
  • Team McQueen Scott Johnson of Fuel Cafe, Tim Schneider of The Shop, and Brian Slominski
  • Team Naughty Jennifer and Dark Star
  • Team Onopa Paul Onopa, Luther Paul, Erin McIntosh, and Jacob Sutrick

It was a race full of thrills (flying cowboy hats and exotic belly dance music), chills (Paper Airplane cart careening into the crowd), and flames (Hell on Weil St. cart took off amidst shooting flames in the street). Team Onopa’s cart, by far the largest and most imposing, was comprised of about a dozen beer barrels held together with duct tape. At race time, they chose to lumber down the street at a stately pace with beer cups in hand. Not a drop was spilled as they rounded the turn on their way back to the start line. Paul Onopa later stated there was no way they could have run with the cart and made the turn without taking out half the crowd. “We lost the barrels on the test run and had to put it all back together,” he admitted. Cheers to their level-headed decision for safety’s sake! Spectators were treated to some delightful impromptu street theatre when the Swami Dolla’ Bill belly dancers stopped their flying carpet in the midst of the race to shimmy to exotic music. This entranced their fellow “Alien” racers, who swooned and lay down in the street in submission. The crowd roared and cheered when the “Aliens” recovered from their trance (as the carpet began to take off), jumped back onto their cart, and dashed pell mell to the start line to win the race. Five trophies were awarded in these categories: SPEED: Hell on Weil St. GRACE: Swami Dolla’ Bill. KINK: Team Naughty. CUT THROAT: River Horse. DYSFUNCTION: Paper Airplane. The River Horse cart was designed and built by students from North Division High School. To their surprise, the Born Losers team lost again! Frank Chandek, seasoned MC of the event, kept the crowd entertained with a steady patter of amusing commentary, later stating it was the best push cart race ever. He was delighted to see the street crowded with bystanders who actually CHEERED (not common in prior years). Overheard by a bystander after the race, “I gotta get a cart and get in on the race next year! Winners in the Uptowner-sponsored Eddie Favorite Pool Tournament, were Richard Koronkowski of Bay View (first) and Riverwester Kevin Anderson (second). Breakaway Bicycle Courier’s Wayne Wallner coordinated the scavenger Hunt Bicycle Race. Thirteen racers competed to beat the clock while making scavenger stops at seven locations in Riverwest, Harambee, and the East Side. First place: Kevin Stroede. Second Place: Shaggy. Third Place: Marcus Froh. Many thanks to all who helped plan, organize, sponsor, race, and participate in Center St. Daze. It will go down as another memorable day of community life in Riverwest! Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 10 – October 2003