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Published June 15, 2009, 06:54 AM

Kite festival presents family hobby

Most adults have at least fleeting childhood memories of flying diamond-shaped kites, which often seemed to entail a lot of effort with dubious results. If the kites made it into the sky at all, it wasn’t for long. At the 15th Annual Jamestown Kite Festival over the weekend, youngsters who made their own kites with help from Jamestown Parks and Recreation staff, effortlessly flew their creations.

By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun

Most adults have at least fleeting childhood memories of flying diamond-shaped kites, which often seemed to entail a lot of effort with dubious results. If the kites made it into the sky at all, it wasn’t for long.

At the 15th Annual Jamestown Kite Festival over the weekend, youngsters who made their own kites with help from Jamestown Parks and Recreation staff, effortlessly flew their creations. There was no running necessary and no need for long tails. All these kites needed was a little wind. Called sled kites, they were made of precut garbage bags and two sticks attached by two strings to the line.

Chris Dodson, veteran kite flyer and member of Jamestown’s Wings on Strings, said the frustration for those who grew up with the diamond kite was in the shape.

“The diamond kite is really hard to fly,” Dodson said. “You needed the tail for stability.”

Kite flyers around the world have always wondered, he said, why Americans flew, or tried to fly, that shape. All it did was turn people off, he said. Now when he talks about kites and kite flying in schools, Dodson said, he can focus on starting the fun with a sled kite.

There was no frustration or much effort involved in flying kites at Meidinger Park Field in Jamestown Saturday and Sunday. All that was needed was some wind. The kites came in all shapes and sizes, but only one was a diamond shape. This one had two tails. The guest flyers brought with them colorful soft kites, huge inflatables, and sport and precision kites, as well as single line or multi-line.

Monster inflatables worked at filling with wind to get up off the ground. With lines attached to a tractor, the monsters bobbed and floated waiting for sufficient wind to become airborne. For Dave Gomberg, Lincoln City, Ore., monster show kites are his specialty. He brought a 40-foot tall kite to the Jamestown festival.

“It kind of looks like a hot air balloon,” he said.

Gomberg also owns probably the largest kite in the world, which he didn’t even try to bring. It’s 10,000 square feet of nylon.

“I tell people it cost more than my first house,” he said.

Smaller kites filled the air as guest flyers from as far away as New Mexico and as close as Bismarck flew their favorites.

For Deb Lenzen, Bismarck, who rediscovered kiting as an adult, it is a “wonderful hobby.”

“It’s an opportunity for families to have great fun,” she said.

Lenzen has been a kiter since 1990. She’s also the coordinator of the Skydance Sakakawea Kite Festival in Garrison, N.D., the only other kite festival in the state. She not only flies kites, she builds them, often using an American Indian motif.

“A lot of us can’t afford sailboats and still want to celebrate the wind, so we fly kites,” Lenzen said with a laugh.

Guest flyers Luella and Carveth Kramer, Taos, N.M., were at the Garrison festival a few weeks ago and stayed to take in the Jamestown Kite Festival. Luella said they were thoroughly enjoying their visit in North Dakota. As the state can usually supply the only thing a kite flyer needs, the Kramers had very little down time.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect in kite flying was demonstrated by the 180GO! team’s debut in North Dakota. Precision or stunt flying is relatively new in kiting. Mike Kory, team captain, said the kites are a special design. There are four lines of a fixed length — two on each handle, which control the kite. The four members of 180GO! had their kites performing aerial maneuvers in unison throughout the weekend. Each team member wears a headset with Kory announcing the maneuvers. But this is not a choreographed show.

“I call it as we go. I don’t know what the wind will do,” Kory said Saturday. “Today, the wind is shifting all over the place.”

For all the guest flyers at the Jamestown Kite Festival this year their hobby is the “greatest.” They all said it’s especially enjoyable at smaller festivals, where they can share their enthusiasm with visitors.

“You can get into it at whatever level you want,” Lenzen said. “You can pay $10,000 for a kite or $1. You can go to festivals, compete, make kites or you can just have a blast flying kites.”

And for those who have the time and inclination, there are festivals, big and small, throughout the country.

“Kiters view festivals like a family reunion,” Lenzen said. “It’s a time to connect and visit.”

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

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