Bristol’s ‘Human-Powered Parade’ debuts kinetic T-Rex

BRISTOL — At the second annual Human Powered Parade last year, founder and director Melanie Kessler wore a striped cape bearing the crest of her superhero name: “Rabbi Yikes.”
“My power is to switch people from individual consciousness to community love-consciousness and identification,” she told Northeast Addison Television.
As this year’s parade approaches — it gets rolling through Bristol on Saturday — Kessler is preparing to wield that power once more.
It may not involve wand-waving, dust-sprinkling or spell-casting, but if you climb a few rungs on the “What’s it all about?” ladder, you begin to see the magic in it.
In Kessler’s case, some of that magic comes from asking difficult questions.
What’s the difference between a parade and a protest?
Does changing infrastructure help change people’s behavior? Or is it the other way around?
When does an intersection become a place where people meet and not just where cars stop?
How do we revitalize neighborhoods where people have become strangers to one another?
That’s when the fun words begin to bubble forth. Kinetic. Whimsy. Pilgrimage. Momentum.
“What is your human power?” Kessler asks in the 2019 Participation Packet. For some it might be observation, for others, building bridges, speaking, planning or even just smiling. In community, however, “all of our powers combined create a larger-than-life depiction of what it means to be human. Let’s parade that through town!”
Bristol is the perfect place for such a parade, Kessler said. Someday, she imagines, the town could even become synonymous with festival life.
•At 10 a.m. the celebration kicks off at the Bristol Hub Teen Center off Airport Drive, where participants can decorate their bikes, listen to live music, visit community stations and watch a BMX stunt show.
•At 11 a.m. the Human Powered Parade takes to the street — bicycling, scootering and strollering east on Pleasant Streetto Mountain Street, then circling back around again. According to the website, “We will stop at intersections along the way for community dance parties, interactive art and all things zany. Stop, Drop and Chalk, a cheering congratulatory party for kids that just learned to bike, flatland BMX performances and drumming.”
•After the parade ends, around 12:30 p.m., the Human Powered Party begins at the Skate Park, featuring bike-powered smoothies, food sold by local vendors, music by the Silverbacks, plus test rides and BMX tricks.
Donations will benefit the Addison County Safe Rides to School Program.
Pedal-powered art makes its debut at this year’s Human Powered Parade.
Whiting artist-carpenter Dan Brett, who leads the Kinetic Sculpture Team, has been working on his two creations for a few months now.
The Jurassic Jalopy combines a bicycle with (the provisionally named) “Betsy,” a Tyrannosaurus Rex built from wood, papier-mâché and other materials. He got the idea from a model T-Rex skull that belongs to his six-year-old son,Benjamin, who also helped him apply the papier-mâché.
Brett’s second kinetic sculpture, “Champ,” is 26 feet long and will require quite a bit more human power than “Betsy.” The aqua-colored version of the mythical Lake Monster attaches to a custom four-wheel, four-seat bike. After completing the design Brett recruited some friends with bicycle and welding know-how to help him construct it.
“The point is to get them out on the road,” he said. “To inspire people. For me, it’s about getting the community out working together, putting something together. And putting a little whimsy back into their lives.”
AFTER ITS COMPLETION, “Champ,” a 26-foot kinetic sculpture, will make its debut at the third annual Human Powered Parade this Saturday in Bristol. Designed by Whiting artist-carpenter Dan Brett, “Champ” will ride atop a custom bicycle requiring four pedalers.
Photo courtesy of Dan Brett
Next year, perhaps: a dragon.
Both Brett and Kessler have found inspiration in the Kinetic Sculpture Races of Northern California. (The curious are advised to Google them “and prepare to enter a whole new world of creative wackiness.”)
“They’re about momentum,” Kessler said. “And feeling the possibility of solutions through joy and art.”
“Anything is possible,” Brett said. “If you can imagine something like this,” he added, pointing at Betsy, “then you can make it real.”
His other message is more practical: Bring a helmet.
Kessler’s message applies both to art and to building community, she said.
“It’s about creating things where we are.”
The power of these creations to transform us often arises in unexpected places.
In Seattle in 1999, as more than 40,000 people prepared to protest a meeting of World Trade Organization there, Kessler found herself in a warehouse, watching members of the Vermont-based Bread & Puppet Theater build larger-than-life, site-specific creatures.
Later, elsewhere in the city, Kessler and a group of protestors were confronted by the police.
“We were standing in front of a line of cops, about to get pepper-sprayed,” she recalled, “when all of a sudden these giant puppets come running down the hill.”
Startled, the police looked up to see what was going on.
That, too, was a kind of intersection — one packed with such meaning, 20 years later, that Kessler grew expansive in her recollection of it.
“It was an amazing moment.”
For more information about the Human Powered Parade, visit humanpoweredparade.org.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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