And they’re off

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Organizers expand derby race into day-long fall festival

Mic Mead finishes his carriage car.

When Westfield resident Mic Mead straps on his helmet and grabs the reigns of his Grand Junction Funktion entry, he’ll have “horse power” assisting gravity as he drives down South Union Street. It remains to be seen how fast Mead’s horse drawn carriage entry, but its creativity is evident upon first glance.

Three months ago, Mead was inside his barn when he came across a discarded item and his Grand Junction Funktion idea began.

“I didn’t want to build a car, but I have a rusty, old pony cart hanging up there with flat tires,”

The work wasn’t as easy as replacing the wheels. To abide by the rules, Mead had to invent a breaking system. The cart also shines like its brand new and Mead added cushioning on the back bar. Instead of a steering wheel, two pieces of rope are attached to a spring-loaded front wheel. Mead said the spring turns the wheel back to center unless either rope is pulled.

“The course is long enough where if you are off a couple of degrees you’ll hit the curb,” he said.

Mead used his home at Acorn Farms and wife as inspiration for his design.

The horse – named Dickey White – is design after his wife’s childhood pony of the same name, she owned while living on the farm. To create White, Mead used former political panel signs from 2002’s election. After painting the signs white, Mead created several pieces so the horse looks like it running.

“I can’t throw things away,” he joked. “One way or another, I’ll figure out a pony. I do a lot of sculpting, but never this type of thing.”

Sept. 29 will be Mead’s first participation in the annual downtown Westfield event. He encouraged Councilman Tom Smith to get the contest going and has been a spectator for several years.

“I’m going to drive, just for fun,” he said with a smile.

While winning the derby would be nice, Mead is focused on the challenge issued to the Westfield Rotary Club.

“If I win, the club donates $100 into the fund in my name. If I lose, I donate $100 to the fund,” he said. “I plan on challenging the mayor too.”

Mayor Andy Cook drives his yellow jeep powered by city employees
Kurt Wanninger and Matthew Skelton.

The Event

Westfield’s wacky answer to the Indy 500 takes place each year on Westfield’s main drag – South Union Street. Entering its fourth year, Grand Junction Funktion (formerly the “Grand Junction Derby”) in downtown Westfield is anticipated to be the best yet as organizers have expanded the event into a day-long fall festival.

“Along with the wacky, gravity-powered, downhill car race which begins the event at 2 p.m. with the parade of cars heading north on South Union Street, there will be food and marketplace vendors, food trucks, kids area hosted by Cinderella’s Closet and Adagio Dance Academy, and a 10-board corn hole tournament hosted by the Westfield Fire Department,” said Downtown Westfield Association Executive Director Anne Poynter.

Gravity-powered, homemade derby cars compete in bracketed heats until winners are declared. Realistic racers competing in the Speed Class are built for speed and generally look like cars. For the Creative Class, anything goes – weird, wild, whatever.

“Fast is good, but outrageous is better!” said Poynter. “We want participants to dress up in costumes, throw things out to the crowd. . . It’s not about whose the fastest, but who makes the biggest impression on the crowd.”

In addition to the driver, who starts the race at the top of Union Street’s slope, two pushers enter the race at the bottom of the hill and propel the car to the finish line.

“There’s some strategy to it,” Mead said.

When the racing concludes around 5 p.m., Indiana-based band The Why Store will perform an outdoor concert on South Union St. from 5 to 8 p.m. Sun King Brewery will set up a beer garden all day as well.

“Westfield High School freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes will be competing as well as local businesses and residents,” said Poynter, adding the WHS classes will be participating in their own competition. “The kids love it, it’s a lot of fun.”

It’s not too late to sign up as a participant or vendor. Those interested in learning more can contact the DWA at dwawestfield@gmail.com or call 965-3334.

“Applications are still being accepted for entry, so build a car and have some fun!” Poynter said.

An Uncle Sam themed car prepares to race.

The Rules

1. All vehicles must fit in an 8x8x8-foot box. Smaller is fine, but entries must not to those measurements.

2. All vehicles must have at least three wheels in contact with the ground at all times. There is no maximum number, so be creative!

3. All vehicles must have onboard steering ability.

4. At least one driver, but any number is optional. Any person or any other living thing in the vehicles cannot power the vehicles in any way. All drivers and passengers that start cannot leave the vehicle until the vehicle crosses the finish line.

5. All vehicle occupants must wear a bicycle helmet or equivalent, at a minimum. This is mandatory. We encourage the use of motorcycle helmets or racing helmets.

6. Gravity is the only power for the downhill portion of the course. No motors of any kind will be allowed.

7. For the uphill portion of the course, power will be limited to a maximum of two team members pushing or pulling the vehicle.

8. All vehicles should be home built in the judgment of the stewards. Creativity and originality of design is encouraged. Make it fun!

What: Grand Junction Funktion

When: 2 to 8 p.m. Sept. 29

Where: South Union Street in downtown Westfield

Events: Wacky car race, The Why Store concert, Sun King Brewery beer garden, vendors, kids area and corn hole tournament.

More information: Visit www.dwna.org, email dwawestfield@gmail.com, or call 965-3334.

 

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