Issue 63: Second Annual Idaho Kite Festival

If October 1-4 does not ring a bell for the second annual Idaho Kite Festival, those were NOT the planned dates.  At IKF 2008 in Pocatello Idaho, PLAN B was the norm.  I have to admire the flexibility and laid back approach of everyone involved – it was seat of the pants all the way!

As the October 2-5 dates approached, the weather forecast became ominous – calm sunny hot day Thursday (only kiters moan and groan at that forecast), then rain and more certain rain for the weekend.  It all panned out accordingly, and yet the Festival went on.

During COME SLEDDING WITH US kitemaking at Portneuf Library, kids were undaunted by the showers outside, talking to the videographer from between assembly steps, applying painstaking artwork, sublimely confident they would parade to the flying field across the street when their sleds were complete.

They were right – a breeze and blue skies greeted us at the end of the workshop, and 30-some sledders joined fighter kite national champion Jay Maas, Roy Hanson and Renee Snyder who were demonstrating fighter kites.  The breeze was steady enough that the kids were soon flying more than 100 feet up.


Jay, Roy and Renee wowed us with their fighter skills till we were all excited for the class to build our own.  The class was so well prepped with reinforced sails, pre-cut spars and even custom cut double-stick tape.  We made a sweet mylar number tuned slow enough to build our confidence as we learned to fly.  During the adult class, Dean Turnblom of Sunrise Kites in Idaho Falls found time to make sleds with a few kids who tagged along.  Dean also brought waxed line and reels to finish our project, and we looked forward to Friday’s flying lesson.

The best flying student turned out to be my son-in-law Curtis Vlasak, who with my daughter Chelsea had driven from Minneapolis to attend the Festival.  Curtis proved to be a natural and picked up the techniques fast.  Undaunted by the trees and fences 100 yards out which finally claimed his kite, he politely asked permission to retrieve the shredded sail and made his second fighter with the salvaged spars.  [photo]  Heading south for his next job, he’s undoubtedly honing his skills over San Clemente beaches as I write…and because Chelsea can’t resist a challenge, she’ll probably be a pretty respectable fighter kiter when I next see them.


The winds had ebbed and flowed all day Friday, and we seized each opportunity to fly.  A promising steady breeze allowed for a parasail, but as rain moved back in, the wind came up so quickly it nearly claimed this beaut.


When we couldn’t fly for lack of wind or not being able to maneuver between raindrops, we moved to the kitebuilding tables.  Another kite Roy and Jay had brought was a Dan Kurahashi five-sided design they call the Chrysler because it looks like that emblem – fun to build, again prepped for easy assembly (these guys are a multifaceted resource with a multitude of skills), a joy to fly.  Leaving me with a prototype and a pattern with construction notes, Roy made it possible for The Sky’s The Limit! volunteers to make this kite at future workshops around Idaho between Festivals.  A funny note – my son-in-law Curtis made his from the jack-o-lantern face on a Halloween leaf bag Roy brought.  It looks so striking in the air that at the end of the Festival we all stopped at the dollar store to get mummies, skeletons, and witches to make more outrageous sails.  We are easily entertained….


The rain got serious Friday night and continued Saturday morning.  Bad weather means big kitemaking workshop, and sure enough the Dinner and a Book with Dad group at the library was full capacity!  Jeanne starts the monthly gathering reading a couple books aloud, then provides lunch and an activity, in this case kitemaking.  A paper mini-kimono was on the agenda but with the rain we switched to a plastic sail.  We wanted to avoid a one-use kite that disintegrated on the damp grass.

Portneuf Library has always been lucky for us, and sure enough, the rainstorm ended before we finished!  The kids poured across the street and into the park, tacking their kimonos against the sky like pros.  If nothing else happens at our Festival but kids exuberantly flying their first kites, that’ll carry me to the next Festival, every time.  What could be better than a glowing upturned face?  We grownups think of kites as using mind, shoulder and back muscles, but for kids it’s a full-service activity – brain and body, creativity and confidence, solidly based pride of ownership and skill.  Watching a child develop coordination, patience, and serenity in the great outdoors – aaahhh, all’s right with this world.

[Not that grownups are exempt from that “kid again” feeling.  When I attend events like my high school reunion, a birthday party, or the AARP (yes, 55 is in my rearview mirror) annual picnic, I take a few kites with the event written on them, fly them and give away.  The youthful grins on the flyers’ faces are priceless. – photo]


Throughout the weekend at meals, kiters from Idaho Falls, Burley, Stanley, Salmon, Boise, Hayden and Pocatello Idaho, and Salt Lake City, discussed how we can support one another’s area events, coordinate our calendars; bring looseknit kiters among us into our groups; and reciprocate with our own skills to expand everyone’s activities.  Weather conditions – rain, snow, and lack of wind make postponements and cancellations commonplace.  We commiserated with and commended one another.


