Issue 72: Rockaway Beach Kite Festival

How about a GREAT Kite-Fest at Rockaway Beach?

All right… so clue me in. Where in the world is Rockaway Beach? And has anybody actually been there? Well, that was my thoughts precisely too – before I’d been there. And you gotta read this one all the way to the end to see if I’m going back, too!

Rockaway Beach is a small community about 25 miles south of Seaside Oregon – the host city for the FanTAbUlous 2010 AKA Convention this year. I’d not had occasion to ever go there, but the call came for Theresa and I to head on down there in for the umpteenth running of this event… Yeah, sure, Uh-huh… The reason for that “umpteenth” is that nobody could tell me how many years this festival had been happening – and I DID too ask… It’s just that nobody knew. But it didn’t matter much. What mattered was what actually occurred for this one…

Lemme set the stage for ya… We’ve had our fill of rain here in the Pacific Northwest this year – and YOUR fill too! Indeed, we were in serious jeopardy of all becoming bleached-out albinos – it’s been so wet. If it weren’t for the moss associated with it… (Oh, never mind!). So what it came down to was, ANY excuse to get our carcasses onto a beach somewhere would do. We didn’t care… So when Amy Doran, our Region 9 RD called, asking for some help – we absolutely jumped at the chance! Sure sez Theresa – she’d LOVE to take her Kite Shoppe on the road. Sure sez the geezer – gimme some beach time and I’ll come and shoot a few photos, and yak with the folks, and make a pest of myself… just like always. Moreover – they promised things like “gas money” and “lodgings” and stuff like that… Gosh – we just couldn’t turn THAT down! and next thing you know – we’re committed (or should be anyway).

So we roll out of the home-place mid-day on the 14th of May – headed for Rockaway Beach – just a hop-skip-and-a-waddle down the road – some 125 miles or thereabouts. As usual, we were taking two vehicles, and Theresa was ahead of me which is also usual. But I head out and somehow miss nearly all the traffic out of Portland and make fairly good time – sustained by the dashboard coffee cup holder of course. And as I neared Seaside, I took the left on US-101 rather than the usual right (for Seaside)… and my world changed completely. Rolling hills along the edge of the world. Little towns along the way. And I slowed enough to not get noticed by every small-town constable with gas in his vehicle and made it all the way to Manzanita, OR – where I spotted a mom-and-pop cafe (my favorites) called “The Big Wave” and had maybe the best cheeseburger in the last five years – other than my own, of course. Then it was another ten miles of twisty-turney stuff along the coast down to Rockaway Beach, Oregon. Gosh, what a pretty little place – for an edge-of-the-world working-man’s town.

Locating anything in Rockaway Beach isn’t all that hard. It’s about four to six blocks wide and maybe 15 blocks long… So I followed my directions to South 6th Street, turned right, and ran right into the parking lot for “The Getaway” – which is exactly what it sounds like… both a motor lodge of rather indeterminate age, and a set of condominiums, all rolled into one “resort.” Still, there was a room there with my name on it, and the bed slept pretty darned well, and I was seriously delighted to be back at the beach again – any beach, and this one would certainly do quite nicely, thanks.

I’d run into a bunch of iQuad characters when I pulled in, along with Ken Tumminia – who knew the territory. Therefore, I got up – drove the five block to the center of town, parked the van, and went across the street to Cow Belle Cafe (another sweet eatery), and had my standard “road breakfast” of two over medium, hash-browns, sausage and plenty of good coffee! (Umm-Umm, GOOD!) Then sauntered back to the beach, right across the street! Good Heavens! They almost had more vendors than the town has people! Amazing! And I quickly ran into Jack Brownlee, who is the Vice President of the Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce, and was the driving force behind the festival this year. Of course, I had no idea who he was at the time, but it was pretty clear that he was the “guy in charge!” So I watched all the set-up for a short while, then sauntered down to see Theresa and get my “Arm-Band.” It actually looked for all the world like there was gonna be a Kite Festival there.

Now – there’re a couple of necessities for holding a kite festival… One is a place, and we had a nice wide beach full of sand. Who could ask for more? And the other is decent weather… And for some silly reason, Mother Nature and her daughter Mariah (the blessed WIND), seemed to actually be cooperating today. High overcast, but looking like it’d eventually burn off, and some errant breezes – threatening to turn into REAL WIND! And nary a rain-drop in sight! I dunno who sacrificed the fatted calf or whatever, but however they accomplished it – we were going to have a KITE FESTIVAL!!!

So down onto the beach I go. Oh, sure – I stopped in to bother Bob Wendt, our usual announcer – who’s busy trying to figure out another “borrowed” sound system – so I didn’t bother him long. And I said “Hi” to Deb Cooley, our on-site AKA god-mother for the weekend. It turns out that Amy Doran – who’d REALLY planned to be there was called away to Arizona on some family emergency or other, and Deb had allowed as how she’d be happy to fill in, since 90% of the organizational work had already been done. Both the marvelous weather (as in “continued rain-less”) and Miz Cooley’s experience and expertise at running a KILLER festival, would hold form throughout the weekend, and we’d all thank our lucky stars for both of them, too!

