Teams to race wood toboggans at Anderson Ranch sled derby this Monday
Competition to award prizes for speed, creativity on Monday
When a team of staffers from Anderson Ranch Arts Center spitballed event ideas for the beginning of 2022, studio coordinator of sculpture Zakriya Rabani had something along the lines of Red Bull’s Flugtag in mind, in which competitors build homemade flying machines and launch themselves from a platform into a large body of water.
“I just thought that was absurd, and would be super fun to do something like that,” Rabani said in a Zoom interview with a crew of Anderson Ranch collaborators in late January.
No one will actually get airborne at Anderson Ranch this month — not intentionally, anyway.
But the principles of the Flugtag — a contest in which participants could build their own transportation and use it to get from Point A to Point B, with honors for creativity as well as distance traveled — are still at the core of Monday’s Sled Derby, which emerged from that initial high-octane idea.
“I don’t know if this word, sled, came out of my mouth, or somebody said it at the table, and then Andrea (Jenkins Wallace), our artistic director, was just like, ‘Sled derby. Let’s do it. That sounds great,’” Rabani said.
Rabani and Leah Aegerter, the studio coordinator for digital fabrication, shared a look and figured, “Yeah, we could do that,” Rabani said.
Like a toboggan on a track of slicked up snow, “it kind of just took off from there,” he added.
Nine teams are slated to race handmade wood sleds in the derby, which takes place 10 a.m. to noon Monday on a custom track at the Anderson Ranch campus on Owl Creek Road.
Each team includes at least one grown-up (think parents, guardians and Big Buddy mentors) and at least one kid between the ages of 9 and 12.
Every available registration slot filled up with a wait list rolling weeks in advance of the workshops; there were two slots reserved for teams of participants from a local youth mentorship organization, The Buddy Program, and both filled within 24 hours of outreach about the opportunity, Rabani said.
The teams each assembled their sleds out of parts designed and handcrafted by Ranch staff in Feb. 13 workshops at the Maloof Wood Barn on campus and also took home decoration kits to add extra flair.
Rabani, Aegerter and Ranch studio assistant Teddy Andriese were on hand to guide participants through assembly. Andriese took the reins on fabricating the materials, Aegerter said. The decoration kits were assembled by Olivia Martinez, the Latinx arts community leader and children’s program coordinator for the Ranch.
The in-person work last weekend aimed for “a focus on assembly and hand tools,” Aegerter said in the Zoom interview. Teams also received vinyl to adhere to the base of the sled for speed, as well as a cushion and rope to enhance the sled, according to Aegerter.
Come race day, it will be the younger of the two teammates who dons a helmet and puts the kid-sized sleds to the test.
Kenny Reyes, the facilities and maintenance manager at Anderson Ranch, is taking the lead on building a track that’s slated to start near the Dows Barn main administrative building and run past the Maloof Wood Barn and the Soldner Ceramics Center to a long, flat runout for sleds to slow to a stop, according to Rabani. He and Aegerter are planning to take some test runs leading up to the event.
Prizes will be awarded for the fastest team, but there also will be categories for creativity in design. Costumes are encouraged, and spectators are welcome. The derby is free and open to the public. Drinks and snacks will be provided, and a craft project will be part of the available programming Monday.
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