Issue 43: San Ramon Wind and Arts Festival

This year marked my third trip to the San Ramon Winds and Art Festival. Always occurring on Memorial Day weekend, this year’s event took place May 29- May 30. Before I even get started talking about this great event, I want to extend a hearty thank you to Brian Champie. Brian is “The Man” when it comes to this festival! Year after year, Brian makes certain that all the flyers get to San Ramon, get picked up from the airport if need be, have a place to lay their heads, and are well fed. On Sunday evening, he provides all the fliers with a dinner that always includes his famous roasted turkey, and Sharon’s berry pies. Ah, but I get ahead of myself. After getting the invite, you know that you are going to be well taken care of. All you have to do over the weekend is bring your kites and fly. So Brian, Thank You! for putting on such a great event, and taking such great care of all of us flyers.

My flight landed in Oakland a little after 1 pm on Saturday afternoon. I waited for Brain to pick me up, and took in the fact that I was in CA. Now for me, this event is not only fun, but there is a little work that I need to do. During the event, I am what we have begun to refer to as the “Demo Wench”. Pretty self-explanatory. I get your name, put it on my list, and then tell you when to fly. Needless to say, this does not always make me the most popular person on the field. From the airport we went to the flying field to see who was there. We were greeting by a few kite fliers and even a decent breeze for San Ramon. David Sabilino was flying along with his wife Claudia, and Ron Despojado was taking a nap on the grass.

After hanging out, and saying hellos, Brian gave me a lift to the hotel to get settled in. This year I would have the pleasure of sharing rooms with Sharon Champie, I knew it would be fun. As it was earlier in the afternoon, not too many kite fliers had arrived, so I decided to take a stroll and get acquainted on what was in this area of San Ramon. I soon found out that there really was not too much to see on foot, and wandered back to the hotel, getting semi misplaced along the way. Upon my return, I received a call on my cell phone from Al Stroh, who along with Susan Shampo and Dan Brown were in the hotel bar. With quickness I headed to the bar to meet up with some good friends. Ah, there is nothing like the events that you get to attend year after year. It is always nice to know that you will see your friends even if it is only that one time during the year. After wonderful conversation, we all decided to make a night out of it. Plans were made for coffee and a ride to the field in the morning and we said our goodnights.

The next morning I met Susan and Al in the lobby and we headed to the Coffee People for our morning fix. After the coffee was poured we headed to the field to get things set up. Within moments of being there I had all of my kites set up and was ready to start my official duty of the day “Demo Wench”. Going to the sound tent, Brian handed me the waivers and away I went. It is a very important detail that these waivers are signed by all the competitors, and I was on my way to get them autographed. This morning had a slight bit of wind, so I knew that it would not be too difficult to get people to sign up for demos. Finished my mission and I was back up to the sound tent. There I greeted my partner in crime for the weekend, Arnold Stellema. Arnold is the “voice” of the festival, and we work hand in hand to ensure the fluidity of the day.

A little after 10 am, we started the flyers performances. This morning Ron Despojado started us out with the traditional red, white, and blue performance. Following Ron would be the one and only Penny Lingenfelter. We would have the honor of seeing the many different sides of Penny, as she was full of costume changes and surprises for the kiddies. Among the different performances we got to see this weekend, were her clown, leprechaun, pirate, who can forget the egg and the dinosaur, and I believe we even got a chance to see a kite fairy. Boy, that Penny can be a one woman show. Throughout the day we also got to see a few performances from Alex Herzog, who got out there and whipped around his Sea Devil. Other fliers of the morning would include Dan Brown, a willing volunteer despite the wind conditions, and a wonderful flier to watch. Francisco Navarro, Team Air Zone’s newest alternate, was also a willing flier jumping out there at a moments notice.

John Gillespie went out there and showed us how it was done. Wayne Fu, a member of Air Zone also got out there and flew some dual line too. Next up that morning would be my good friend Susan Shampo, another flier who is always a pleasure to watch. After Susan, I got out there and showed the crowed what I could do, fly a kite into a tree. I quickly pulled my kite out of the tree and went on to do my demo. Hey I am all about a laugh. When I got off of the field from my performance, my buddy, 4 year-old Ben Loomas, joined me. We were inseparable for the rest of the day. He is such a pleasure to be around too.

Following me was Al Stroh, a veteran who has been flying for 19 years, flying his Peter Betancourt custom Revolution. Al is the man whom I thank for my ballet music this season, which has proven to be an inspiration for my dual line flying. We were also graced with the presence of Emmalee Kirk, Dan Whitney, and Dan Burnham, who each took their turns showing off their skill for the crowd. That afternoon Uly Villanueva, member of Air Zone, flew and individual demo with his beautiful daughter Kelsey. Miguel Rodriquez showed flew one of his own California Wasp kites, and assisted in getting Sandy McCall out there to perform her first demo for us.

Not only were we honored to have all of these wonderful individual fliers but, as you can see, there were also a couple of teams too. Team Air Zone was there from the Bay Area. The team consists of Darrin Skinner, Wayne Fu, Aaron Champie, and Uly Villanueva. Also their new alternate Francisco Navarro was there to lend a hand. The team flew a few times and even gave an example of what compulsories figures looked like. With them attending the World Championship in a few weeks, Arnold thought it would be a good idea to show the crowd what they would be doing. The other team there was Team Too Much Fun from the San Diego area, made up of Mark and Jeanette Lummas, Susan Shampo, and Ron Despojado. The great thing about this team is that they do not only fly together as four, but also make up two separate pairs team. They are Bi-Dance and Despo-Shampo. These guys are a demo girl’s dream, as when ever I put them on the list; they are out there giving a show for almost twenty minutes.

