A Journey to the Far East…
Kelly Reed, Adam Siens, Hans Jansen Op De Haar, and I (Troy Gunn) attended the 22nd Annual Weifang International Kite Festival and 1st World Kite Competition April 19-24, 2005 in Weifang, China by invitation from Mr. Liu Zhiping of the The Weifang International Kite Festival Executive Committee and the International Kite Federation Secretary & Weifang International Kite Festival Office.
Before we get any further into this report, we would like to thank the General Secretary ‘Mr. Zhang Chuanlin’, the Mayor of Weifang ‘Mr. Zhang Xinqi’, and the Vice-Mayor ‘Mr. Jiang Wencai’, Mr. Liu Zhiping, Frank, Sammy, Bonnie, and the thousands of staff and volunteers for their generosity, support, and for being such gracious hosts by making all of the invited international kite fliers, feel like we are their family!
Hans and I were asked to help them with competition related issues, as well as competitions, organization and judging issues. Kelly was asked to build an English website version for the festival information, take some photos, and take festival notes. Unfortunately, Kelly was sick the last three days of the festival, and was not able to take pics and notes during that time, so Troy Gunn (me) made the necessary arrangements to get this report completed.
Kelly and good friend Adam Siens started their journey from Austin, Texas. Troy traveled from Wichita Falls, Texas, and Hans came from Holland. Adam Siens is an avid traction kiter, but having never attended a festival outside of the United States before – a trip to China would prove to be a mind blowing experience and inspire him to travel more. While the small fried scorpions we tried at one of the banquets sent culture shock waves through Adam’s system, in the end he found China to be an enlightening, and rewarding experience!
The Weifang Kite Festival is considered by many to be a once in a lifetime opportunity… an exotic location which all kite enthusiasts should try to make at least once in their lifetime. Kite flying is such an important part of the Chinese culture and in particular within Weifang, which is home to the World Kite Museum and one incredible kite festival which has been going on now for over 22 years. Weifang is considered by many to be the kite capitol of the world! There are kite factories and stores everywhere, most of which make and sell traditional Chinese kites, made from traditional materials such as bamboo, silk, and paper. If you ever go to Weifang, take the time to treat yourself to a tour of some of the kite factories!
A Late and Early Arrival!
While Hans and I arrived in Beijing, China on time, Kelly and Adam were a day late due to missing their flight from Austin, Texas (note to Kelly and Adam: next time, don’t try to check your bags with less than 45 minutes before your flight. – GRIN), but still they arrived a couple days earlier than the rest of the international guests. While Hans and I waited an extra day for Kelly and Adam to arrive, we spent time at the hotel with our translators from China, “Sammie and Frank”. Sammy and Frank would help all of us translate, communicate, and help coordinate our efforts while in Beijing and Weifang. The hotel in Beijing was across the street from a police training academy where Hans and I took an interest in watching them perform/practice their riot control drills. Also, I found delight in flying a revolution 1.5 SLE next to them as they marched by, which caught the attention of many police cadets that were suppose to be looking straight forward while they were marching, yet I noticed many watching the kite and smiling.
After the arrival of Kelly and Adam, we were transported by mini van, the 8 hours ride to Weifang. The entire trip gave us the chance to see all the wonderful farms, and ornamental tree nurseries along the way. Sunday evening April 17, we finally arrived at our hotel in Weifang. The hotel was a nice 3 star hotel that was conveniently located next to the city center. This made it easy for us to shop and sight see, and it was also within a block of two night clubs, where many of us kiters spent many evenings, drinking Qingdao Beer.
The first official order of business was to help establish judging guidelines and help us get acquainted with the other Asian judges for their first first World Kite Competition. A judging staff meeting was arranged by our host. During the meeting, if you didn’t know any better, you would think it sounded like a lot of arguing – however it was all productive debating.
The initial judges meeting included 4 Chinese Judges (Fang Jizhong from Beijing, Cheng Yinghua from Hebei, Wang Rufa from Shandong, Chen Yongxiong from Guangdong) 1 Korean Judge (Bae Moo Sam), 1 Judge from Holland (Hans Jansen op de Haar), and Troy Gunn from the United States. We were assisted by a small handful of translators such as the beautiful Bonnie, Ultra cool Sammie, and event organizer Mr. Liu Zhiping was listening in intently on occasion as well. It was quite a scene – with so many languages and ideas flying through the air but the results brought all the judges together.
