This was my third year in a row to attend this (wonderful) 23rd annual festival, and traveling to international events is always an adventure in itself, because unexpected things always happen along the way to most destinations, and this year was no exception. I leave north central Texas and drive 2 hours north to Oklahoma City, fly 2 hours from OKC to Chicago, where I meet up with other americans, Chris Shultz, Moon Kushner, Mike Jones, and Doug Mullins, and we take the same15 hour flight to Beijing, which during the flight we fly over Canada, the Yukon, Alaska, the Arctic ocean, Siberia, Russia, and into China. We arrive in Beijing and have a 3 hour layover before we board another plane to Qingdao China.
After going thru immigration/customs, I head outside to get some much needed nicotine. Once outside, I was approached by a small group of guys in their early 20’s, asking for an american cigarette, which I gladly shared some with them. Minutes later one of them asked me how long my layover was. I told him that I had another 90 minutes before my flight would leave to Qingdao. I asked why he wanted to know, and he said he wanted to welcome me to China by offering me the private company of a beautiful woman during my layover. I’ve got to tell ya’ll, the Chinese really know how to make visitors feel welcome in their country! <evil grin> Sorry to disappoint ya’ll, but I’m a married man, and I politely thanked the young man for his generosity and headed back into the airport terminal, and back thru airport security checks.
I get to our arrival gate and wait for one hour to board our plane for Qingdao. At boarding time we notice we’re the only ones waiting at the gate for the Qingdao flight, then Moon Kushner comes walking over to us and says “Hey, they changed our gate number, and that we had better get down to gate 28b and board the plane“. We board the plane and are relieved that we didn’t miss our connecting flight, and that this flight is only to take one hour!
Before I get any further in this adventure story, I need to explain something about Chinese time schedules to those of you Americans or Europeans that have never been to China before. When you visit China, throw all of your western style expectations out the window on your drive to the airport. Because, a lot of the schedules in China always end up being incorrect, or there are problems that create unexpected delays schedules! Western visitors to China must quickly learn to go with the flow, bring lot’s of Prosaic, or drink a lot of beer, otherwise go crazy worrying about schedule delays, cancellations, last minute request, etc!
Anyway, we are sitting on the ground and our plane to Qingdao has yet to move. After about 45 minutes past our scheduled departure time, we finally get airborne (woo hoo)! I was having a nice conversation with a women sitting next to me, who just happens to work for Nike, and was headed to one of Nike’s factories in Qingdao. I told her why were were in China, and gave her a copy of the AKA Kiting Magazine to learn more about what kite flying was all about. She said that she would try and attend the WSIKF this coming August in Long Beach, Washington State USA, and that she would try and bring some marketing reps from Nike with her, to see if kiting held any marketing potential (we can all hope for the best, right).
Meanwhile, 50 minutes into our flight we feel the plane make a 180° turn. Minutes later the pilot announces that we had to turn around and go back to Beijing. We land in Beijing and everyone one was wondering what the heck was happening? Flight attendants ran around in a very confused state and wouldn’t tell anyone much of anything (btw – this is Air China that we’re on)! Passengers started standing up and talking with each other, and their imaginations started running wild with why we had to turn around and fly back to Beijing. Some of the rumors overheard included theories such as: mechanical problems, storms, and bomb threats and/or terrorist! Or maybe the pilot got lost and had to turn around and ask for directions?
