Rockaway Beach, Oregon…
Just a spot on the map for many, but for others it is a turning into one of the premier places to hold a festival.
Let me go back in time just a bit here. The Rockaway Kite Festival has been held for many years now. Kite making for kids, and sharing of creative ideas in kite making were enjoyed by locals as well as some northwest kite builders and pilots. It was not heavily advertised, more of a word of mouth sort of event. Bring your kites, come on down… relax and have fun.
It would grow and recede in numbers, like the tide… but it was always attended. It was a bit of a Secret Garden, just waiting for the right moment to reveal itself to many that had passed by it yearly. It almost seemed to be waiting for the right moment to really bloom.
I was one of the people that had walked right by it. I never knew there was an event there each year… But being fairly new (9 years) to kiting I still have a lot to learn. So when I received a call from Jack Brownlee of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce three years ago, I assumed he wanted to start up a new festival. Little did I know.
As we talked about the how to’s, Jack explained to me that he wanted to create a big festival that would pull people in off the streets, and get them traveling from far off to be a part of something special. I played along giving him what information I could and some suggestions here and there. We talked a few times over the next couple of months and Jack was really pushing to have help with his project. I agreed to help out to do what I could. After making a few calls, I started getting the feeling I was on the right track with generating some excitement. Getting people on board is the first step, and getting things done comes later.
It was then that I made a call to Deb Cooley, long time Master kite builder and a board member of The Associated Oregon Kiters. Deb has always been a team player and that is one of the most important assets you can have when putting together a festival. What I was not prepared for was the reaction I got. I went ahead and pitched my ideas to her about the festival and waited for a response. There was a long silence… All the while I was wondering if we had gotten cut off… Finally, Deb informed me that this new festival I was proposing to her, had been going on for years, and she had been one of people that had gotten the word out each year and that there was nothing new about this. I sat awkwardly for a moment, stumbling over myself looking for the right thing to say. Remember I told you that Deb is a great team player? Well she is, and she was gracious enough to let me pick myself up, and explain to her how I had ended up in this strange predicament. I asked Deb if she would be willing to have me on board and to work together with the Chamber of Commerce to really make this grow into something big… And thank goodness she was. Hence, the Secret Garden reference. There I had been, walking by the gate all this time, totally oblivious to the fact that it has always been there.
So since that moment, the gate has been opened. The word has been spread and in the past three years the Rockaway Kite Festival has hit full bloom.
This year it just couldn’t have been better….
100 banners lined the highway and people began arriving early on Friday before the festival. The excitement was already brewing before one single kite was in the sky. Hotels were booked full, and were sending people to Tillamook, 15 miles down the road to find places to stay.
As the morning stirred, a member of a Canadian Kite Team strapped his kite bag and belongings to his scooter, and bundled up in order to make the long ride down from Victoria Island Canada. Island Quad member Terry Wiggill would meet up with his team members from all over the Northwest in Rockaway Beach later in the day. This was not the first time but the third time he was making the trek.
Early morning trailer hookups were being made by many of the large show kite fliers. Trailers containing never before seen creations by Martin Blais, and creatures of all sorts waited patiently for their moment to shine. Team Suspended Animation members were hooking up trailers at 4 am, steaming hot coffee in hand to make the drive down from Seattle, Olympia and Portland.
Members of Team iQuad were traveling to meet early as well from Vancouver and Victoria Canada, as well as Portland Oregon. They had a new routine to put the finishing polish on, and a steady wind was waiting for them as they arrived throughout the day.
As the day wore on, vendors and food booths were readying themselves in the hopes of good weather, and people… lots of people.
Saturday morning at 4:45 am found the teams of Show Kite fliers meeting on the beach. Though the festival did not start until 10 am, for many of the large kite pilots it begins early. A meeting over bear claws and coffee brought out discussions of where to set sand anchors to hold the large kites safely in place. Decisions were made about what to fly and when. A plan was being set for the day to put on the best show possible. However, Mother Nature always has a heavy hand in these decisions.
With great weather on board, it looked like it was going to be a picture perfect day. A light breeze from the west looked promising and it was early yet. Penny Lingenfelter kicked off the festival with her light wind indoor Revolution routine. Lighter winds brought out the race rods, and the 50 lb line sets.
John Barresi pulled out his newest venture, the Kymera (Into The Wind) and did a very nice demo as the winds picked up a bit and did their usual change of direction.
With a steady stream of onlookers building up by the parking lots, the sky began filling with the large show kites. Dale Ray’s Dragon built by Rolf Zimmermann of Germany hovered overlooking the long line of Revolution Kites as though it was going to devour them.
iQuad unleashed their new routine to Queen’s* Bohemian Rhapsody* with the crowd reacting like they were watching fireworks.
By this time the crowds had grown and there was a constant flow of people on the beach. The vendor’s area was busy with onlookers sipping on smoothies and enjoying the variety of great foods and items being sold.
As the winds were still on the lighter side, the show kites were keeping everyone on the show kite field working hard, and they managed to put on a solid show. Demos on the sport kite field were back dropped all day by a variety of beautiful kites including the new bol built by Martin Blaise and owned by Ray and Donna Hertz.
Demos by Connor Doran, Team REVOL (Takako and John Barresi), Willow Robin, Team Island Quad and others continued throughout the afternoon. There were mumblings of full parking lots, and cars lining the highways, all good news when you think back to the Jack’s Brownlee’s vision.