And – down on the actual beach, there was all manner of activity. People were lining the field. Bob Serack was setting up 15-20 glorious banners. iQuad was out by the water, being their usual exotic selves – making Revolution kites do impossible things with ease and elan. Heck – iQuad just calls that stuff “practice!” And over on the “Big Stuff” field, there were all manner of huge kites being drug across the sand, anchors points were dug and set, lines laid out – and the “first-up” Suttons began to blossom in the almost-steady-now breezes! And through the entire day, those huge kites would be up there nearly all of the time. Yeah, the kites would change occasionally. “Oh HECK… I’m tired of looking at my Sutton, I think I’ll put up my Octopus instead…” Or “Hey… Wanna fly big Deltas for a while?” And pretty stuff would be pulled out of the sky – only to be replaced by prettier stuff! Miriam Schafler’s 50-kite “Lady Kitefliers” arch would get reoriented and just keep on flying… And out at the water’s edge, there’d be some character or other with a dualie or quad-line sport kite – just rollicking away, playing with a kite and “Mariah” the wind.

Soon, Bob Wendt and wife Donna had the sound system figured out, and we began to get a series of Sport Kite Demonstrations rolling. Up in the parking lot, the vendors had a fair number of patrons lined up. And the vendors booths actually overflowed the parking lot and stretched out onto the main drag (Highway 101), so the local townspeople in for some Saturday shopping, discovered the Kite Festival right along with the tourists passing by. And that combination fo forces led everyone to the real “action” in Rockaway Beach on that weekend – Kites flying down on the ever-lovin’ BEACH!!!

There are those ever-so-rare occasions when it all just seems to “come together” by some insane quirk of fate. And like it or not – by mid-morning we had us a “Live One” going, and it took absolutely NO effort to just keep it tweaked-up and rolling along in the proper direction, and at the optimum speed! The beach never got too full – or too empty either… The vendors probably all made some money, but not so much that they ran out of stock by noon either. It was just one of those “just keep on – keeping on” days, that you wish would never end.

IQuad performed, and I have no idea how many times – but it seems like they were camped out on the demo field permanently – laughing and joking and having fun. Penny Lingenfelter put on maybe 3-4 of her “all the kids my voice can reach” shows with every kid she could get to hold or wave a prop or wear a costume. Phil and Barb Burks flew their “big toys” over on the big kite field – and also demoed with twin stacks of Trlbys too. Dave Bradley came down for the weekend, and they stuck a kite in his hand and he demoed too. And when they ran out of ideas – they’d start all over again. iQuad broke up into singles and doubles. Heck – Steve DeRooy grabbed two Revs (one in each hand) and flew his own synchronized Rev routine ALL BY HIMSELF. Yup – not once, but at least twice that I saw, and maybe more than that.

Over on the big kite field, there was some AMAZING displays of kites! Three Octopi aloft at once is more fabric than little Rockaway Beach has probably ever seen in it’s existence – and that was only probably half of the kite surface aloft at any given time. Barry and Susan Tislow were right in the thick of it all, as were Russ and Diana Little, and Ray and Donna Hertz! Octopus and Sutton kites, and all manner of other big flat kites and Inflatables. Susan Tislow kept running up to her “kite trailer’ and dragging down MORE new stuff to wring out… And Dale Ray flew is newest Octopus, and then topped it off by bringing out his marvelous gray and blue full-sized DRAGON kite… Ronda Brewer and Lindsey Johnson showed us a thing or two about flying Rokkaku kites, too… And it all just kept going on and on and on… seemingly forever. Bless us Lord, but we got the sweetest WIND – and can we please have it stay just like this – forever? Please???

Well… I must say, that it might be impossible to have too much of a good thing but – eventually – we all have to eat! So I took my turn around the vendors in the parking lot and found one that sold a pretty darned good sausage sandwich for lunch! And then there was the “Fudge” lady… And the Pulled-Pork and BBQ Ribs guy… And all kinds of other edibles too! And a fair number of nick-nack purveyors and kiddies toys too. And the lady who painted the most AMAZING faces – on faces! (I’m usually not a fan of those face-painting booths – but this gal was really SUPERB!)

In short, all of the invited pilots and even some who weren’t really invited too – put on a heck of a show for little tiny Rockaway Beach Oregon. I’m sure nobody thought to ask – except Jack Brownlee from the Chamber of Commerce actually DID ask… “How’d we get so fortunate as to get so many GREAT kite fliers on our beach?” And some of the fliers just grinned and gave him the old “short-n-sweet” one… “Oh, Just Lucky, I Guess…” they said. Well, Lady Luck didn’t really have a whole lot to do with it – this time! The answer is – Amy Doran knew who to ask – and how to ask too! So – while we sure missed her – we also certainly benefited from her expertise in putting this festival together this year!