After nearly 1 hour we learn that severe thunderstorms had prevented us from landing, and that the flight crew was waiting for word from their superiors to see if the storm would clear in time for us to make the flight that evening, and if we didn’t fly, what would they do with all of the passengers that night? We boarded this flight at 4:55pm and it was now about 8:30pm. Heck, I could have accepted the young man’s hospitality offer when I was outside the terminal smoking, if I’d only known of the flight delay we would encounter, and it would have been a heck of a lot more entertaining than sitting on a plane, having more nicotine withdrawals, and wondering what would become of us that night! Oh by the way, kiting veterans to China have become used to the phrase “Hurry up and wait”. 😉
Finally, at 9:30pm we get approval to try and fly to Qingdao again, and at 10:45pm we land safely in a very wet and stormy Qingdao. We go to collect our bags and then look for our contact person/persons to greet us with a hand held sign of some sort, so we can begin the normal 2 hour drive from Qingdao to Weifang… Well as our bad luck would have it, our contacts were told by the airlines that our flight would not be coming that night, so they turned around and drove back to Weifang. While waiting in the arrival terminal, I spot some familiar kite flyers from Thailand that were also wondering, when a where we would end up that night. I asked to use Ms. Sim Sarak’s cell phone, where I was able to speak to organizer Mr. Liu Zhiping, who said that he would send a bus again to come pick us up again. Meanwhile, we watch the skies outside flashing because of the thunderstorms, and we wait for the next 3 hours wondering if a bus would actually arrive. The bus finally arrived at 2:30am and off to Weifang we go, finally (woo hoo)! As our driver is trying to find his way out of Qingdao, we pass by the same neon lit building 3 times. Ya, we were driving in circles! Finally we get on the correct highway, were most of us cat nap on the way. Several times along the way I swear our poor tired driver must have fell asleep while driving, because I would look out the window and we would be driving about 20 mph on the shoulder of the road, and there was no other cars on the road to create a traffic problem.
At 5:30 that morning we arrive to our hotel. We get out of the bus and the wind was strong, and it felt as cold as an arctic snow storm outside! That woke us all up! We all get our room keys, and check into our rooms. I was sharing a room once again with my good friend John Barresi from Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, it was about 6am and I had to wake up John to get him to open the door to the room, because this hotel although a nice hotel, only gives out one key per room.
I move my bags into the room as quietly as possibly so John could go back to sleep. John had arrived the afternoon before after a fairly long flight from Paris, France, where he had been judging at the WSKC in France for the previous 8-10 days, and was obviously already dead tired from 10 days of kiting, judging, and partying. I took a shower and headed to Chris Shultz’s room, where we all decided to skip sleeping, even though we had been traveling for 34 hours. So we headed to the hotel restaurant to get some food and coffee. Luckily for us, by that time the restaurant was just opening up! And the good thing was, that we were finally in Weifang with friends and we had survived our travel adventure getting to
First day on the town…
After a good breakfast and many cups of coffee, we decided to do some touring around Weifang. Every year that I come to Weifang, old buildings are being demolished, and new buildings are being built. The city is growing at an alarming rate!
One of the highlights of this years trip was the new kite square/park that was built next to the Weifang World Kite Museum. This new park is 100% devoted to kite history, and visual effects. It contains huge round center area that has a giant fountain that shoots water out of the ground every 10-15 minutes, dozens of kite clubs around the world are honored with marble and brass plaques with kite club logos on them. Those plaques circle the fountain area. three american clubs were honored with the plaques, one of which is Wings Over Washington ‘WOW”, which is Chris Shultz’s former home town club. Chris and I were thrilled we we saw it for the first time! Also Black Swamp Airforce, and Northern California Kiters were represented with the same plaques. Myself and Hans Jansen op de Har had submitted club information for world wide clubs to the Weifang Committee, to be considered for use in the new park, and the organizers obviously picked clubs at random. Inside the kite museum, the same clubs were also listed on a display, in the museum’s international kite room.
The park also is filled with life size statues made of bronze, of people in various poses depicting kite flying, kite building, etc… There are 1m x 1m square plexiglass displays sunk into the ground at the north entrance, that contain various traditional chinese kites. the glass is level with the ground so it can actually be walked on. And the landscaping an trails thru the park are fantastic! On Thursday of that week, the city and International Kite Federation hosted the official grand opening ceremonies for the new kite park, with all the international kiters, city officials and dignitaries, and lot’s of dancers, and entertainment!
Later that after noon John Barresi, Peter Fiedler, myself and the other kite festival judges from China and Korea had a closed door judges meeting. We had been invited to serve as judges for the 2nd Weifang International Stunt Kite Team Championships, where Teams from Germany (1), Columbia (2), USA (1), China (2), Korea (1), Thailand (1), Malaysia (1), would compete at China’s biggest ever stunt kite team competition! The Chinese have expressed a keen desire to learn the IRBC rules, so that they can advance in the sport, and teach future chinese competitors and judges the rules.