Friday night kitemaking with the veterans brought out the new commander of VFW #735, Robert Dawson.  This was our fourth Kitemaking With the Veterans workshop, always a poignant event with stories of those absent with illness or worsening conditions, or funerals attended earlier in the day.  These veterans officiate at every local funeral and military observance, and are ever aware of the fragility of life.  Yet they come to celebrate their service and remember their comrades with their annual memorial kite fly.


A paperwork glitch relocated our flying field for the entire Festival to our Thursday site, and cancelled our Sunday fly.  Again, we made the best of Plan B and were fortunate to have access to a field for three days.


Local contributors Ted and Kim Swanson of Swanson Construction brought their kids out to make and fly their third kite, and to repeat their offer of their 20-acre yard (farm?!) to hold future Festivals.  This family has been our strongest local supporter, and we owe them a huge shout out for all their efforts.


We had a superb add-on – not on the schedule but a cool bonus:  Rain and low winds gave us an excuse to hold an indoor kite demonstration, putting the remarkable skills of Todd Copeland of Utah Kitefliers and Russell James of Boise on display.  They made it look easy and graceful, but Kiyoko and Gary Fleshman-Kubodera of Hayden Idaho found it a complex challenge.  Gary holds the Hayden Kite Festival annually, and immediately tried to book these talented guys for an indoor show!

Another highlight of IKF was showing the Ray Bethel video I Love What I Do.  When I picked it up at the International Kite Museum in at WISKF Kay suggested using it for fundraisers and festivals.  It was perfect to show those who had never seen Ray Bethel in person, and to those who have and can’t get enough of his amazing performances.  No one celebrates kiting and demonstrates stunt flying like Ray Bethel.


Dean Turnblom and I had worked hard for months to create our 100-Malay kite train, another Dan Kurahashi kite design.  Sporadic wind on Saturday permitted us to put it up, albeit in three sections of 30 to 40 kites each.  Breezes turned to strong winds and died every hour, resulting in several chases for 5 or 10 separated kites throughout the day; but it was an uplifting sight people drove off the road (not in a bad way) to get a closer view.

I learned a LOT about stack assembly with this train, and will modify this one in hopes of flying it safely in 2009.  AND, I’ve started an arch for next year (help again gratefully accepted!).


Gary Resnick of Florida had generously built a teddy bear ferry for Idaho Kite Festival, and we were ready to go Saturday but couldn’t summon the wind.  Todd Copeland began building a second ferry as soon as he received Gary’s, so we’ll have one in Salt Lake and one here. THANKS GARY AND TODD for providing the rig and manpower for this event.  Todd and I both stocked up on bears, so we will definitely try the bear drop at a future event.


I don’t even know how to report on this next horrible event.  Arriving home after Saturday’s activities, a little let down at having to cancel Sunday for lack of a field, I rounded the last block and was halted by a dozen police and fire department vehicles, with smoke pouring out of what I feared was my house but turned out to be the one next door.  The local NBC news anchor told me 2-year-old neighbor Zach had been severely burned on much of his little body.  Rumor and fact still swirl around this tragic fire which decimated the inside of the brick house and all its contents except a handful of items in a freezer.  I still don’t know much a week later, as the parents are with Zach at the Salt Lake burn center, but word of induced coma, multiple skin graft surgeries, and no medical insurance swirl through the neighborhood.  It’s a sobering occurrence which makes me count my blessings repeatedly.


Sunday brought a local CBS reporter to ask about the neighbors (no comment) and about the Festival.  (Did I mention this is a small town?!)  We spent an hour talking, flying kites, and thanking everyone for their support and participation – but all that aired on the evening news was FINDING OUT FOR YOU:  The answer to YOUR calls and emails asking why the Festival ended a day early.  Better than nothing, but she had some good comprehensive coverage of the Festival, darn it.

Ironically, the best air of the weekend was Sunday, of course.  Finding it impossible to resist, Russell James and his friend Maggie from Boise could not leave town without testing the winds, so with his Pocatello buddy Steve Hendrix we gathered at a nearby park.  Sure enough, we were able to put up many kites we’d struggled to fly Friday and Saturday.  Thus the weekend ended with promise – a peaceful Pocatello fly with a few friends, as many a weekend is spent when the air feels right.

Looking back and forward, this was a great gathering with lots of kid hours, and it will only improve with time.  Building kites with cancer survivors, veterans, and the local bereavement support group was particularly moving.  Indoor, quad and fighter demonstrations made everyone want to learn these skills.  Informal rokkaku battles will definitely be a part of future festivals.  The year-round kitemaking schedule continues to expand.  We hope the greater kite community will support us and visit Pocatello, as we’ll keep going and growing – The Sky’s The Limit!

See you next year!

Micki Kawakami

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Author:Micki Kawakami

A USPS letter carrier, Micki Kawakami gets intense about Asian cultural skills. A founding member of the first Idaho taiko (Japanese drumming) group, she gave lessons and performances 9 years. She teaches basic bonsai techniques with geraniums. Micki finds common ground for her belief, “When you have something or learn something, share it,” in the kiting community.

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