Issue 72: Great Lakes Kite Festival

When you end up writing a lot of articles involving trips to festivals (by choice, I’ll add…) sometimes you stare at a blank document in Word and draw a blank. I’ve found there’s ways to minimize this. One handy one is to try and at least write some notes, lest you end up 6 weeks after a festival and a poor recollection of what happened when. Another good one is to look back at the last time you went somewhere and avoid writing the same article the next time around. Last year, the story “hook” was the turkeys we were surrounded by at the house Steve Negen of Mackinaw kites kindly provided to us to stay in.

This year, there wasn’t a single turkey spotted anywhere near the house!

For me this year, the start of the festival felt like the longest two days in the world. Having gotten up at 5am PDT on Thursday, I got into Grand Haven and asleep by about 2am EST Friday, which was followed by a 6am wakeup in order to go film some spots with the local news channel for 7am, followed by 2 clinics during the day, some extra flying time so we could begin to teach newly reunited iQuad flyer, Egan Davis, our new routine, followed by the Indoor demos and lastly some dinner and then FINALLY some sleep! I’m pretty sure I slept like a log for hours.

The clinics were two fold this year, featuring Zach and Josh Gordon teaching dual line skills, and iQuad teaching quad skills, with a morning and afternoon session. The morning one was a little challenging as a light drizzly rain made for very little wind and some very heavy kites. But, we soldiered on through it regardless and by the time lunch time was rolling around, the clouds were beginning to lighten up and the rain had stopped. Sam Ritter (with Annie and Pixel in tow of course) got down to the beach with his stacks and right behind him was Lee Sedgewick. Various members of Chicago Fire, IKE and the Detroit Windjammers were arriving and by the end of the afternoon, the beach was pretty full of flyers.

Friday evening, the festival gets some space at a local school close to the beach for the indoor fly. Steve was determined to move it along quickly this time and he most assuredly did but we still managed to get in a good list of flyers. I had that sick feeling one gets when you pull up on your kite and you feel something snap, however, I was able to quickly steal John’s indoor rev and continue on. Due to a bad back twist, Steve DeRooy wasn’t able to do the full 3 person indoor routine, but, we did manage to improvise with Egan as a stand in. Sam and Lee also put on great routines and a young guy who’s name I think was Jaycee flew a home made UFO that was a good bit taller than he was!

Saturday morning started off with a beach shrouded in fog. And really, that didn’t change much over the entire day. There were times when you’d strain to see the kites up in the air, especially white sailed ones (I swear for a minute, I couldn’t find the Windjammer’s 4th person at all though I knew he had a kite up there!). As usually goes hand in hand with fog, there was a distinct lack of wind nearly all day as well.  This doesn’t mean the entire day was a loss however. People coped with the wind with a smile on their face and here and there, the sun managed to break through the clouds for a while occasionally as well. In one of the weirder days I can remember, we, as in iQuad didn’t catch a break all day long. It was much like we had offended a wind god somewhere in the Midwest, as any time we picked up the handles, the wind would drop like a stone.  My saying for the day was “Every dog has their day, and today isn’t ours…”

This continued into the night fly. When we arrived at the beach and began stringing lights onto the kites, there was wind… It lasted while we got our lines out too. And we even got a quick warmup flight in about 8 mph. All set to go! Of course, as soon as the music came on, buh bye wind! To be fair, a determined Zach Gordon did manage to find some wind right down on the edge of the lake so we did manage to get some flying in…

But, Sunday made up for all of low winds, fog and light rain with a truly great day. With temperatures upwards of 85 degrees and a steady 7-10 mph wind coming up the beach all day long, it may have been the nicest day I’ve ever seen in Grand Haven. And with the perfect conditions came great flying from …. (and I am sorry if I missed anyone…) Chicago Fire, iQuad, Fire and Ice, Detroit Windjammers, Sky Jesters, Devin Cobliegh-Morrison, Paul Koepke, Lee Sedgewick, Sam Ritter, Elizabeth Gordon, Blues Brothers, Dave “Mr. Incredible” Bush, IKE, Donna Houchins, Robert Brasington, GKPI, Anne Vondriska, Annie Ritter, and Jon Trennepohl! Phew, that’s quite a list!

And the beach itself was just packed with people, making for one of the busiest days ever seen by this festival. Robert Brasington staked out one of the best spots available early in the morning and by lunch time, he and his kites were surrounded by a huge sea of humanity, soaking up the sun and the sand. Thanks again to Steve Negen and Mackinaw Kites, it was another great festival at Grand Haven. Maybe we can get both days like that next year for the 22nd version!

David Hathaway