Mike Gillard and I had been communicating with Weifang’s Mr. Liu Zhiping since four months previous to the festival, sharing the links to the IRBC rules, so that the Chinese could down load the rules, translate them, and begin teaching those rules to all of the judges and international stunt kite team competitors that weren’t familiar with the rules. Mike Gillard was picked as a the competition’s chief judge, on recommendation by David Gomberg. Mike Gillard was an excellent choice and was looking forward to his first trip to China, and I was looking forward to judging along side Mike! Unfortunately, just a few weeks before Weifang was scheduled to start, Mike Gillard died suddenly at his home in Ohio, USA! Mike will definitely be missed by all that knew him!
After a week of grieving over the loss of Mike, a decision had to be made to appoint a new chief judge, because as they say “the show must go on”. Gomberg chose John Barresi (AKA Sport Kite Committee Chair) as the new Chief judge for this event. John is the newest AKA representative to serve on the IRB committee, and if we were to teach the Chinese the IRBC rules, Gomberg felt it best, if a member of the IRBC served as chief judge. And so John stepped in late just a few weeks before Weifang. John ended up doing a very respectable job, although it was his first time ever as a chief judge for any sport kite competition. And it didn’t hurt that the other judges didn’t mind help fill the work load gaps where, and when needed, before and during the event. The judges meeting was a challenge, because although each judge was provided with excellent translators during the meeting and the week, communications proved to be difficult.
In the end, the meeting turned out to be a success! Largely because of our translators, Jessica, Bonnie, Vera, Angelina, Frank, etc… Throughout the course of this event, Angelina proved to be invaluable as John’s translator when dealing with organizers, the other translators, judges and everyone else involved with the competition.
Speaking of translators, our translators were assigned to each of us and went beyond the call of duty to help us all week long, and without them, the week would have been much more difficult. My two translators were Jessica and Bonnie, whom I can’t thank enough for all the help and friendship they provided me all week, and I know John’s translator (Angelina), Hans, and Peter’s translators Frank, Vera, also helped make our jobs much easier! In addition to helping, they are also fun to party with, and on several occasions, we (Hans Jansen op De Har, Chris Shultz, Mike Jones, Moon Kushner, Ron Jakubowicz, Doug Mullins and myself) went to KTV clubs with our translators/friends, and drank beer, and sang karaoke songs! Or we’d go to a popular pub next to the hotel called the M-Box and party with everyone. The M-Box was our favorite night time hang out, because beer is cheap, and they have a live band that isn’t too bad, after we had drank enough beer and played enough beer drinking dice games! 😉
The evening before the kite festival was supposed to start, an extravagant kite festival opening ceremonies took place inside a huge outdoor stadium, that seats 50,000 people in the stands, and another 20,000 on the stadium floor. Weifang’s opening ceremonies for their kite festival are second to none! On the stadium floor, is a huge concert style stage with a tall back drop, decorated with neon lights, kites, etc…truly spectacular! Famous Chinese entertainers were brought in to sing, dance, and entertain. Media was everywhere, including CCTV, which is typically broadcast to a billion or so people across China, during important events like this one. At the beginning of the ceremonies, the judges, and international kite flyers were led across the stage, with each country led by a beautiful women carrying each countries sign. Kiters carried their country’s flags on long banner poles. This is Weifang’s version of an Olympic style opening ceremony! The ceremony lasted for 2 hours, then ends with an hour long choreographed fireworks display that is without rival anywhere!
Before the ceremony started, and while we were all waiting inside the stadium, most of us were asked to pose for photos with many of the spectators, and performers. Barresi was certainly the most sought after, with his charming smile and youthful good looks, especially by single women from 18-30 years old… “Oh, you look like David Beckham!” We all had a great time being treated like celebrities, and it certainly doesn’t hurt our ego a bit! 😉
After the festival our core group (mentioned earlier) decided to walk back to the hotel, which was only a couple miles away, instead of waiting for our bus. The walk was nice, and it gave us more opportunity to visit with our translators, and see some more of Weifang… The next day would be the start of the kite flying! So, we started preparing for that, by going to the M-Box and drinking a few dozen beers! The back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
BTW – At this point, I have only slept a total of about 6-8 hours since leaving Texas 3-4 days earlier.
