She’s been the pilot of a four-time winning Kinetic sculpture team, she’s ended up in bay during the race, she’s been a competitor in the race for five years and in the year she decides to take a break from racing, she’s become the Kinetic Grand Championship Rutabaga Queen instead.
On Saturday night in front of an excited packed house at the Bayside Community Hall, “Betty Crafter,” better known as Arcata resident Sandra Levinson, was crowned the 50th Rutabaga Queen at the Rutabaga Ball. She will make her grand public debut Saturday afternoon when she kicks off the Grand Championship Race.
“I’m Betty Crafter and I do all sorts of crafting whether its baking or sewing or whatever is needed for the Kinetic universe,” Levinson said Monday as she described how she turned from veteran kinetic racer to queen contestant. “My campaign actually started with my pit mistress, Sarah Smith, suggesting that I run for Rutabaga Queen and then as it went on she was like, ‘what have you gotten yourself into?’”
The answer was the race for the Queen’s crown and when it comes to claiming that crown, the competition can be fierce. That’s when efficient use of bribes, talent and a beautiful ball gown come into play. Levinson said she used a variety of items to bribe judges, the emcees and even the public.
“There were a few buttons, pom-poms, some cookies, man-eating-clam cookies and other stuff,” she said. “My talent was cheering on the racers and getting the spectators involved. I had five people in my entourage and they showed up as cheerleaders and basketball players that said ‘Betty’ on them and they and the crowd were super fantastic.”
As the newly crowned Rutabaga Queen, Levinson will now be the public face of the Kinetic Grand Championship and she will remain a queen, alongside all the previous queens, in perpetuity.
It will be Levinson who will signal the start of the race Saturday and it’s the first time in six years she won’t behind the wheel of a sculpture.
“This year we decided to take a year off,” she said. “When we’re racing, we start in January and we get together once a week and towards the last months, we get together two or three times a week. It takes a lot of work, a lot of physical effort and some mental stability. It takes a group of crazy people to run in this race and that’s what we love about it.”
Competitors for the Rutabaga Queen crown compete in three categories, ball gown, bay crossing — which replaces the swimsuit competition and asks competitors how the would avoid the man-eating clams on the bay — and what would you wear) and the talent competition.
There were two other competitors this year, “Deer to Hart” aka Alex Alvarado and “Mystical Wildflower” aka Talvi Fried; each earned the honorific titles of “princess.”
“We had three contestants and they were all very talented,” said former board member and queen, Emma Breacain. “Right at the beginning this year, we had a lot of people raise their hands when we asked who had never seen the Rutabaga Ball. We pick the figurehead and main cheerleader for Kinetic and the ball is the kick off to the whole Rutabaga season. It also serves as a fundraiser, which was started years ago to keep the race going.”
The Rutabaga Queen and the two princesses will be on hand for the start of the race in “a manner according to our glorious founder, Hobart Brown,” said Breacain, who added, “their duty is to make sure everyone is having fun and to have more fun than anybody almost up to the point of obnoxiousness.”
The Kinetic Grand Championship begins at noon on the Arcata Plaza and Levinson will there, ensuring, even up to the point of obnoxiousness, that everyone is having a good time.
“We want to make sure everyone shows up on the plaza on Saturday,” Crafter said. “Everyone seemed low-key and they were having fun (at the ball) and it was great crowd. So we’ll see you on the plaza for the noon bell.”
If you go
What: Kinetic Grand Championship
Where: Arcata Plaza
When: Starting whistle Saturday at noon
Cost: Free for spectators
More information: http://kineticgrandchampionship.com/