One of the Chinese judges was pre-chosen as the Chief Judge, and he did an exceptional job! While the goals set by Hans and I through earlier email communications were not exactly what was to become of the rather heated meetings and actual judging rules – everyone compromised and developed a set of rules and guidelines that would prove to be quite a lot of fun to implement/improvise on the field days later.
I won’t go into detail here but, Hans and I have countless stories to share about this judging detail experience!
Regardless of our differences in judging styles and techniques, in the end, after all the kites had been judged, all the judges picked the same winners. And that’s the most important goal in judging, is to be fair, unbiased, and agree who the true champions are! Undoubtedly we are looking forward to next year’s judging!
That evening we were to meet with the General Secretary, Zhang Chuanlin, the Mayor of Weifang “Mr. Zhang Xinqi”, and the Vice-Mayor, “Jiang Wencai,” over an incredible authentic Chinese banquet dinner within a private conference room in order to celebrate the new beginnings in kiting and kite competitions. The food was great! It was an excellent evening of conversation, sharing of cultures, and a great way to relax and unwind from the long judges meetings, and travel!
The next day (Monday April 18th) we all headed out to the Kite Festival grounds in order to run through a mock competition that would give the judges some practice working together. When we arrived we found the Team from Xiamen, China practicing with their long, flowing 30m tails – it was fun watching the 6 person team practicing with such long tails. We saw them in Malaysia earlier this year, and every time we see them they are getting much better! The judges gathered with translators and discussed the rules as they had decided the night before. They then provided Kelly with a brief overview of what was to be expected from the pilots, and then I was to go through the motions as if I was competing. As an ex-sport kite competitor, Kelly figured it would not be that difficult to run through a few quick precision maneuvers… However, he knew they had made some adjustments to the rules we had been accustomed to with the IRBC. For example, the pilot’s body is not permitted to move outside of a 10 ft x 10 ft space – we had to press for 30 ft x 30 ft space based on the wind and the fact that some of the compulsory figures required several stalls in a row.
Freestyle included that the competitor actually illustrate three of his own maneuvers beforehand on paper, and then the judges would redraw the pilot’s drawings on their score sheets, and then judge accordingly.
The main reason for this is there is limited airspace and ground space at most traditional Chinese kite festivals, and due to the fact that the judges are given small stools and asked to sit in one place in order to judge contestants. So, to keep the pilot in front of the stationary judges the pilot is given limited ground space to move his/her body within.
The kite is also given boundaries – but this is not much different than STACK or AKA rules so it was relatively easy for Kelly to deal with. After Kelly’s precision competition demonstration – the judges conferred, and debated amongst themselves to determine the score (which was very good). They also discussed the best method to move pilots through the competition, and how to handle the freestyle drawings of each pilot.
Team Complete Chaos
I’m not sure whose brilliant idea it was but it was decided that Hans, Kelly and I would put together an impromptu team demonstration for the rest of the judges to train? Why us, when they had the Xiamen team on the field already, we’re still not quite sure… But, being the troopers and team players that we all are, we did our best to show a good example – all in the name of cultural exchange. If it wasn’t for the complete chaos, the fact that the three of us had never flown together before, lack of proper speed control, poor spacing, and a crash between Kelly and Hans… I would say we did a fantastic job and should probably immediately form a new professional team and tour the world! Or perhaps we should just call ourselves “Complete Chaos” and chalk it up to good fun. It was quite sad – but we’re definitely glad we tried!
We were so bad though that Mother Nature saw us and decided she would get us off the field as quickly as possible, because just then, a huge Texas size thunderstorm started coming at us fast. It was amazing how quickly the torrent came up from the horizon and swept us away with 60 MPH winds, lightning, thunder, and monsoon-like rain. Kelly said, “With all my complaining, it was one of the highlights of the event for me – it was great bonding experience for all the judges! Here’s to Team Complete Chaos!” Perhaps one day we can embarrass ourselves together again in a foreign land!
Kite Shops, Sightseeing, and Kite Flying in the City!
The days leading up to the kite festival were spent by meandering through the city streets, poking our heads into small clothing shops, music stores, restaurants, local parks, and river walks, etc…
Our favorite way to pass the time was to find an open square in the center of the city and put up a few kites – typically I (Troy Gunn) would fly my Revolution 1.5 SLE, Kelly would fly a Synergy Deca, kiters Weda and Lotus from Indonesia would put up a small collection of traditional Indonesian single lines kites, and Adam would fly his Quadrifoils traction kites… and boy would we draw a crowd! In moments we would draw hundreds of people. The four line kites especially, would spark the interest and inspire imagination. It was always amazing to see how so many people would stop what they were doing to come watch us fly! It was like throwing our own Kite Festival every evening!