Kite Festival Opening flying day…
Friday morning everyone loads onto three buses and we drive 30 minutes to the festival flying field. Along the way the bus driver decided to get our adrenaline pumping, by driving in the wrong lane of traffic, and proceeded to pass other cars, bicycles, etc… on a city street. It was like playing a game of chicken to see who will swerve first. Our driver must have thought that the bus was bigger, and other’s would swerve first. They did. and we won/survived!
We arrive at the festival site where hundreds of kites from local flyers were already in the sky, and at least 50,000 to 100,000 people waited for our arrival, to see the international kite flyers and their kites. In addition to the huge amount of people that were at the festival field each day, there were also hundreds of uniformed military and police, serving as crowd control.
Before any of the international kiters got to fly any kites during this 3 hour, non-competitive flying day, another much smaller opening ceremony was organized. Dignitaries made speeches, and John Barresi was assigned the honor of giving the judges oath speech in front of the thousands of people. And once again all of the international kiters were lined up behind beautiful women dressed sharply in satin festival gowns and attire. Each held a different countries sign. I think there were about 30 countries represented at this festival, including, but not limited to: USA, Canada, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Netherlands, Germany, UK, Denmark, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Japan, Taiwan ROC, Austria, Australia, Africa, Switzerland, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc…. In addition to the international kiters, there were hundreds of Chinese kiters from all over China. Most whom displayed and flew there fantastic traditional kites!
After the short opening ceremonies, all kite flyers walked to, and made camp at assigned tents that were all connected together in one long line. Each country had at least one tent to store, and assemble their kites in. This was something new at the festival this year that had not been done in previous years, and proved to be a great addition to the success of the festival! On the far opposite side of the festival field, the domestic kiters enjoyed the same luxury of tents.
Our core group, which now included AKA President David Gomberg, shared two tents. John got out his Sea Devil to wow the crowd with his fantastic tricks, weaving in and out of the hundreds of kite and lines which filled the sky… During this, one of the local fliers walked up and played one of John’s internet videos for him on his cell phone! Moon and I assembled and flew Revolution 1 quad line kites, at one point Chris Shultz was taking pictures of me flying the Rev 1, and he said “Troy, you sure do draw a crowd”. I hadn’t really been paying attention to the amount of people watching me fly at that time. But Chris said there were 300-400 people gathered in a tight group behind and along each side of me, watching a kite in which many spectators had never seen before. Moon started drawing the same size crowd as did John, and all other international kiters. Mike Jones set up a static line Kite Aerial Photography “KAP” kite, and preceded to take aerial views of the festival. Mike also took aerial views of most all of the Weifang tourist spots, and interesting architecture in Weifang and Beijing.
The coolest thing about international kite festivals of this magnitude, is the enormous amount of different kites that are all flying together. Everything you can imagine, from modern kites, traditional kites, and hand made one of a kind kites. There were Brazilian, Korean, Indian, and Pakistan fighter kites, there were Malaysian Wau kites, Traditional Thailand, Indonesian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Cambodia kites, and a fantastic modern double deck circular kite with a picture of Mona Lisa on the front. But, what was very strange, is the amount of modern stunt kites that were flying at this festival! Way more stunt kites than many verterans kiters to this festival had ever seen before! Granted that the next day there would be sport kite team competitions, and with 10 registered teams competing, there are bound to be a lot more stunt kites sharing the skies. But some how it is sad, because it’s as if China is slowly losing their focus on making and flying traditional kites, made of bamboo, silk, paper, etc… Many of us that were in attendance discussed this matter, and we were all concerned that perhaps the Chinese kite factories were slowly changing their production efforts to making modern kites, instead of making traditional kites that people around the world have loved and admired for hundreds of years! It is nice that China is becoming more diversified with their kiting interest, but I certainly do not want to see China fade away from their traditional kiting history!
By noon that day, all international kiters packed up their kites, loaded back onto the buses, and headed back to the hotel for our midday meal.
