Marshall and Marianne Kammerud, the King and Queen of the Herb Cup.
As King of the Cup, Marshall Kammerud rose to the role, making an opening speech starting with "In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king..." I'm not sure who the one-eyed man was in this case, but after a brief speech and invocation, Queen Marianne stepped up to the starting line.
"Ready? GO!!!!" she yelled, waving the white flag. The race was on! And yes, Todd's trike fell apart.
In fact, the start of the race resembled a dinner bell at a nursery home. For the first twenty seconds, everyone moved in slow motion. The torque required to get our undersized, makeshift trikes moving created a comically underwhelming start, where we all seemed to simultaneously stall out. Teammates ran to the line to push-start the racers.
Dan Root of "Pamplemousse Bastards" engages in dirty tricks, while teammate Jim Kammerud, below, abandons ship.
Dan Root of the Pamplemousse Bastards:
The reality was, you had a bunch of cartoonists who were, at best, athletically challenged, not all that used to being in the sun, riding trikes which were mechanically suspect or greatly lacking in their load bearing capacity. There may have been alcohol -- there was definitely water balloons and silly string.
The race track (actually a bus turnaround) seemed short, easy and fairly flat -- until you were sitting on a trike designed for a four year old. From that perspective one lap seemed interminable and it contained an immense incline -- by about the 5th lap it was a real soul breaker!
Without talking about it, everybody arrived at the same idea for a secret weapon: water balloons! That was the day I learned there is a special type of balloon specifically designed for holding water. The balloons I bought wouldn't burst -- in a different situation that might be a nice optimistic metaphor -- in this case it just got ugly. I kept throwing my uber-resilient balloons harder and harder from closer and closer range -- I heaved one that caught an intern full on the neck -- she just crumpled backwards into a ditch. The balloon was fine.
Ron Price of "Rolling Monkeys" passes "Apricot and Peach".
The race was twenty laps of perhaps sixty yards. I had had my doubts about how the race would last more than three minutes, but it turned out to be the perfect length. As soon as the race began, the track became a war zone. Tricycles collided with one another; spectators ran around and across the track, cheering, shooting video, and accusing. The Taunting Muffins, Beth Albright and Nicole Ankowski, had brought a case of Silly String which now strung like webs from people and their tricycles. Racers lay scattered everywhere, pelted mercilessly with water balloons while they struggled to return to the race or fix their vehicles.
Above: Nicole Ankowski and Beth Albright, "Taunting Muffins".
My most vivid memory of the race was of how I was nearly killed. Apricot and Peach walked the entire race, solemnly abstaining from the ugliness of competition. They reacted as little as possible to their surroundings, but at some point Apricot (or was it Peach) sidestepped a child on the track directly into my path. I screamed like a ninny, causing Apricot (or Peach) to turn toward me, frozen like a gold-festooned deer in the headlights. I plowed into him, flipping over the handlebars and slamming into the asphalt. I staggered back onto my tricycle and wobbled to Steve, who took over as driver while I regained my composure. I felt happy to be uninjured, but my overwhelming emotion was one of indignation at the injustice - with three video cameras recording the event, not one of them captured what I'm pretty sure was a spectacular-looking stunt.
Marty Fuller armed with super-soaker.
Studio co-founder Marty Fuller:
It was brutal. But that's where all that training pays off... the road miles before dawn, riding up the stairs at the Museum of Art, all of it. The raw eggs didn't add any muscle but sure can get you to the port-a-john faster.
Charlie Warren makes trike repairs in the pits as Jim Kammerud wears a pool raft on his head.
Beth Albright, of the team Taunting Muffins:
I partnered with Miss Nicole Ankowski. We worked really hard on our trike, and it sort of held together, but any consistent or aggressive pedaling caused the chain to slip off. We put it back on a couple of times on the first few laps of the race, but then gave up and just took turns pushing each other around the track.
