Issue 73: Kites Over Grinnell

If there is one thing I like to hear when John’s dulcet tones are cooing in my ear over the phone, it’s “we have a new festival to go to”. Well, to be fair, it’s not a new festival.. Kites over Grinnell has been running for a handful of years, ably directed by Dick and Sis Vogel and a small army of volunteers. When I was doing all the editing here on the magazine, I recalled reading through articles that had been submitted regarding the festival and always thought it sounded like a fun one to do and the pictures made it out to be a gorgeous location to fly at.

Grinnell, Iowa is the postcard version of a small Midwest town, with a population of roughly 10,000 people. It even has a main street called Main Street! Once we had arrived at the Des Moines airport, it was a short drive over to Grinnell where we settled into a great little restaurant for a bite to eat. The schedule for Friday was to eat, pop back to Dick and Sis’s place to meet up with the rest of the flyers coming in and then head back downtown to do some street flying for the local street party that was being held. A STREET PARTY! YAY! And –that- was a huge amount of fun! It seemed like much of the town turned out for this, complete with a live band! We managed to not clobber any children with kites, so, that’s always a plus for a festival but, given Dick used to be the town judge, we also felt we had a slight in with the local police force. Thankfully, we had no opportunity to test this, either downtown at the street party or during the rest of the festival. (in the iQuad instruction manual, there is an entire chapter dedicated to “Jail Avoidance Strategies” complete with an appendix on who to call when bail is needed and a separate subsection detailing Ben’s feeding instructions and sleep requirements). Also on hand to amuse the crowds was Peter McMasters, flying his indoor Great Deca, providing a great contrast to our indoor revs.

Saturday came upon us as a gorgeous sunny day! As one might imagine with a festival being in the Midwest, you are greeted with a huge sky, no mountains, or even really a good sized hill to be seen in the area, leaving you with a spectacular 360 degree prairie skyscape. And given the nearest beach was likely 100s if not 1000s of miles away, we found ourselves on a lovely grass field. Yay for no sand to be cleaned out of my shoes all day long! Also up in Grinnell for the festival were the McCowns (Jeff and Donna), the Sewards (Bill and Kitty, Kitty is the official supplier of milk and cookies for iQuad!) and the Blatnicks, making up Team SPI, in from South Padre Island, Texas. It’s –always- a pleasure to share a field with them.

Also on hand was Dave from Chicago Kite. He brought along with him some brand new Hawaiian Team kites, which his store has resurrected and made a new modern version of. I had a great time watching him and John wrestle those kites through the air and there was some good amusement to be had watching John try and tip stand one. He’s done a really nice job with these kites, right down to the proper roar as they flew through the sky! I have to admit, when I first started flying kites, I used to look through the Into The Wind catalog and lust after the Team Hawaiian!

Overall, it was a great afternoon of flying. As one would expect on a Midwest field, there was wind changes galore to be coped with but, the field was large and the mood was good so everyone had a great time and there was some really great flying too! As the afternoon wound down, we all headed over to a building near the field to stock up on dinner before the indoor flying began that evening. But something funny happened as we left the hall to walk over to the indoor. Something we west coast boys have little experience with. As Steve DeRooy and I walked out, we noticed it had begun to rain a little bit. “Bah, this is nothing” we said as we walked over to the gym. But, we noticed that the people coming from the numerous baseball diamonds were RUNNING for their cars. Steve and I looked at each other, a little confused by the rampage towards safety (moreso than the usual look of confusion Steve and I regularly share back and forth). “What’s a little rain?” . Well, our answer started mere seconds later. It was easily the most torrential downpour of rain we have ever experienced and it’s not like Northwest residents have no experience with such things. We’re under a roof outside and the water was quite literally coming down off the roof in a pair of rivers. And just as quickly as it had shown, a mere 15 minutes later, the clouds were going away and the sun was out! Alas, I had hoped for a truly monstrous thunder and lightning storm to cross over but, to no avail (That being said, we knew from weather maps that there were indeed some really heavy storms just outside of where we were. All thanks to the iQuad bubble of sunshine, despite it’s momentary reboot).

Once we’d shaken the rain off, it was time to get on with some indoor flying. Wow, you couldn’t have asked for a nicer gym to fly in. It was HUGE with a really high ceiling. And all along the outside wall, even more cool kites were lined up on display. They managed to get a pretty good crowd in the gym, who were then entertained by a non stop lineup of flyers. We even managed to get thru the iQuad indoor routine without any big mishaps! YAY for that! And Takako Barresi gave her very first indoor performance as well! By the end of the evening, I suspect nearly every kite flyer involved was ready to drop dead from exhaustion but, with big smiles on their faces.

Sunday had the chance of having more stormy weather, much like what had circled around us on Saturday but, nope, it’d did much the same thing, it simply skirted the town quite nicely, leaving us poor kite flyers with yet another really nice day of flying. Demos all day long, including a joined team of iQuad and Team SPI, which we dubbed SPiQuad for the occasion! The crowds were a little more filled out for the day for the most part but, with a big skateboarding event in town as well, I suspect many opted for those thrills over the beauty of flying kites. To this I say, their loss, we had a great weekend out on the prairies and with any luck, it will become a yearly stop for us! Big thanks to Dick and Sis Vogel and all of those involved in the event, it was one of the smoothest running events I have been to recently and I loved the time we spent in Grinnell!

Best inland breezes,

David Hathaway

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Author:David Hathaway

David Hathaway has been kiting for 13 years and 11 of those have been spent flying quad kites, usually Revolutions. He's also a guitarist with two bands, an all-around nice guy who thinks he's a monkey and he runs one of the longest running kite sites out there, REVisions.

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