BYOBW 2014: Blazing New Trails

This was my sixth straight year covering Bring Your Own Big Wheel.  And while at first glance it all looked familiar, every year things change, and every year I see something new.  And with luck, every year, I also see and capture the same old things in a new way.

This post is about change.

This year, the big news was this Springfield Elementary-themed big wheel schoolbus.  It was constructed out of cardboard boxes, PVC, and wood, and can be seen here in the staging area with Radioactive Man at the helm.  The bus was occupied by a variety of The Simpsons characters, but sadly, it wasn't able to drive down the course with all the occupants seated — they had to get out and walk for the bus to even make it down past the first corner.

But that's progress sometimes.  I expect we'll see it again next year, with a little bit more engineering.

In last year's post, I had commented on the widening age range of BYOBW participants.  I may have simply missed it last year, but this year, parents were encouraged to attach a leash of some variety in order to help their kids down the course at a manageable pace.

Of course, other parents elected for the old-fashioned method.

The businessmen were among my favorite costumes this year.  The phone is a brilliant detail, and I also love how you can see everything flying as the guy on the right falls onto his butt.

I've also seen folks riding skateboards down in past years, but I've never seen this close of a near-miss.  The skateboarder had to cut to his right after the red guy crashed and stopped on the course.  This picture is 200 milliseconds later, as he is in the middle of cutting back to the left to avoid ramming the Eagles guy.  Eagles is, understandably, bracing for impact.  Wow.

Ghost-riding should be the next big thing in BYOBW trends.  In this case, it was accidental, but judging by the adulation for the Michael Jackson lookalike, the crowd loves dance moves just as much as they love seeing riders crash and tumble.

This was the most dramatized big wheel finish I've ever seen, especially given that there's generally no actual finish line; just a finish "zone".

Earlier on that afternoon, I was sitting near a videographer as he explained to a spectator that he and some other folks were working on a Bring Your Own Big Wheel mockumentary.  I can only imagine that this finish was part of that project, but really, who knows?  The moment was well-appreciated, regardless.

I saw this rocket sled last year, but I don't remember seeing the surprisingly-well-done flames glow in the sunlight like they do here.  If you look anywhere other than directly at the thrust nozzle, it's possible to imagine that there's actually a stream of flame erupting from the back of the sled.  Pretty cool.

Some changes present a mix of challenge and opportunity.  As the event has grown, the cost to run it (legally) has also increased.  According to the BYOBW website, the cost to run the event this year increased by well over $1000 from the 2013 level of ~$6,000.  For instance, hay bales represented one of the significant expenses (with a $400 increase over last year), but it seems plausible to imagine that the use of hay bales made the event more welcoming for people who might not have participated otherwise.

Here, one of the organizers talks with three police officers at the conclusion of this year's event.

Another ongoing challenge for the event is sustainability.  Back when I attended my first BYOBW in 2009, there was a common toy donation at the end of the event, where a fire house would collect a bunch of big wheels, rejigger them into a smaller set of working toys, and redistribute those toys.  The common donation stopped at some point, and now bigwheelers are encouraged to take their busted rides home.  Clearly, that doesn't always happen.

Could this be an opportunity in disguise?  Time will tell, I suppose. Click here to see the image gallery for this post. Click arrows to scroll. Click any image to jump to gallery

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Hey, it's me! I’ve been a documentary photographer for 17 yrs, software engineer for even longer, and plenty of other things in between.