After another wonderful lunch, we all went to our rooms, cleaned up, and loaded back onto the buses, so we could attend the meeting of the International Kite Federation at the 5 Star rated Fuwah hotel, which is where kiters stayed during this event in 2004.
The meeting was organized in a large auditorium with stage. This meeting was special, because the focus of the speeches by dignitaries and the executive members of the IKF, was the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. A major campaign that I have personally been aware of the past 2 years, is trying to convince the Chinese and International Olympic committees to allow kite flying to be part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Whether it be a demonstration sport, or part of the opening ceremonies, or both, An effort is being made to try and make this a reality!
After the speeches, all international kiters that were in attendance, were asked to sign a huge petition banner, that would then be forwarded and presented to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games committee. Let’s all hope for a bit of luck with this effort, because the Olympic games may be just the kind of catapult that kite flying needs to get main stream media attention, that we have all dreamed about for so very long!
After the meeting was over, everyone gathered outside for a panoramic group photo. Does anyone have a copy of that photo? If so contact me, at: TKOGunn@webtv.net
We all headed back to our host hotel, ate dinner, chatted with our international friends, then our core group headed out for another night of M-Box Bar, beer drinking, socializing, with our translators and whomever we can convince to join us. Woo Hoo! The beer of choice for us was Tshingdao beer made in Qingdao, which is just 2-3 hours drive away. It’s cheap, plentiful, and doesn’t taste too much like formaldehyde! ; ) Actually, The city of Qindao has a lot of German influence and the beer made there was a recipe of a genuine german beerwmeister. It’s quite good! Gombei!
By midnight John and I head back to our room, so that we could prepare all of the necessary judges score sheets, flight orders, and list of required equipment we would need for the next day’s sport kite team competitions. John had brought his laptop and a printer, so we were prepared for the job task that we had been assigned to perform… Quite a workload, but very necessary. While John handled the majority of the paperwork, I had spent a great deal of time working with the organizers to ensure that we would have everything we needed with regard to field size, equipment, sound requirements, etc.
To the organizers credit, they did everything possible to help us get everything done smoothly… Even going so far as to reschedule three buses for the following morning so we could get an earlier start, passing the new schedule to the other teams via their translators, and getting everyone to the buses on time.
We finally hit the pillow at about 2am, and would have to awake at 6am. No rest for the wicked!
International competition day…
We awoke at 6 am, ate a quick breakfast, at which time several of the sport kite teams approached us, and were (jokingly) attempting to bribe the judges (us). We told them that we would gladly accept their bribe money, donations, next born child, but it still would not make a difference in our scores! Somehow, I don’t think that this is what they wanted to hear! But hey, it was all good clean fun!
Once again we loaded into the buses and made our way to the flying field, once again playing chicken with opposing traffic on the roads. We arrive at the competition flying field and already there were hundreds of kites in the sky, flown by competitors of both traditional and sport kites.
Before we arrived to Weifang, as mentioned earlier, I had made a sport kite competition equipment and “things to-do” list, that I was asked to provide to Mr. Liu Zhiping. The list also included the sport kite competition field size and boundary line requirements, sound system requirements, and all other necessary tools that the judges and festival staff would use to properly run the sport kite team competitions. Mr. Liu Zhiping was very thorough with making sure we had everything we needed. I had brought a wind meter (borrowed from Chris Shultz), along with two hand held walkie talkies, and an extra stop watch.
The competition arena was actually much bigger than we had originally requested, but bigger is better! John, myself and the other judges, and our newly trained field director/translator “Frank/Feng”, have a brief meeting to discuss our schedule and duties for this day. We all agree to share duties to help finalize competition preparations, we agree on the stage-in and stage out areas would be inside the arena boundary lines, so that spectators wouldn’t step on the competitors kites, or get tangled in their kite lines. before we even did the preflight competitors meeting that morning we had already noticed three major
- We were in the wind shadow of a large on-site building which would eventually cause major havoc with most of the teams that day, because the building was creating very unstable winds, and/or would block the wind completely at times. If we could do it over, we would have suggested that the field be moved to the far east end of the festival field, because it enjoyed cleaner winds. Unfortunately it was being used by the single line kite competitors, so we made due with what we had.