Weifang is quite a modern city these days and offers many gift shops and a couple malls to explore. They even have KFC and McDonalds! The most fun, though, was coming across random kite shops that were littered with lots of traditional Chinese kites, some small classic bugs, butterflies, but some unusual pieces too… Some of these small shops are also starting to sell more of the modern western style kites like deltas, diamonds, parafoils, and stunters. While some feel this is a shame, it most likely is inevitable as these kinds of kites are typically easier to break down and fold away for easy storage. They are also easier for most people to repair in the event of a broken frame, and while the Chinese kites are very durable and some do break down, many think of them as fragile.
As an avid kite flyer and collector, Kelly just could not resist and purchased a few too many kites this time around. I had the real challenge. Last year as a gift from our sponsor Liu Zhiping, I was bestowed a treasure. It was a 140 foot traditional Chinese centipede dragon kite with a head the size of 4-5 basketballs tied together. I unfortunately left the dragon behind the last year and it had been stored an entire year for me in China… This year after having thought of it for a year, I figured I had to find a way to get it home. I’ll tell ya’ll the story some day!
Fantastic Kite Museum!
A trip to Weifang wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Weifang World Kite Museum, and office of the International Kiting Federation. The building is fantastic Chinese architecture, with a curved tile roof, and huge pillars at the entrance. With giant marble and stone carvings, the building is two stories high and is bigger than most high schools. Inside the museum are room after room of unique kites from various countries around the world, all signed by the donor.
The hand-crafted Chinese kite displays each had story boards next to the kites that explained the history of that design, including the original designer! One room is dedicated to the history of the Weifang International Kite Festival, and contains hundreds of photos and artifacts from previous year’s festivals. Also, the museum has its own kite building room so that visitors can watch the master Chinese kite maker’s techniques for making kites, bending bamboo, painting silk, etc… The museum has 2-3 kite and souvenir stores, where most all styles of Chinese traditional kites can be purchased. Did I mention that there is a small fee to tour the museum? But that fee also includes your own personal tour guide. When Hans and I first toured the museum, our tour guide was fairly new at her job, and so as she showed us each display, Hans and I would teach her about the different styles of kites and their purposes.
We were invited to come back the following day and demonstrate our stunt kites for all of the museum staff, and we did. The weather conditions were less favorable than what we would normal fly kites in, with a light drizzle of rain persisting during our flying. Before we left the museum, many employees received quad line flying lessons from me and Kelly Reed, including the museum’s manager. They flew the kites (over marble ground tiles). Ouch, my kite is still bruised from the unplanned landings! <grin>
The Festival and Competitions!
During the 2-3 days of actual kite flying competitions, all of the invited kite fliers from 40 different countries were transported from our hotel, and driven 30 minutes to the designated kite flying field. As our bus pulls into the parking area, we were greeted by thousands of spectators and local kiters. I was told that there were approximately 500,000 there during the 3 days!
As a judge I was fortunate to be able to see a lot of the kites up close. There were kites of all shapes and sizes. There were traditional kites, modern kites, and even a couple guys that had built their own kite buggy and foil and were having a blast learning to buggy. The most impressive kites in my humble opinion were the Chinese Dragon Head Centipede kite trains! There were at least 3 dozen of these in the sky during the local judging of them. One was so large that it had to be brought in on a flat bed truck. The head was about 5 feet tall!
The night before the festival started, there was an opening ceremony that would equal most any Olympics opening ceremonies! The venue was a huge soccer stadium that seats about 80,000 people, and it was filled, including about 40,000 plastic chairs in the stadium floor! The kiters from the 40 different countries were each escorted across the stage in front of the crowd and each escort carried a large sign showing the kite flier’s home country. Chinese television (CCTV) is government controlled, and they were there to cover the entire opening and closing ceremonies events. I asked one of the coordinators how many people in China would be watching the ceremonies on television, and he said, “About one billion!” During the opening ceremony and awards ceremony at the stadium, there was a huge show on stage that consisted of 10,000 dancers, acrobats, and drummers. Also some of China’s most popular singers were there to perform. I knew the one billion persons TV viewing audience wern’t tuned in to watch only we famous/infamous kite fliers!
