Sequestered in a hundred year old Army post at the extreme northwest tip of the United States, hundreds of kite craftsman gather each March to share ideas, techniques, designs, and technology at the Fort Worden Kitemakers Retreat. It’s been going on more than 20 years now and the results are quite remarkable.
We are all enjoying dramatic advances in kite design and quality. Gatherings like this are a big part of the reason. It is no coincidence that representatives from five different manufacturers were on site. Where else would experts and professionals come to teach strangers and potential competitors all of their secrets? Of course, by the end of the weekend, there are few strangers left in the room.
Kite retreats feature programs for all skill levels, covering many different types of kites. Classes include construction, design theory, flying techniques, and much more. Besides being a premier learning experience, it is an incredible kiters social event as well.
Instructors this year included Rob Brasington from Australia, Ralf Dietrich from Denmark, Ralf Maserski from Germany, Orlando T.D. Ongkingco from the Philippines, Kevin Sanders from Australia, and Phil Scarfe from England as well as such domestic talent as Bill Bigge, Barb Meyer, and JoAnn Weber. There were roughly 160 registrants in thirty classes by twenty teachers from six different countries.
Think all these new designs are easy?? Check out the before and after photos of the Gummy Bear Socks that Ralf taught. I’m counting 32 pieces to make one bear. Remember that next time you see a $20 price tag on an inflatable sock!
Conference fees are $80 for the weekend, plus $70 for the meal package and another $50 if you want a dormitory bed. Individual classes sometimes have charges for materials.
Most of the cost for international presenters comes for the annual kitemakes raffle. This year, nearly 800 items were won by bidders dropping tickets in prize bags. Over $10,000 was raised. And at 4-for-a-dollar, that means over 40,000 tickets. Whew! If this keeps up, the conference may need to add an extra day just to announce raffle winners!
Fort Worden is one of three artillery posts constructed in the late 1890 to protect the entrance to Puget Sound. The Fort was turned into a training station after the first World War and finally decommissioned in 1950. At that time, it was taken over by Washington State Parks and became a quaint and quiet conference center.
Visitors can stay in the barracks, or rent officers homes along the old parade field. it’s a great site to test out your newest flying creation!
If the old white buildings along the waters edge look familiar, it is because the Fort was used to Film Officer and a Gentleman back when Richard Gere was younger… Come to think of it, I was younger then too!
See you out there somewhere!