- International fliers were in our competition field, and there were dozens of single line kites already flying over the sport kite arena.
I ask Bonnie (one of my helpers) to please bring the sound system technician a walkie talkie, so we could communicate during the competition, and while she was there, I gave her a script to have them say every 15 minutes over the sound system, that basically warned single line kite fliers not to fly their kites directly next to, or upwind of the sport kite competition area. The problem with this, is that there are so many different kiters that speak different languages, and our announcers spoke only Chinese (nihao), or english (hello). Therefore, a lot of kiters were not getting the message, and single line kites proved to be a major problem all day, with flying over the sport kite field, and/or actually interfering with the sport kite teams.
One instance of interference came during the judging of team precision. I was concentrating on judging a team flying a precision compulsory figure, when all of the sudden a large single line inflatable kite came down on my head and completely covered me up, to where I couldn’t see the kites I was suppose to be judging. We had to have the team re-fly the compulsory figure. It was kind of comical in a way. We even tried to use the military and police that were there, to ask them to have people move their kites to a safer area, but they had the same problem with not being able to communicate in different languages.
All we could do is laugh about it and go with the flow! ; )
We did decide that if Weifang wants to do future sport kite competitions at that location, the sport kite competitions should be organized on separate days before or after the regular traditional single line festival, and that more staff be assigned to control crowds and kites around the competition arena.
Anyway, John Barresi and the judging staff conducted the preflight meeting with the competitors at about 9:30am to explain the rules, stage in/out areas, ground crew instructions, hard boundary DQ rules, etc to all of the teams. We took a little longer than normal, because for 3 or 4 of the teams, this would be their first time competing in organized sport kite competitions using 100% IRBC rules, and we wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable with all the rules and required procedures.
The teams and judging staff all did a good job considering the turbulent wind conditions, and interferences they all had to deal with all day… Another example, the Malaysian team (Keops) was flying their precision, when one or more of their kite’s lines were cut by fighter kites using manjha cutting line… This happened on five separate occasions during the Malaysian’s turn on the field, taking a full 25 minutes to get through them and on to the next team! By the time they were done, their lines had been cut down and retied several times.
As with any competition, there are certain conditions, and a certain amount of luck that can sometimes affect the competition’s outcome, and this day was no exception. Many teams that finished lower in the final standings, could have placed higher if luck would have been in their favor, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles! There is always the question “What if“? Unfortunately we can’t all be winners all of the time. But sometimes winning isn’t as important, if you know that you did your very best within the conditions and circumstances presented to you, and that you could have done no more to improve that day… We cannot begin to thank our translators enough, since we ran them absolutely ragged during the course of the day, getting kites and people out of the arena, communicating with the sound stage, etc.
On a diplomatic note, John did an amazing job of working with the teams through the many challenges and obstacles we faced throughout the day… Getting non-competitors off the field, directing translators through various tasks, tracking down a couple of fighter kite pilots and encouraging them to remove their kites from the sport kite arena, and then dashing off to the judges tent after every event to process all the scores in his laptop! Every member of the international staff worked their tails off… Myself, in the equipment and logistics area and Peter Fiedler with helping to input scores. Later that evening, John was overheard saying (in good humor)… “It was like herding cats, I think I just lived 72 hours in the space of 24!”
After the day’s various kite competitions were finished, the awards were presented to the top three places in each single line and sport kite competition discipline.
Regardless of what some have said about the quailty of the teams respresented at this competition, I think that this was giant step forward, not only for the Weifang festival committee, the China Kite Association, the Intenational Kite Federation, but also for the teams! I think that everyone involved on the organizational and competitive sides of this event should be proud of their progress and accomplishments!