Between the costumes, the mechanical trike failures, and the hazards of running around the traffic circle with some fast cyclists, some really slow big wheel riders, and various non-riders chucking water balloons and silly string in all directions, it was pretty much chaos. But really funny chaos.
Above: Funny chaos.
Below: CAR! Jim Kammerud waves as a business park neighbor innterrupts the race.
I don't remember much of the race itself, other than Brian's six foot body packed into the child sized big wheel as he desperately tried to bend his legs far enough back to touch the pedals. I recall giving up in the first lap and standing perfectly still while a child sprayed me with water through the eye hole of the mask for what felt like the majority of the day. I remember seeing the people that had real jobs in that office park driving home to their spouses and children trying not to hit us with their cars as they passed through the cul-de-sac. That and I remember some controversy about the end of the race.
Steve Moore of "Rolling Monkeys" (note monkey tail) completes another lap behind Brian Smith of "Nodah X". In background, Samantha Burg, King Marshall, scorekeeper Leslie Hough, and Queen Marianne.
Studio manager Leslie Hough was put in charge of the scoreboard, marking off each lap a team completed. As the race progressed, frontrunners emerged. We began to notice how the Nodah X team was flagrantly ignoring the "three wheels on the ground" rule, riding their tricycle as a bike! What the f%#@?! I was reprimanded by King Marshall for launching f-bombs in protest. Our silly little race had become a heatedly competitive contest, giving it our all in the midwestern swelter. I felt light headed as I handed off the trike to Ron for the final few laps.
Nodah X, third wheel hanging in the air like middle finger, began to break away. When Leslie announced their last lap, I had a flash recall of "Strange But True Football Stories", a library book I'd read in third grade. True story: In a college game in the 1950's, with time running out and a player sprinting wide open down the sideline for what would surely be a game winning touchdown, the opposing team's coach jumped onto the field and tackled the runner.
So I tackled Nodah X.
End of the race scrum. Andy Friz and Brian Smith try to get Steve Moore away from the Nodah X bike. as Dan Root looks on.
Actually, it was more like I allowed myself to be run over by them, intentionally tangled my leg into their bike (oh that's right, TRIKE) frame, trying to give the Rolling Monkeys a chance to catch up. But they were just too far ahead. Andy got me in a half-nelson and Brian caually walked his bike across the finish line. The Rolling Monkeys would come in second, with Charlie Warren and Brie Buyaki third. After the third place finish, the race was called, about twenty minutes after the start.
Above: Queen Marianne waves the checkered flag as Brian Smith crosses the finish line. Leslie Hough, King Marshall, and Brie Buyaki look on.
Bottom: Brian and Andy win first prize: The Herb Cup and an infant.
When all was said and done, The Rolling Monkeys came in second. I still have the Sculpey-and-ribbon award that we won. It was really a terrific day, despite the tremendous loss in productivity that must have gone along with it. I think that every place of business should have its own "Herb Cup" now and then. It's a chance for co-workers to have some fun, flaunt what makes each of them unique, and bond over something bizarre that none of them is ever likely to forget .
Brian Fee, Dan Scanlon, and Kristin Kummer share the Best Costume Prize.
Besides the racing awards, there was also a best costume award, winner chosen by the King and Queen. They declared a tie between Apricot and Peach, and Kristen Kummer - who didn't race but dressed as the character Otis from "The Indescribable Nth", a short film I produced through Character Builders. We celebrated at the Bag o' Nails pub, capping the night off perfectly. Everyone was pumped up after the race, making plans for another race in the fall, a race that would never happen.
There's great satisfaction in coming up with an idea, then executing that idea as conceived. The Character Builders gang really rose to the occasion. Kudos to them! And many kudos to Jim Kammerud and Marty Fuller for letting us waste company time like that. The studio has since closed, partners going their separate ways. The crew has gone off in many directions. Some, I've lost touch with. If you meet one of them, mention the Herb Cup and see the smile stretch across their face.
Andy Friz and Brian Smith, "Nodah X".
Photos in this article were from the collections of Beth Albright and Marty Fuller.