Finally, it was time to pack it away and get off the beach and maybe a shower and a “cold one” before we all descended on Debbie Cooley’s room. She’d actually decided she’d put together an ad-hoc potluck spaghetti dinner – and absolutely EVERYBODY came! The entire Getaway Inn was booked full of kite fliers, so we all just ate and partied, and then actually cleaned up and hit the hay early. “Shucks – If we have winds like THIS tomorrow, I’ll be switched if I want to miss that!” seemed to be S.O.P. for that crowd…

So, we finally all turned in, grabbed showers, put on fresh clothes, and hit the beach early on Sunday too – hoping for a little more of that oh-so-sweet WIND! Just W-A-Y TOO MUCH FUN for any of us to miss!

Well, Sunday was pretty much a carbon copy of Saturday. What else is there to say?

Oh sure, we had our occasional “burbles…” but no kites, or fliers, or (God forbid) folks in the audience – got hurt. And everybody was real good about helping everyone else during the few “awkward” moments that occur in every festival! We all just stretched the kinks out of our muscles a little bit – and kept right on flying!

It started out with winds that “weren’t”… Air-speed down around the goose-egg, Zero. So loveable old Donald “Doc” Counce decides he’s gonna just use the beach to fly his radio-controlled airplane… which he DID! We’re kinda standing around watching, when I feel a slight breeze on the back of my neck, so I go and set up my Focus Manta – which flies all right at about 1 MPH! So I get it assembled and put it in the air – and the vapors we call “breezes” started playing all-harry with wind direction. Doc brings in his sweet aircraft, and the wind seems to steady up a bit – and soon the Manta stays aloft on her own (Sweet, SWEET Kite…).

And then the Suttons that’re all laid out begin to fly at about 2-3 MPH, and by the time they’re fully airborne, it’s time for me to bring the Manta down – both because I have the lightest spar in her and that means she can only handle about 5 MPH max – and also because some of the big inflatables are able to fly now. It’s no more than half an hour for this whole wind-parade to develop – from Doc’s first flight to my Manta being back on the deck again…

We got stuff in the air when nothing else would fly – and everything else came online as soon as the winds could support them. Yup – we work it together, and cover each other’s backsides too… And it’s out-and-out FUN doing that kinda stuff.

Then there was a time in the early afternoon when Phil and Barbara Burks were going to demo with their dualie stacks of Trlbys. These are stacks of a dozen kites per pilot, flying 100′ tails behind each kite, and with kites like that, they fly on fairly long lines. The demo field is barely 100 feet wide, if that – but it’s okay because the wind is straight down the length of the field so they fit okay, right?

Now to the “ocean” side of the demo field, Bob Serack is trying to launch a 100′ spin-sock behind his Sutton, and is having problems with it. Every time he thinks he’s got it “nailed,” the wind’ll back a little bit and force his spin-sock over toward the demo field. Which also affects Phil and Barb’s kites too, because they’re quickly running out of field to fly over, and they do NOT want to fly those big stacks over the heads of the crowd – who do not KNOW that something that large can be a bit dangerous.

Well, maybe Mariah just saw an opportunity to laugh a little, but within about 5 minutes, the wind backed about 75 degrees – a HUGE wind shift! So now the Burks are definitely out of flying space for their long stacks and begin desperately looking for a place to bring their kites DOWN – NOW!!! And right up-wind of them at this point, Bob Serac’s 100′ spin-sick begins to intrude heavily into the Demo field.

Well, Phil and Barb “saved the day!” They went upwind, jumping out of the Demo field and headed toward the ocean. Bob Serac saw what was happening and brought the spin-sock down across the demo field boundary tape – giving Phil and Barb “almost” enough room to escape successfully. Phil made it out with his stack intact and flying, and Barb brought hers down with the stack inside the demo field and her lines over the boundry tape… No kites hurt. No pilots hurt either. And the audience was never in any danger. Nope – not even a band-aid required! You bring the “pros” in, and you get cooperation, help, and everyone jumping in to help out!

Well, stuff like that goes on all the time, and done properly – the audience rarely ever knows it even happened. But, obviously, sometimes they DO know too.

But – finally, by the end of the festival, we’re all a bit tired, the wind is slacking off a little, and the weariness is beginning to sink into our judgment a little. And we all have a couple of hours of driving too before we can call it a day. So it’s really time to pack it in, say our good-byes, and put it on the road for home again.

So we get stuff rounded up, torn down and packed away. We linger saying good-bye – mostly because it’s tough to say “So Long” to SO MUCH FUN! But finally, we climb in the rigs and head ’em for home… Well, maybe not all the way home… How about a stop for some food along the way? We do as time and energy dictate and pull off about 30 miles east of Seaside at a local restaurant and watering hole, have a gentle but filling meal, and end up back at the barn right around dark…

Did we have fun? Ya-sure-you-betcha! Would we do it over again? In an New York – or a “Rockaway Beach” – minute! How can you NOT do it, when the world is full of your “Kite Family” like that? And the answer IS: Yeah, if it all comes together again, we’d sure like to come back to that one next year! Can someone please check with Jack Brownlee from the Chamber of Commerce and see if it’s all right?

Yeah – and you’re ALL invited too!

Fair Winds and Good Friends –


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Author:Dave Shattuck

As one of our regular and most prolific contributors, Dave "Geezer" Shattuck is a driving force here at Kitelife and a regular at many NW events as well as other locations throughout the year.

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