Below are the final (combined ballet and precision) sport kite team competition scores for the 2nd Weifang International Sport Kite Team Championships… Teams flew hard in very challenging conditions, and deserve a huge kudos for keeping their heads up, pushing through and helping us get the competition done on time.
|Sanook Sky Winds||Thailand||
|Korea Sport Kite Assoc.||Korea||
|Weifang Stunt Kite Team||China||
I personally want to thank all of the judges, staff, competitors, helpers for performing an outstanding job! I especially want to thank Frank/Feng (China) for learning the field director job on short notice, and for doing an excellent job despite everything that was going on around him! And to our helpers Jessica, Bonnie, Angelina. Vera, for helping us a lot that day, and all week. Ya’ll are great!
A big congratulations also go out to all of the single line contest winners. Sorry, I don’t have all of the names of those winners, but I do know that Roger Tan from Malaysia won a couple categories, Ashghar Belim of India placed top three in fighter kites. Craig from New Zealand placed high in biggest kites competition.
We finished off the competition day by returning to the hotel, enjoying a nice dinner, and then celebrating again at the M-Box bar.
With all our scheduled events “in the bag”, the next day would be our official tour day.
Sunday 23 April is tour day for all of the invited international kiters, and many are eager to see some of the sights, and buy some gifts and memorabilia!
Todays schedule brought us to a kite factory and hand crafted village, where there were more building to see than what time we were given time to look. There were several building that contained workers hand making traditional Chinese kites. The work is slow and tedious, but oh so fascinating for us to watch! We watched them cut, bend, shape, and tie the bamboo used to make the frames of the kites. We watched another group draw the art work on the sail material cloth or paper. The next group hand painted the sails. Another group assembled the kites to form the finished product. then another group boxed and packaged everything.
Other buildings in the complex contained Shandong province history. Some contained paper cut art or hand painted art. Some building contained, one of a kind wood or stone art, or sculptures. And some had antiques for sale. The complex also boasts a nice pond and scenic trail to the top of a hill, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the complex and pond.
There was also a traditional dance with performers that were wearing traditional attire, and playing large drums.
Then we head back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch, everyone is given three choices of what they can do the rest of the day.
- Tour the largest plant and vegetable nursery green houses in China?
- Go to a tea tasting factory/store?
- Tour on your own?
Our core group and many other chose to go tour the greenhouses, and we’re glad we did! It was the most amazing display of professional, artistic, gardening we had ever seen! You had to be there to appreciate it’s beauty! We were told that this particular green house grows and supplies Beijing with at least half of what Beijing uses. and Beijing has a population of about 13 to 15 Million! On a side trip, John also explored an amazingly beautiful park in downtown Weifang, complete with ambient sounds and waterfalls… He said you could sit right there in the park, and not even know you were in the middle of town.
We go back to the hotel, and we decide to do some more touring privately in smaller groups. Some go to the kite museum and take the guided tour (we did that). Some go to modern style kite factories (I did that too). I bought 15 sets of revolution style handles (copies) for $2 usd per set. Woo Hoo! I gladly shared them with a number of the other attending fliers.
This would the last night in Weifang for most of the international guests, because almost everyone was scheduled to leave the next morning for various locations around China and the world. It’s always sad to say goodbye to old and new friends wherever our travels take us. And the next morning proved difficult for many. Several helpers and kiters had become attached to each other as friends, and many a tear drop fell upon the cheeks of many the morning of departure!
It was nice for me to see many of my kite friends from different parts of the world, such as Asghar Belim and friends from India, Lee Poi, Roger Tan from Malaysia, Norman from Singapore, Ms. Sim Sarak from Cambodia, Orlando from the Philipines, Craig Rogers from new Zealand, Lalo Loeshler of Argentina, Sami Seyah from Lebanon, all the sport kite teams, Robert Yen and wife from Xiaman, Bo from Weifang, Sammy, Wang, Jessica, Bonnie, Vera, Angelina, Frank (and all the others) from China, all the Chinese judges, and the Korean judge and kiters, Hans of Holland, friends from Canada and North America, etc… Hopefully we can all meet again next year.
Our special thanks to Mr. Liu Zhiping, who along with the help of an amazing staff, made our visit one of the most enjoyable kite adventures we’ve ever had… We look forward to many more great years in Weifang!
Meanwhile, my next trip would take me from Weifang, to another festival in Qingdao, China that day, Monday April 24th… To be continued in another report.
See you on the field,