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Published June 06, 2009, 06:54 AM

Kite festival set for June 13-14 in Jamestown

The 15th Annual KiteFest in Jamestown June 13-14 promises to be the biggest yet with 50 guest fliers coming from out of town and out of state. The kite festival, which will be from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days at Meidinger Park, traditionally attracts 2,000 to 3,000 visitors and an increasing number of kite-flying enthusiasts. Mike Gee of Wings on Strings, the local club hosting the festival, said it’s become the largest in the state.

By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun

The 15th Annual KiteFest in Jamestown June 13-14 promises to be the biggest yet with 50 guest fliers coming from out of town and out of state.

The kite festival, which will be from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days at Meidinger Park, traditionally attracts 2,000 to 3,000 visitors and an increasing number of kite-flying enthusiasts. Mike Gee of Wings on Strings, the local club hosting the festival, said it’s become the largest in the state.

“We have a great field and wind,” Gee said of the reason. He said guest fliers also enjoy the people they meet here.

The festival has been growing each year, Gee said, with between 25 and 30 guest fliers from out of town in the last few years. This year’s festival has attracted more nationally recognized kite enthusiasts as well as an increasing number of fliers from throughout the region. As well as North Dakota, guest fliers will be arriving from Oregon, California, New Mexico, Canada and several Midwestern states.

“There will be more people here than ever before and some big names in the kite-flying family,” Gee said. “You’ll see basically all kinds of kites — the soft inflatables, giant kites, fighter kites and sport kites. You’ll also see kites you’ve never seen before.”

New to the festival this year is 180 GO!, a precision kite flying team. These are six stunt kite fliers from the Chicago area who do synchronized aerial maneuvers to music. Gee said they use quad-line kites, meaning each has four strings.

“They are spectacular to watch,” Gee said.

Performances are set for 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. both days, plus the 180 GO! team members will be doing some individual kite flying. Doug Hogan, director of Jamestown Parks and Recreation, the festival’s major sponsor, said with so many performance times, all of the festival goers should get a chance to see it.

“North Dakotans have never seen anything like this before,” Hogan said.

Gee said a Rokkaku Battle is also planned for this year’s KiteFest. Rokkaku is a Japanese word for six-sided object. Two-member teams battle to knock the other kite out of the sky.

“I want to throw in a little surprise and get the crowd involved in the Rok Battle,” Gee said.

One member of the team has to come from the crowd, he said, to work the spool. The spool holder keeps the line from getting tangled on the ground and should add some fun to the event.

“We have a Rok Battle at all our other festivals, Gee said.

It originated in Japan millennia ago to solve land disputes, he said. It is said one farmer was flying his kite over another farmer’s land. The second farmer cut the first farmer’s kite out of the sky. Eventually, land disputes there were settled with kite battles.

And it’s only one of the many different activities going on.

“The best way to take in the event will be to spend the day,” Gee said. “There will be different kites, competitions all day, demonstrations and a candy drop for the kids.”

Hogan said the KiteFest is an all-day event for the family. Although bleachers will be set up, he said, there’s also plenty of room for lawn chairs and shade. People are also encouraged to bring their own kites and join the fly. Free kite building classes are again on the agenda for Saturday. Last year more than 200 kites were built before supplies ran out.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen more and more families coming up,” he said. “It’s an awesome atmosphere.”

Parks and Rec is planning a scavenger hunt for the youngsters as well. Booklets will have short biographies of the guest fliers and, Hogan said, participants in the hunt must get each flier to sign the booklet.

“They’ll get a prize if they get them all,” he said.

Everything is free except the concessions. The Jamesriver Figure Skating Association provides concessions as a fundraiser. Hogan said the group does a good job on the food each year.

The KiteFest even attracted interest at a Minneapolis tourism show, said Nina Sneider, executive director of the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation, another sponsor of the festival. People were drawn to the photos of last year’s kite festival, she said, and a large number of them were interested in attending.

And because the kites can be seen on Interstate 94, she said, it’s also drawn tourists off the highway.

“It might not be our largest draw, but I consider it one that we want to keep and to grow,” she said.

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at tonip@jamestownsun.com

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