Issue 50: Orting Kite Festival

All right everyone… The 2006 AKA Competition Season is finally over, and we’re all nearly “comp’ed” out and almost exhausted. Besides, we finally have a weekend off! So what’re we going to do with it?

Well, shucks!! Why don’t we go out to Orting and camp in the Loin’s Club Field out there, laze around a little bit, and just… FLY? Yup – and so that’s exactly what we did!

John Barresi and I headed the kite van out of Portland at about 1:30 PM Friday afternoon – headed for Orting, about 25 miles due east of Tacoma… Actually, it was one of the easier trips we’ve taken up I-5, and we made it in fine style with no hassles other than the usual Friday traffic jam around Fort Lewis, just south of Tacoma. And we followed the map provided and we arrived right at the field in time for a little flying – only to find we were locked out! Whoa!!! Moreover, our friend and Kitelife sponsor, Theresa Norelius of “The Kite Shoppe,” discovered she was locked IN, having arrived ahead of us by a couple of hours… and someone thoughtlessly locked the gate behind her! Thanks heavens for cell-phones once again, because a couple of phone calls turned up Bob Wendt, who had the key!

Now, it’s not every day when we can camp right ON the flying field… So we pulled the van up in the middle of about 50 acres, unpacked, set up our tents right there, and fired up the Coleman grill just to make sure it’d work. This was gonna be downright FUN!!! And Theresa had brought along a huge screened-in “sun room” for lack of a better term, so we pitched in and helped her erect/construct it. This would turn out to be the “food” tent and our “out of the sun” retreat during the weekend, and was a marvelous addition to our “tent village” that had started springing up.

Theresa, being everyone’s favorite “den mother,” brought her usual assortment of “munchies” – cookies, sandwiches, tons of chips, lemonade and soda, and a case of bottled water – and we survived just fine. Heck, it was FAR better than mere survival – almost a feast! So after a quick bite and a short sup, Theresa and I went out and flew a couple of Rokkakus, and John Barresi had his Revs and Sea Devils out and humming.

The sun went down, and with it, the breeze… and so did the kites! No matter, though. Time for some food and good friends, and someone brought a few beers to share around (No kids were present, and we weren’t driving anywhere tonight), and we watched the stars come out, and listened to frogs and crickets… and just talked! Actually, there was kind of a nice, peaceful feeling to this place… Yeah… I guess “laid-back” is as decent a description as any. There sure wasn’t any pressure to do anything. And, one by one, we all talked ourselves out and eventually slipped away to our tents and crawled into our sleeping bags and slept like rocks until the sun came up on Saturday morning! Jeez… I really DO like sleepin’ in a tent!

For some reason, I was up a bit before sunrise… SOooo quiet and sooo peaceful… And I must have been up all of 10-15 minutes when John climbed out too. We often wake at roughly the same time back home, so it was no particular surprise. And this morning, Barresi brought out his new camera – to “play with” a little! Shucks, we might even get some good shots… Little did we know…

First, there was the forest and the field through the ground fog… Lovely shots, with a fine “misty” look to them… Even our kites left out overnight were covered in dew. And then we got a visitor! A pretty, male Golden Retriever joined us that John took to calling “Bob!” Obviously Bob’s a “local” dog, out making his morning rounds, and a bit of a rascal – and he sure was amenable to following John around and playing with him a bit… We three had fun on our morning stroll, finding out what was around the place… Bob was happy to show us everything, but tired of us after 15-20 minutes. Musta had more to do and see that morning…

And – one by one – Amy Doran pulled in from Bend, Oregon, and David “Monkey-Boy” Hathaway from Burnaby, BC came south, and Willy Hendrickson came all the way from Puyallup (maybe 6-8 miles away?), and a few others dribbled in from here and there, and the next thing you know, we had a small party going.

