Ready to race downhill in the Krazy Downhill Derby held Saturday Feb. 23 in Chestertown are young Baker siblings Hayden, 4; Cyrus, 5; and Wyatt, 10. Their father Aaron and Sean of Baker logging get ready to launch the bulky craft, fashioned after a John Deere skidder by the Baker family.
With mock disgust, Tom Martin looked at his racing dragster which had been modified to travel over snow for the Krazy Downhill Derby held Saturday Feb. 23. This beloved local event annually attracts competitors from a wide region for its festive atmosphere spiked with creativity and humor.
The running gear on Martin’s vehicle, including skis strapped to its front wheels which were scavenged from a wheelchair, and its rear suspension – minivan wheels tied to plastic sled saucers – were beat up after the race. Martin’s metal monstrosity had rotated and careened backwards down Dynamite Hill, with a crowd yelling in anticipation of a snowy crash.
“No one would believe us if we said we planned this,” quipped Martin, as he and his cohorts Drew Kuklinski and Chris Walker, both from Chestertown, positioned the vehicle to be loaded onto a trailer.
Before the race, they described the vehicle’s elaborate steering system, and its brake, a landscaping rake jutting out of the back of the heavy-duty steel vehicle.
Afterwards, they exchanged mock blame for the dubious engineering, but decided that Kuklinski hanging off the back of the dragster, lifted the front skis off the snow, rendering the complex steering useless.
“We’ll be re-engineering this for next year,” Martin said with a grin. “We’ll redistribute the weight, and won’t be using those saucers.”
Competing craft, piloted by youngsters, had managed to stay on course as they traversed downhill.
One of them was a faux logging skidder, constructed with two-by-fours and thick plywood, appearing to weigh 200 pounds or so. Driving the boxy, hulking vehicle for Baker Logging were three Baker children – Hayden, 4; Cyrus, 5; and Wyatt, 10. The craft made it downhill with young Wyatt manipulating the two-by-four levers that dug into the snow for steering.
“I was headed toward the crowd, and I just pulled back on one brake and pushed the other, and we straightened out,” Wyatt Baker said.
Another child who proved his navigational ability was Ethan Gould, 11. He flew downhill perched on the back of a plastic alligator, outfitted with a steering column, as well as skis, brakes, and a central ski rudder. Ethan said he and his father Robert Gould of Chestertown built the crazy sled out of salvaged materials.
“We found the stuff in a dump next door to our house,” Ethan said.
Also in the race was a Viking ship created by Adam Hall of Chestertown. His son Alex, 3, painted the colorful, fanciful dragon design on the ship’s sail.
Several adults did in fact make it downhill without scaring spectators.
A.C. Emerson of Albany, sporting a top hat, rode a fanciful purple unicorn downhill in a straight track, although it seemingly had no steering apparatus.
All the competitors, including Ellie, Mick and Reagan Barry of Glens Falls who piloted a candy-themed craft, won medals passed out by Lynn Engelmann. Kit Isachsen narrated the sled race with a dose of levity. SonRise Lutheran church provided complimentary hot chocolate for the crowd.
On duty for the North Warren Emergency Squad were Paul Frasco, Terry Perkins and Ben Bahr. Although three competitors were injured in last year’s race, the 2013 edition had no serious crashes.
They were poised for action, however, when Norm Brown and Cole Stewart, 10, rode a rocket that looked like a bundle of red firecrackers down the course. The two were pitched off the craft despite hugging the tubular creation, proving that its navigation panel, which featured circuit boards, resistors and complex wiring – was indeed non-functional.