In our last column, we mentioned a lot of reasons for joining the AKA: the Kiting subscription, store discounts, liability insurance, and membership directory. However, we left off one important reason–eligibility to attend the AKA’s annual convention. This year’s convention will be in Ocean Shores, Washington on October 13-l7. Registration fees will start at around $100 for early registrants and will be slightly higher for late entrants. Here, from the man in charge, is an overview:
Attending an AKA Convention
by Jim M. Miller, Convention Manager
Should a beginning kiteflier consider attending the annual convention of the American Kitefliers Association? Absolutely! The AKA convention is not just for hard core, experienced “expert” kitefliers — don’t forget that every one of those “experts” with five or ten years experience making and flying kites started out just like you did, with an interest in kiting and a desire to learn from others.
Besides being a marvelous visual experience for spectators and participants alike, the AKA convention is designed to be a learning experience. Typically, over twenty-five different workshops and seminars are offered, covering virtually every phase of kitemaking and kiteflying. Just a sampling: last year’s subject matter included workshops on kite aerial photography, making small kites, sport kite team flying, building Indian fighter kites, kite buggying basics, organizing a kite festival, building competition kites, basics of indoor flying, conducting kite classes for kids, sport kite tricks, bear dropping, sport kite ballet choreography, and more. Many of these workshops are “introductory” and assume that the participant is just getting started in that particular specialty.
The opportunity to learn directly from originators of new kiting techniques, or from manufacturers of innovative products or world-renowned experts in their field, is exciting. Even more marvelous is the ability to chat with them on a one-to-one basis. The world of kiting is a very friendly one — I have never met an experienced kiteflier who was too busy to stop and explain a point to a beginner.
In fact, one of the great attractions of the AKA convention is the people. Your primary motivation to come to an AKA convention might be to look at and marvel over the fabulous kites in the kitemakers’ competition, or to watch the world’s finest sport kite pilots do their stuff, but I guarantee that the reason you will come back the next year, and the year after that, will be the friendships you have made on the flying field, or over breakfast, or at the bar. Spending a week socializing with hundreds of folks from all walks of life and from all over the world, whose only common interest is their love of kiteflying, creates a “total kite immersion experience” that just cannot be duplicated.
And, as you get more involved in kiting flying and the AKA, you will come to look forward to renewing and strengthening those kite friendships at successive festivals. And, when you do come, get involved! As a first timer you might not be ready to enter the competition yourself, but there’s plenty of help needed in running those competitions. Talk to the competition coordinators — they’ll be glad to have an extra volunteer to help out as a runner or line judge or other job that takes about ten minutes of on the job training to master. Talk to the Auction Chairman and volunteer to help out at Friday’s Great Kite Auction — it takes a small army of volunteers to set up and run this featured event. And a few extra bodies are always needed at convention registration; it’s a great place to meet new kiters.
The AKA Convention is sort of like local kite festivals you may have attended, only much, much, much, more. It is a week long three-ring circus of competitions, workshops, meetings, free flying, seminars, receptions, banquets, and most of all fun! The sport kite competition is by invitation only; competitors must first qualify in their respective “conferences” (geographical areas) to earn the right to fly in the Grand Nationals. Other competitions, like Kite Makers, fighter kites, and the Rokkaku battles, are open to all attendees. The AKA convention is held each year in late September or early October; the locale changes each year shifting from the West Coast to the Midwest to the East Coast. Much more information about the convention is on the AKA Web Site: www.aka.kite.org; check the Table of Contents for the AKA Convention. We want to see you there!