Issue 60: National Kite Month 2008

April was a busy month down in South Texas, just as I’m sure it was with kiters all over. I had always wanted to get involved in kite making with kids, and what better time to do it than National Kite Month. SPIKE, South Padre Island Kite Enthusiasts, our local kite club, was invited to do just that, come do a kite-making workshop with kids on April 19 in Harlingen, Texas (hometown of Jeff and I) at the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum. The museum had kicked off NKM with a kite display that opened with a reception April 3rd. Patricia Morales from the museum got the help of Bill Doan from B & S Kites and Guy Blatnik from Windchasers Kite Shop, both members of SPIKE. They both loaned kites for the display and helped in setting it up. There was to be a kite festival April 26th, the 2nd Annual “Diamonds in the Sky” Kite Festival to be held at the Harlingen Sports Complex. The organizer of the festival, Esmeralda Martinez, from the Harlingen Parks and Recreation contacted us to participate in both the kite-making event and the kite festival. We were happy to volunteer.

I quickly began researching my kite books and the Internet looking for kite plans and ideas. I also started contacting other kiters for help. What would we do without the Internet and e-mail? I couldn’t survive. I got in touch with two members from the Houston kite club, SHARK, that I knew had been involved in kite-making events in the past and asked for advice. One of those just happened to be the chairman of the NKM committee, Rick Hawkins. Both Rick and Laura Shamrock were quick to respond with ideas. I then e-mailed some kite-making experts from Oklahoma that most of you know, Richard and Marti Dermer. They were great in supplying ideas and plans and sharing their wisdom and knowledge on pulling off these type of events. After getting all the great information and advice from my kiting circle of friends, I then began to start making decisions. Then, lo and behold, I got the e-mail from Esmeralda reminding me that we had to make the kites out of newspaper since the local newspaper was sponsoring the festival the following week. They were even going to have a competition of the homemade kites made out of newspaper. Oops!!! Back to the drawing board!!!

I immediately shot another e-mail out to Richard Dermer to tell him the new circumstances. That very same night, he was on the phone to me to give me all kinds of advice, help, and support. Wow, what a great network we have in the AKA of kiters with wisdom, knowledge, and experience. He instructed me how to use newspaper to make the sled kites that are usually made with the plastic bags. He had had experience with having to make kites out of newspaper and came up with this technique. You just wad the newspaper up, straighten it out, wad it up, straighten it out, etc., etc., about six to eight times, and voila, you have a flexible material out of which to make the sled kite. I took notes from all his great advice on how to prepare for the event ahead of time, and then I sat down to make a couple prototypes. I had also found plans for the Vietnamese kite in the “Kites for Everyone” book by Margaret Greger that I got in the auction at our last kite festival. It’s another kite that works great with newspaper. That following weekend, we took the prototypes out to test at South Padre Island, which is our normal kite hangout, and to show the other SPIKE members who would be helping at the workshop. They flew great.

Jeff and I spent the next week cutting sails and bridle line and getting everything ready to go. Saturday morning, April 19th, SPIKE members began showing up at the museum to set up and get organized. Bill Doan brought us the line and winders to go with the kites. Other SPIKE members participating in the event were Terry Bass, Guy Blatnik, Wanda Ballou, Bill and Kitty Seward, and of course, Jeff and I. We had a classroom with several tables to use, and that was perfect for us to spread out with small groups of kids to be able to give them individual attention.

The kids began showing up promptly and were ushered off to the work tables to begin their projects. Kids of all ages participated, including us big kids. I’m not sure, but I think us big kids had the most fun. You should have seen the kids’ faces when we told them to take the sail cut out of newspaper and wad it up like trash. In the lull between groups, someone came in and let us know that the kites were flying great. So, of course, we had to go check that out. There wasn’t a field nearby to fly kites in, but some of the families were checking the kites out in the parking lot. I think our smiles were bigger than the kids being able to see the fruits of our labor. There’s always that fear that “What if the kite doesn’t fly?” Well, they did, and they flew great. We did find out that palm trees have an appetite for kties too. One kite was sacrificed to the palms. After all was done and cleaned up, we headed out for lunch at a local restaurant, one of our favorite club activities.

The following Saturday, April 26th, we all headed back to Harlingen for the Second Annual “Diamonds in the Sky” Kite Festival. This year they added a competition for the homemade newspaper kites and store bought kites. The trophies for the event were bigger than most of the kids. Since our local newspaper was a sponsor of the event, they supplied the judges. We, like all kiters, had spent the week watching the Weather Channel, local weather, and checking weather sites online trying to see what the wind would do. The festival was scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon, which had us worried that we would be waiting around for wind most of the morning, especially since we were flying inland. The forecast was for light wind for the whole day. So we kept our fingers crossed that it would be enough to have some color in the sky.

SPIKE members and some of the organizers from the Harlingen Parks and Recreation and the Boys and Girls Club began showing up at the field around 7 a.m. It was nice to have an event in our hometown for once so we didn’t have to get up extra, extra early to make the trip. Everyone started lining the field with banners and marking off the area where we would put up our kite display. It was pretty cloudy, and the wind was actually great, which should have told us something. We got kites in the air and anchored in the hard, dry ground. We hadn’t seen rain in quite some time. As we saw a line of clouds coming our way, we figured it was worth getting wet if we could just get some rain. There was no lightning, so all was good. Maybe I shouldn’t say “good.”

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we get hit with a hard solid wall of WIND!!! I hear a kite flapping overhead and look to see Bill Doan’s 30 ft. delta that looked like a rod had broken, but found out later only the Velcro holder came open. They quickly bring that kite down to safety as Jeff and I run to bring down his 20 ft. delta before it decides to pull up anchor and set sail. After we get it down and secure and start walking back, I hear my name being yelled and look to see our sled with tubes launch, snap the line, and head to the road. I start out running, and as I do, I see a red,white, and blue streak out of the corner of my eye. I reach out to grab the banner and keep running until I catch up to the sled and grab hold of it also. Now, did we anchor the banners down or at least tape them and secure them to the poles? Of course not. We were inland with a forecast of light wind all day. I’m not the one to say “I told you so,” but there were a couple of people I could have said that too.

We got our exercise, to say the least. We chased banners for a while. Our EZ Up shade decided to try to launch itself since it hadn’t been anchored down either. You’d think for as long as we have been flying kites we would know to prepare for anything. There’s always a lesson to learn. Kite flying wouldn’t be fun without adventure here and there, and those adventures always create memories. The wind stayed pretty crazy all morning with high gusts, so our single-line display never got launched again. Bill Seward, Jeff, and I did some quad team flying demos.

Now, on the main event field, things went great, or at least as great as they could. The kids were flying their kites with very little trouble. There were a few rips and tears to some newspaper kites. There were some very unique homemade newspaper kites in the competition. There wasn’t a face on the kite field that didn’t have a smile. There had been rain in the surrounding area, but it never did rain on us. It probably scared off a few people from coming out to join us, but all in all, I think we had a good turnout. We did manage to discover this great large field at the Harlingen Sports Complex that works great for kite events, so I’m sure we’ll have more kite flying there in the future. Esmeralda and her helpers from the Harlingen Parks and Recreation and the helpers from the Boys and Girls Club should be commended for all the hard work they did. We really thank them for including us in their special event.

After we packed our gear, we headed to another local restaurant to unwind and talk about the events that had transpired and how these are the memories that always stay with us. What a great hobby to share with friends!!!

Best Winds,

Donna McCown

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Author:Donna McCown

Longtime kite enthusiasts and promoters, Donna and her husband Jeff fly pairs as the Windjunkies, and as as part of teams SPI and WiiQuad.

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