During the closing ceremony and awards, the coordinators ended it with an hour long fireworks display that was all choreographed to music from Star Wars, the motion picture. It was the best fireworks display I have ever seen anywhere! Oh Yeah, did I mention the 30 finalist from the previous year’s ‘Miss World Kite Pageant’ were also strutting their stuff on the stage, and before the festivities actually got underway, many kiters took the opportunity to pose with several of those beautiful models in their long silk pageant dresses (Woo Hoo)! It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!
Kite Friends Unite Once Again!
One of the best things about traveling to any kite festival is the friends you make, the sharing of cultures, stories, beer, and parties, and this festival was no exception!
Mary and Eve from the UK were there, and are always fun to chat with.
Asghar Belim was there for the first time from India and is a good friend whom I see at many other international kite festivals each year. Asghar is a 5th generation fighter kite maker, and specializes in his hand painted fighter kites.
Mr. Lee, Ismail Mat Taib, Haji Hussin Haron, and Roger Tan were there from Malaysia and are always fun to Party with!
Kisa was there from Germany , but without Tomas Jeckel. Kisa is a great person and really is there in times of need when someone is experiencing a crisis! Kisa is also a fantastic kite maker!
Jon Reinschreiber from Oregon USA was there and was America’s only competitor and winner at the competition (see below).
My good friend from Weifang, Mr. Tan Xin Bo, his lovely wife, and charming daughter Amanda were also in attendance. Mr. Bo designs kites for one of the kite factories in Weifang, in which he and the owner gave us a tour during our last day in Weifang, and they also brought us (Hans and Roger Tan and I) to a restaurant, and paid for the biggest Chinese meal that I’ve ever had in my life (Thanks)! After an hour the restaurant wait staff was still bringing different varieties of food to our table, including scallops, crab, fish, pigs head, soup, etc… We ate until we could eat no more!
AKA President, and Vice Chairman of the International Kiting Federation, David Gomberg, was there from Oregon, USA.
Japan Kite Association President, Mr. Modegi, and Richard Erb from Taiwan (via Germany) were there.
Ralf Dietrich from Demark was there with his fantastic large inflatable kites, and he was accompanied by some other Danish kiters.
Lee Jum Yong of the Korea Folkkite Association was there with others from Korea.
Mrs. Liannawati and her son from Indonesia were there, and seemed to always have a smile on their faces.
Joanne Baker and Maggie Phillips from Australia were there along with many other Aussies from team Positive Lift and their fantastic large kites!
From Brazil was good friend Ezequiel Gomes, who makes great Brazilian fighter kites and has published a book on the history of Brazilian Fighter kites!
Mr. Liu Yukui from Qingdao, and is the coordinator of the Qingdao kite festival.
And my friends from Weifang who help each year as translators, Mr. David Chen, Mr. Wang Hong Li, and his daughter Angie. Wang kept my dragon kite in storage for me at his house since having to leave it there last year (Thanks)!
There were many more great kiters there too, and if I was not getting so forgetful in my aging years, I could remember their names (sorry)!
A list of the kite competition’s top three winners from each discipline:
Gold Medal – Weifang Kite Team
Silver Medal – Korea Anyang Team
Bronze Medal – Korea Busan Team (Mrs. Bae Moo Sam)
Stunt Kite Team Precision:
Gold Medal – China Kite Team
Silver Medal – Taipei Stunt Popularizing
Bronze Medal – Weifang Kite Team
Individual Stunt Kite Precision:
Gold Medal – Yangpyeong Kite Conservation Exquisite
Silver Medal – Weifang Kite Team
Bronze Medal – Taipei Kite Popularizing Association.
The Longest Kite Train:
Gold Medal – Weifang Kite Team
Silver Medal – Macao Kite Team
Bronze Medal – Ohashi Kite Team
Fighter Kite Battle Competition:
Gold Medal – Mr. Jinzhou 1 (Korea)
Silver Medal – Mr. Jinzhou 2 (Korea)
Bronze Medal – Mr. Anyang (Korea)
The score for the best crafted and flying effect of the biggest Inflatable kite:
Gold Medal – Australia
Silver Medal – U.S.A. (Jon Rienschrieber)
Bronze Medal – Malayasia (Mr. Roger Tan)
The Highest Kite:
Gold Medal – China Kite Team
Silver Medal – China Kite Team
Bronze Medal – India Team – Mr. Asghar Belim
Weifang International Kite Festival is a must attend event! It’s one of those kite festivals that will truly amaze you! If you ever get the chance to attend, do it!
For more information on the Weifang Kite Festival, please visit: http://weifangkitefestival.com
**Significant editorial assistance by Kelly Reed**