And then there was our “drop in” visitor from the sky… one of those powered paragliders you see in eBay “Aircraft” ads, out for his morning spin… Like Bob, he was another “local” who’d been over that field before and knew the territory – and a darned good pilot too, I’ll give him that! He made two low-level passes on the far side of the field (well away from any of us), and when I say “low-level” I mean a couple feet! And he also knew exactly when to crank the engine up and climb out of there before he came close to any trouble. I was hoping he’d put her down so I could chat with him, but he was having none of it, and pulled away with a nod and a hand-wave… “Off To See The Wizard” apparently… Yeah, it was THAT kind of a “magical” morning…

Well, we turned around and then there was Theresa with a coffee pot in her hands. We’d discovered the “concession stand” over by the baseball diamonds while making our own rounds, and found some exposed 110 Volt outlets there, so we thought it worth a meander back over to find out if they worked. It turned out they did, and we soon had fresh-brewed coffee… And it probably wasn’t even 7:30 AM yet. And it seems to me there were also some sausages to munch that morning – though I could be attributing those sausages to the wrong festival. Anyway – Could life possibly get any better?
Well, certainly it could… We could have a few more people… And we no sooner thought about it than it began to happen. This event was hosted by the Pierce County Kitefliers Association (PCKA), and all of their members were invited – and darned it they didn’t start showing up in droves.

Herb Andrews of Mainframe Kites pulled up and erected a fine “pavilion,” and set up shop. I’d buy some spars for an old Perigrine from Herb later on in the day. Then Penny Lingenfelter pulled up to begin her Rev teaching as well as putting on her special shows, Carl and Lisa Bragiel pulled up, joined our camp, and began to set up for the day… Carl flies three dual-line kites at once, and puts on a tremendous show. Glenda Kleppin and Jerry Graham (and dog “Suzie – empress of the Universe” too) joined the growing throng and began to put a few kites out, though not aloft yet (breezes too light). Dick Curran – he of “many colors” – arrived, and had the first Genki aloft… And the next thing you know, darned if there weren’t a couple of hundred people out on our “quiet old cow pasture,” here… Yep, we had a festival going…

Don Ostey pulled his rig out onto the field, and several hands erected the Northwest Sport Kite League’s pop-up and sound system… No, this wasn’t a NWSKL competition by any means, but there sure is a lot of cross-over between the PCKA and the NWSKL! For one thing, Bob Wendt who is the announcer at many NWSKL events, is also the PCKA’s President – and Bob would be our announcer for this festival, too. Anyway, we had sound – and an announcer! We had people showing up, and we had darned little wind, too… but it was slowly building, and would be more than acceptable later on. So, while we waited for wind Jim Thompson fired up his wood-fired smoker and did up a wonderful batch of ribs to pass out (Yummy stuff!). And in the meantime, we could all wander around and say “Hi” and help out where we could ,and generally enjoy the start of a fine day — so we all did exactly that for a little while.

And, believe it or not, the wind DID come up, and we DID have an honest-to-God Kite Festival – with decent wind – right there on the field in Orting. Actually, it was quite a nice festival, though decidedly “low-key” compared with what we were used to. There were plenty of kites in the air – both Single Line Kites (SLKs) and Sport Kites. There were events for kids, such as “The Running of the Bols,” a David Gomberg creation where kids towed “Bols” (a dish-shaped kite affair that cups the wind) from one end of the field to the other, and a Candy Drop from kites for the kids, and Rev flying lessons from Penny Lingenfelter for all who wanted to learn to fly a Quad-Line kite… And, on the Sport Kite side, there was heavy competition for “Demo” slots, where fliers demonstrated their abilities with a Sport Kite (or THREE, in the case of Carl Bragiel). And there were plenty of good-lookin’ SLKs of all colors, shapes, and sizes flown for the crowd’s appreciation, too! If you didn’t get your fill of kiting on Saturday at Orting, it wasn’t for lack of resources for you to appreciate and enjoy…

Near the end of the afternoon, Bob Wendt made a special plea for anyone with experience in flying truly “Large” kites to go to the north end of the field. Scott Slater and his son Kristian were going to attempt a “first flight” of a very large Parafoil he’d acquired. After a couple of tries, this big kite flew, though it encountered a few “stability” problems… While the kite is quite colorful and even majestic in the air, seeing a kite of this size flip over on its back and nose-dive into a fence (causing a two-foot long rip in the fabric) will cause a few hearts to flutter a bit. A kite that big is nothing to “toy” with, and Scott was quite right to ask for help. Fortunately, Scott learned what was necessary to make the required adjustments, got the rip repaired, and we subsequently saw the same kite flown successfully and with decent stability at WSIKF later in the summer.