After winding up lines and packing away kites for the day, the Chamber of Commerce rolled out a great dinner for all the fliers, volunteers and vendors at the local church. There was talk about what to fly tomorrow, and new routines in the making. Lots of satisfied smiles and some hopeful for a bit more wind tomorrow.
Sunday morning activities began at 5 am once again. Jack had expressed his love of the infamous giant octopus kites (Gomberg Kites) and Team Suspended Animation members (Ray and Donna Hertz, Gary and Mary Lee, Barry and Susan Tislow, Pete and Nadine Zweifel ) met up with Dale Ray, Phil and Barbara Burk to plan out the best show they could. The wind was already humming along nicely at about 7 miles per hour from the north by 9 am. The cars began lining every available curb in Rockaway early and soon there was not much sand in between the beach chairs and blankets.
Phil and Barbara Burk were setting up stacks of Trlby Kites and getting tails untangled and ready. Moving them through the Revolution fields was an adventure but it was well worth getting them onto the main field to do a beautiful pairs routine that got the crowd sky gawking. The large show kites painted the backdrop like a Broadway show which made everything that much better. Deb Cooley and Diane Weber built over 200 kites with up and coming kite fliers of all ages. Spence Watson, Connor Doran, Rum Buddies ( Bazzer Poulter and Steve de Rooy) , and many more kept things rolling in the demo field.
One great thing about this festival I have not mentioned is the willingness for people to cut loose and have a good time. It seems to make people a bit braver, a bit more willing to put themselves out there. People that fly all the time, but might not have a set routine or fly on a team are encouraged to give a demo a go. Rockaway has this family feel to it, not only for the visitors, but for the fliers as well. So much so that new teams and new pairs were coming out to demo for the first time. Lisa Root has flown and competed for years and jumped in the game to do her first quad line demo. Even Bob Wendt, our announcer got into the action. Though he is fearless on the microphone, often playing a bit of fun havoc with the fliers, he is not fearless on the demo field. He is however a great sport and jumped out there with an extra vent Revolution kite which he had never flown before. The fliers loved it, and the crowds loved the fact they got to be a part of Bob’s maiden voyage.
As the day was coming to a close, there was chatter amongst the fliers about the feel of the festival. Someone was overheard saying *Rockaway is like a mini WSIKF!*(Washington State International Kite Festival). Hand shakes and hugs of congratulations on a great show were shared amongst fliers and volunteers and onlookers…and Jack was looking pretty happy, standing up at the sound tent smiling.
The Rockaway Kite Festival 2012 was in its finest bloom.
To all those people that made the journey to Rockaway Beach all those years, to keep a small event going because they loved kiting. You started something big… Thank you.
AKA Region 9 Director
A heartfelt Thank you to those that made this all a success:
- The Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce: For inviting all of us to be a part of a fantastic event.
- Sea Haven Motel and Guest House: For their great accommodations and warm welcome.
- Rick Cheek, Dave Farr, Jack Brownlee, Uppercrust Pizza, Woody’s BBQ: For hosting a wonderful dinner for all the participants.
And, some special words from Penny Lingenfelter:
Rockaway Beach ~ the perfect Kiteflying day!
Great wind where the ocean sparkled bright and all the kites were a Kaleidoscope of Colors as they twisted in their flight.
First the lifters went up, then the kite laundry flew ~the mouth breathers walking, their mouths saying ooooohh.
A pile of Octopi which always look good, their tentacles flowing just as they should, shared the sky with a gecko, a bright orange toad ~ while angel fishes swam ~ above ~ and below.
Oh, the long colored spinners and tubes flew so high, along side the sleds, like dragons AliVe ~ with long tails looking down on the beautiful bols and the colors were festive like “DISNEY meets the OCEAN” Yes, a rainbow of shades that were JUST- THAT- BOLD!
Adding color on color flew stacks of trilbys, their tales leaving trails like sparklers at night, their diamond shapes soaring from ground to great heights. And once again the crowd was amazed by the sight of a magical stack of heart felt diamond kites.
On the side and behind, flipping their kites GOOD, were the stunt fliers who tricked their two lined kites ~ like not many could. Of course we heard the, “add some tail!. ” But they were flying~ flat controlled spins~ No, it wasn’t just flail! Oh, and each SNaP turn to the music was Hit ON The Nail!
Rip stop beach Balls bouncing on the sand like the kids on the beach, they popped in the air then onto land, in constant motion, they received smiles from their fans.
Kids in costumes, flying kites in kite shows, fun for everyone one, Yes, for the young and the old.
Commanding the sky, doing the Kaleidoscope twist, were the Revolution Kites like a first loves kiss. Following in formations, skating on the air, making tight circles to burst out every where. Sometimes just one, dancing around, while all of the rest are parked on the ground. A garden of rev’s that suddenly rise, in a band of three, six, or 16 doing choreographed flight and the audience just ate up the sight!
Of course there were children with kites in their hands, or shovels, or food and a few eyes filled with sand.
Even the vendors added color to the scene, their tents, and their wares had more then you could dream. Whimsical bird houses, were perfect for the scene, Oh, the dragons and fairies, were a hot commodity. There was kettle corn, smoothies and foods you can’t beat. The purses, OHH the purses, were as appealing as the rest. The vendors there I’d have to say were definitely the best!
Everyone was having a magical day, on an ocean beach so tucked away. A scenic beach with great shopping near, such a wonderful place to play. A great weekend at the Kite festival a perfect kite flying day ~ Yes, all in Rockaway!
Thank you for a wonderful festival Amy Doran, Jack and all the wonderful volunteers that made it happen! The Sea Haven Hotel is the best!!