Issue 66: Kite Fest Lousianne

In 1688, a French explorer named Sieur d’Iberville was leading an expedition down the Mississippi River when they came across a reddish pole, decorated, along the river. They named this “Baton Rouge” (Red Stick) and as time passed by, a city was founded on the spot. The second largest city in the state of Louisiana, it’s a mere 1.5 hours up the river from New Orleans. A few years ago, the tourism bureau was looking for new events to attract people to the city, and while on a trip to South Padre Island in Texas during an earlier iteration of the  kite festival we covered in the last issue, it dawned on them that perhaps this was the kind of event the area needed. Bit by bit, this festival has been growing and this proved to be the best running of it yet.

Sometimes, the best laid travel plans go awry. Initially, I (as part of iQuad, with John Barresi, Steve de Rooy and Bazzer Poulter) had planned to arrive sometime on Thursday afternoon, giving us some time to settle in before tackling the first day’s events. But as we approached the DFW airport, it became obvious that something was up as we started circling the area. About 20 minutes later, the pilot comes onto the PA system and DFW had been temporarily closed and we’d be landing for some amount of time at Wichita Falls, just to the northwest of DFW. If you’ve never been there before, it’s essentially a wee tiny airport that doesn’t’ even possess the gangways needed to depart the plane, however we were not there TOO long and an hour or so later, we were in fact on the ground in DFW. However the irony of a pack of kite flyers being grounded by wind was not lost on us and we chuckled about it that evening in Texas as we were now stuck there for the evening. All this meant an early flight out in the morning and a direct, do not pass go, trip to the kite field, hopefully arriving just as the event started for the weekend.

And we arrived to find… a field full of kids! One of the things the tourism bureau had done was to organize a kids day for the Friday, inviting local schools and encouraging the schools to incorporate some kite flying information into their curriculum. It also functions as a great way for children to then go home and tell their parents, which ideally results in a visit over the weekend as well. The field itself is located on the west side of the Mississippi River and it was a beautiful flying location, with trees at a good long distance way and some very fine grass to fly on.  The assembled kids were kept busy by a variety of activities, including kite making and some time spent questioning and watching iQuad as we went thru various routines and general fun flying. Gayle Woodul, the all star regional director of Region 8 had assembled a crew of flyers who were kept busy keeping large kites up in the air all weekend and organized some very amusing Bol races for kids to partake in as well! As their last stop on a tour through the stations, they took a pledge towards kite safety. Neat idea and well implemented!

After a great evening meal with everyone over at Bijoux Bill’s, just down the street from the festival for some yummy BBQ, we were well worn out and ready for a good long sleep.

Saturday morning brought a beautiful day to the table! Sun, some additional sun and a little more sun just to round the day out a little bit. We had great crowds all day long. Although the winds were often unpredictable, given this was an inland festival, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but the range was a little maddening at times. In the end, we opted to stay on standard sails for the entire weekend as we could under power them if needed but if we’d been on any manner of vents at all, the frequent and sudden lulls in the wind would have grounded us most unspectacularly here and there.

One person who was utterly undaunted by the squirrelly winds was Deante Boswell. Early in the day, we turned over one of our team revs to Deante’s young hands and I’m not sure it ever left his side until the weekend wrapped up. Already a seasoned veteran in demoing at various Texas festivals, he can now add “quad” to his list of flying skills. He was quite impressive by the time the festival wrapped up and we sent him down his own set of kites afterwards. Well done Deante!

Kids kite making remained popular throughout the weekend, with a steady stream of wee ones walking over to make their own first kites. And if they were ready to move up to their first “pro” kite, Joe Meaux of Mojo kites was ready to help them out, from single lines to quad lines. I know we saw a few quads walk out the door under the arms of smiling people. We (iQuad) demoed off and on all day long, enlisting Deante’s father, Michael to lend a hand on the mic before our demos to get the crowd worked up.

We’re continuing to hone a fully choreographed routine to AC/DC’s Back In Black and this weekend was a great time to work on it, given the weird wind conditions we flew in all weekend long. It’s one thing to fly a routine in perfect lab winds, such as those found on a beach, but, its entirely another to fly them in a constantly changing arena. Apparently, this builds “character”. I thought we had four characters on the team as it was, do we really need more?

After a quick bite to eat late that afternoon, one of the organizers had offered to take us up to a local Cajun bar for some real Cajun music. About 15 minutes up the road, it was a neat place called Raxx and BOY what a load of fun we had there, I highly recommend it if you happen to be down in the area. And be sure to stay for the 3rd set of music where the Cajun gets really thick, it will definitely be better entertainment than the Waffle House at 2am, no matter what anyone else says!

Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday’s but, with even more people coming down to check out the action and a little bit warmer as well. We could have easily flown there for another week, given most of the Northwest was still rather chilly and even snow like close by. Nothing quite beats a 75-80 degree day of sun to melt the long winter blues away in short order!

Crowds, sun, heat, some great food and a lot of kites! You really couldn’t ask for more. Given this is a fairly new festival, I suspect many people who’d been able to make the drive over from various points in the South would have come by had they realized there was a festival close by, so here’s hoping we can get the word out more for next year’s festival (as it’s been confirmed that it was a wild success and there will be another one, same weekend next year. If you are in the area, you should go mark this weekend down on your calendar and come on out!

I know for one, I’ll be hoping to return to the Bayou area for a little more Southern Hospitality, and maybe go a day earlier to take in some of New Orleans as well!  Thanks again to the organizers!

Best winds,

David Hathaway