Then, about 5:00 PM, the crowd began to thin – some were heading toward home and dinner – and the “participants” broke down their kites and headed for the Lion’s Club at the South end of the field. Yep – another fine festival pot-luck banquet with all the trimmings – including a bag raffle and auction to end it all. Good eats after a long and fun-filled day. Life couldn’t be sweeter!

Following dinner, we all adjourned back to our camp on the field for a little quiet R&R, which dwindled down slowly and saw the participants heading for sleeping bags and pillows fairly early. There was another day coming, and we all wanted to be ready for some more of this fun.

Sunday morning broke with clear, crisp blue skies again… and NO wind, which we’d already come to expect. And rather than wander and play with the camera (Bob and the Paraglider both numbered among the “missing”), we opted for breakfast “out” at a sit-down restaurant in Orting this time. Yep – someone else could make the coffee, and we’d “eat hearty” instead of digging into bags and boxes and cooking whatever we could find.  So we did just that, with a fine meal of omelets and hash-browns and coffee at a well appointed restaurant in town, and – as a bonus – we all had a chance to listen to the throaty “rumble” of David Hathaway’s brand-spanking-new Mustang! Nice place, this Orting!

Back at the kite field, thing were occurring just about as expected. The first kites were already in the air when we returned, and people were beginning to congregate on and around the patch again. Sounds were emanating across the field (music mostly) and those who weren’t already flying were making their selections from the kites on hand… And those characters from Felonious Monk were gearing up for a bit of fun between themselves. They’d “Demo” as much as possible to make sure the attendees had something to enjoy, and they’d also try some new and different stuff with their kites – finding a way to “push the envelope,” so to speak. For what it’s worth, that kind of thinking worked extremely well for them all day long with various people flying in singles and pairs demos – to the point where there was no time when the Sport Kite field was empty of activity.

And over on the SKL field, they were also working toward some “repeats” too, especially Jerry Graham organizing the “Bol Running” contest… But we saw some different kites in the air today, and a few different people flying them. It was a similar day, but not a complete copy-cat… But the over-all mood was still “laid-back” on all fields – even with iQuad demo-ing… Indeed, when things began to slow down a little, the Sport Kiters even started their own Hot Tricks competition, and Bob Wendt had to scramble hard to find some CDs with count-downs on them… He finally resorted to a stop-watch and the sound of his own voice for the count-down, but the ad-hoc Hot Tricks event went well for all concerned anyway – including the audience…

And I spent a small portion of the afternoon tearing down my tent and packing the car again. Yeah, John Barresi was out there flying his heart out, but we still had to get home tonight, so somebody had to do it. And after the festival was finally over and most everyone had gone home, we were still there packing away Theresa’s “sun room,” and pulling down banners, and doing all the other little things we all do that nobody sees…

Finally, however… it was over. Everything packed away for the trip home. Last “goodbyes” were said to the 2-3 people still left on the field. And, as is becoming our custom, we stopped at a local restaurant (The Firehouse) on our way out of town for one last good meal and some heartfelt camaraderie, By now, our gang is “family” after all, and saying goodbyes amongst ourselves has some real regrets attached. But, after all, we’d see you all down the road again soon – probably next week…

Yeah, Orting was fun! Sure, we’ll be back next year. This one’s kinda like “going home” and hanging out with your “family.” And while each comp and fest has its own special fun and flavor, there really isn’t one around any more fun or any more special, than Orting…

      Dave “Geezer” Shattuck

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Author:Dave Shattuck

As one of our regular and most prolific contributors, Dave "Geezer" Shattuck is a driving force here at Kitelife and a regular at many NW events as well as other locations throughout the year.

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