Gloriously muddy Kensington Derby and Arts Festival draws hundreds to River Wards for return of the annual street fair

The obstacle race and food fest is about as Philly as it gets.

The Kensington Kitty soars through Philadelphia Brewing Company’s ‘Peacock Passage’ obstacle during the race at the Kensington Derby and Arts Festival on Saturday

The Kensington Kitty soars through Philadelphia Brewing Company’s ‘Peacock Passage’ obstacle during the race at the Kensington Derby and Arts Festival on Saturday

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
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Umbrellas, confetti and little orange towels were present in equal measure on Saturday when the Kensington Derby & Arts Festival returned after a two-year pandemic break.

The street fair, presented by the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, has been a thing since 2007. Its most unique feature — originally called the Kinetic Sculpture Derby — is an obstacle course featuring contestants riding human-powered contraptions, where the only design requirement is that the vehicles can maintain a speed of at least 3 mph.

When the New Kensington Community Development Corporation started the purposely wacky event 15 years ago, organizers hoped it would bring attention to local artists, neighborhood businesses, and the area’s commercial corridors. Judging by this weekend’s turnout, it’s working as intended.

Rain couldn’t stop the enthusiastic crowd from cheering on racers

Rain couldn’t stop the enthusiastic crowd from cheering on racers

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

Despite consistent rain throughout the day, hundreds of people descended on the area around Trenton Avenue between Norris and Frankford to stroll through 100 vendors selling food, drinks, handmade goods, and art.

Festival-goers also cheered on racers, who navigated around beer kegs, bubbles, and clouds of glitter before reaching the finale: an iconic mud pit that participants had to wade through for the chance to win one of 10 categories.

As one attendee put it, Hall & Oates was playing, people were screaming and there was mud everywhere: about as Philly as it gets.

Scroll down for pics of the event subtitled “Return of the Mud.”

Judges, including Councilmember Mark Squilla, don't let the drizzle deter their deliberations

Judges, including Councilmember Mark Squilla, don't let the drizzle deter their deliberations

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This duo called ‘The Battle Cats’ began the race in style with some silly string at Frankford between Dauphin and York

This duo called ‘The Battle Cats’ began the race in style with some silly string at Frankford between Dauphin and York

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

 

Someone showed up with a panda head and spent a lot of time dancing in these bleachers

Someone showed up with a panda head and spent a lot of time dancing in these bleachers

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
Racers make their way through clouds of glitter and feathers at Philadelphia Brewing Company’s 'Peacock Passage'

Racers make their way through clouds of glitter and feathers at Philadelphia Brewing Company’s 'Peacock Passage'

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Participants waiting for winners to be announced

Participants waiting for winners to be announced

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‘Ghost from Kensington’s Past’ makes his way into the mud pit

‘Ghost from Kensington’s Past’ makes his way into the mud pit

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Rain couldn’t stop the very enthusiastic crowd from cheering on racers

Rain couldn’t stop the very enthusiastic crowd from cheering on racers

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
This attendee took derby literally and wore their best fancy hat

This attendee took derby literally and wore their best fancy hat

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A young spectator speaks to reporters during the mud pit portion of the derby

A young spectator speaks to reporters during the mud pit portion of the derby

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A fabulously dressed biker in a homemade flamingo costume heads toward the mud pit

A fabulously dressed biker in a homemade flamingo costume heads toward the mud pit

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Kensington Kitty screams as they power their way through the mud pit portion of the derby

Kensington Kitty screams as they power their way through the mud pit portion of the derby

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
The ‘Queen of Hearts’ team came prepared, and soared through the mud pit. They later won the Media’s Choice judging category.

The ‘Queen of Hearts’ team came prepared, and soared through the mud pit. They later won the Media’s Choice judging category.

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Miz Dot makes her way through the mud pit, eventually winning ‘Best Use of Materials’ category without uttering a single word, but winning everyone over with lots of interpretive dancing (and a bit of mud throwing)

Miz Dot makes her way through the mud pit, eventually winning ‘Best Use of Materials’ category without uttering a single word, but winning everyone over with lots of interpretive dancing (and a bit of mud throwing)

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
This racer’s vehicle made partly of PVC pipe fell apart before they could make it out of the mud pit

This racer’s vehicle made partly of PVC pipe fell apart before they could make it out of the mud pit

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
The flamingo biker goes down into the side of the pit during their turn through the finale

The flamingo biker goes down into the side of the pit during their turn through the finale

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
Mud was flying everywhere as racers made their way through the finale — the pit

Mud was flying everywhere as racers made their way through the finale — the pit

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
Two members of the team ‘Bird Gang’ successfully navigate the mud pit at Dauphin Street between Martha and Trenton

Two members of the team ‘Bird Gang’ successfully navigate the mud pit at Dauphin Street between Martha and Trenton

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
A participant sports muddy shoes after making their way through the mud pit

A participant sports muddy shoes after making their way through the mud pit

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
A little rain didn’t stop the ‘Ghost from Kensington’s Past’ from taking home the award for Best Costume at the Kensington Derby

A little rain didn’t stop the ‘Ghost from Kensington’s Past’ from taking home the award for Best Costume at the Kensington Derby

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
The Philadelphia Brewing Company team dismantles the obstacle called the ‘Peacock Passage’

The Philadelphia Brewing Company team dismantles the obstacle called the ‘Peacock Passage’

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
Lots of confetti and glitter covered the pavement after the derby racers passed by

Lots of confetti and glitter covered the pavement after the derby racers passed by

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn
Wet streets didn't dampen the fun at the festival portion of the event

Wet streets didn't dampen the fun at the festival portion of the event

Erin Blewett for Billy Penn

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Your money goes directly to the salaries of our newsroom staff, and we need to raise $23k by June 30 to make our budget. Will you consider making a donation today?

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Your money goes directly to the salaries of our newsroom staff, and we need to raise $23k by June 30 to make our budget. Will you consider making a donation to fund more stories like this?

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Your money goes directly to the salaries of our newsroom staff, and we need to raise $23k by June 30 to make our budget. Will you consider making a donation to fund more stories like this?

By the people, for the people

Your money goes directly to the salaries of our newsroom staff, and we need to raise $23k by June 30 to make our budget. Will you consider making an extra donation to fund more stories like this?