Throughout the day, when the wind was sufficient, we were honored with beautiful single line mass ascensions where the kites filled up the sky. We had a red, white, and blue mass ascension as well as a large inflatable one. Dan Whitney got out his bear and did his best to make it fly in the wind conditions. Also there was the kid’s candy drop, which is always a treat. Nothing like seeing kids of various ages flock to the candy. David Sabilino would take a few spins on the buggy when the wind would come up, showing us that you don’t always need to be on three wheels. The best part would be watching David push wife Claudia back to the pits when the wind would die. Now I think she had the best seat in the house.

Demos went on till about 5 pm, and then it was time to go to Bri’s for dinner. I got back to the hotel, freshened up, and I was then in the lobby to meet with Al and Sue so we could head to Brian’s for the wonderful dinner that is prepared. Upon arrival, many friends of from the day, all a little more relaxed and ready to eat, greeted us. The fridge was full of soda, beer, and wine coolers, so no matter what your preference was there was something for you. The food was excellent as always. There was the wonderful roasted turkey, yum…. Juicy! As well as wonderful side dishes, bean salad, fruit salad and ramen salad that we have all gotten use to. Got fooled by the potato salad once again this year, as I always forget about the little shrimpys that are hiding in it. Nothing can bring a hush to a group of kiters like good food. After dinner it was time for desert, Sharon’s famous berry pies. I even take advantage of these, and I am not a pie eater. That should tell you how awesome they are. The rest of the evening everyone hung out and enjoyed the conversation of friends.

Sunday morning started the same way. Met with Sue and Al, got coffee and headed to the field. There was a little less wind this morning so, I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. At 10 am Uly got on the field and started us out with the traditional red, white, and blue demo. We circulated through the same flier base as yesterday, watching all the fliers give it their all and entertain the crowds. I even was silly and scheduled the Dan show, Dan Burnham, followed by Dan Whitney, and rounding it out with Dan Brown. I will never be accused of not having a sense of humor.

This afternoon we would be in for a treat as there would be a news crew showing up and Air Zone and Too Much Fun would be joining up to form a mega team. Around noon the TV crew showed up and it was time. The two teams got out there and flew a nine-member mega-team for the crowd. Wow, that was a lot of kites in the sky. Everybody loved it, spectators and fellow fliers alike. After they were done, we had requests for them to do it again. This gave me an idea…hmmmm.

When the mega-fly was done we continued with the demos until it was time for the candy drop. Time for all the kiddies to line up and run as if it is the last piece of candy they will ever get. It never ceases to amaze me that no one ever gets hurt. After the candy drop we had another single line mass ascension. This is when the demo fliers get a chance to take in the Art Festival and relax for a little while. David would also take a few runs at the buggy at this time. If there is enough wind to get up the single lines that usually means there is usually enough wind for David to show us his stuff.

Today we also decided to have a fun little hot tricks competition so we could get a little audience participation. We had eight participants, and here is how it went down:

Francisco Navarro Francisco    
Dan Burnham   Ron  
Wayne Fu Ron  
Ron Despojoado  Alex
Alex Herzog Alex   
John Gilespie Alex  
Aaron Champie Mark  
Mark Lummas  

Alex Herzog came out on top, trickin’ his Sea Devil like a mad man. One of the funniest parts things was the heat between Ron and Wayne. They played so well off of each other for the entertainment factor. Especially when Wayne went over and grabbed Ron’s Rev, no worries Ron did return the favor. From what I heard, it was a kite that Wayne does not even let anyone touch. I guess you have to expect it sometimes. Later that afternoon, we were honored with the presence of “Danielle” Whitney. Always one of those sights that make me wonder why lots of men in kiting like to dress up as women. I don’t know if I ever will know the answer to that one.

With all the activities that were going on, the day went by smoothly. It was time for the mega team fly encore. This time I would help them kick it up a notch, and instead of the 9 of them flying I jumped in to make it 10. For me this was an experience I would never forget. I have had the honor of flying with 6, but never 10. Looking around me at the amazing fliers I was standing with put me in awe. I thought that “tail gunner” had to run a lot when there were 4 members… Boy did I learn a lesson! I don’t think I stopped running the entire time. My green and purple Shiva stood out like a sore thumb amongst the other team kites. It felt good to be out there representing my team, TKS Mid-Air.

As the day came to a close, it was time for the raffle. Sharon Champie and Susan Skinner gave their time over the weekend to tend to the booth. The raffle items were drawn, and it was beginning to come to the end of the festival. Fliers started to gather all their belongings and pack things up for their journeys home. Many people said their goodbyes and headed on their way. I gave all my friends hugs and wished them safe journeys and watched as the field cleared and everyone departed.

Ah, here is to another great year in San Ramon. Can’t wait to do it again next year! I can’t say this nearly enough, from myself and the other kiters involved, thank you Brian! This event is one that I look forward to attending every year.

Great winds and good flight to all!

Moon Kushner


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Author:Moon Kushner

Moon Kushner is a regular competitor at NWSKL events, and has also expanded her horizons to include kite making.

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