Issue 6: Avi

Superman Rescues Kite in Avi, Nevada

For the second year, the Avi Hotel and Casino, located on an the Aha Machaw Indian reservation close to Laughlin, Nevada, has hosted a little known but well attended kite festival. Organized by Kathy Plummer of ‘The Dream Merchants’, a kite and gift store in nearby Golden Valley, Arizona, it was first conceived and initiated when the resort-casino requested that they put together a “little kite thing.” The hotel was looking for a colorful way to entertain their guests and attract visitors to their casino from nearby Laughlin, Nevada. Kathy invited 25 fliers to the first festival which was successfully held in March 1996.

Avi Aerial Kite Fests were also held the following November and March, making last November’s event AVI – IV. Some say Avi is a well kept special secret. It’s not widely advertised, because there are limited spaces in the hotel for participants and they are filled year to year. Kitefliers from nearby states bring their campers and RV’s and park for the weekend in the huge parking/RV lot.

I started hearing whispers about it on the internet’s rec.kites after the first one was held, and I just kept tracking it until I got the dates. When I decided to go, I talked Mel Edlund (president of the British Columbia Kitefliers Association) into joining me. AVI turned out to be a meeting place for many well known kitemakers and fliers. This was a totally non-competitive “fun fly” kind of ‘happening’, and was a welcome post-season relief from the competitive climate that normally surrounds large festivals. Many described it as a totally “non-ego” fly. There were no stars, no celebrities – we were all just kite fliers.

Without a list, I couldn’t possibly remember all those who attended, but briefly, here are some of the names I do remember: Betty Street and Bill Lockhart, Johnny and Gina Hsiung, the Imbachs, the Lindsays, Mr. Styles , the Hustons, the Gibians, Bobby Stanfield, John Rogers, Randy Shannon, JoAnn Weber, Kathy Goodwind, the Roger Maddies, Scott Skinner, Randy Shannon, Mike Shaw, Karen Gustavson, the Scott Hamptons , Frank (Mr. Nasty) Kenisky, the Wind Witches and the Flight Squadron, Dawn Benedict, Don Mock and many more whose first names only I can remember. There were fliers from Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, California, Washington, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado, and with the addition of Mel and myself from British Columbia, we made the event International! If you knew enough about Avi to go, then you were there! It was a pleasure to see so many well known kiters totally relaxed in this small, exquisite desert setting, just having a laid back good time.

Mel and I flew in to Las Vegas Thursday night, rented a car, and midnight found us driving across the desert towards Laughlin, then to Avi, feeling lost most of the time. We arrived at about 2:30 a.m. The casino was still open, so Mel went to play the one-armed bandits and I went to bed.

Friday was a perfect kite day, sunny, and just enough wind. The flying area is not large, which is another reason for this being a small festival. It is probably more suited to single line flying, however there were sports kite flyers there, who sort of took turns in the available space. It consists of large, grassy areas outside the hotel that border on a small, sandy beach in front of the Colorado River with beautiful desert views and palm trees all around. The early arrivals had plenty of room to fly; however, Scott Skinner’s kites took perverse pleasure in attacking mine! We flew all day, welcoming kite fliers as they arrived from all over the U.S.

Then most of us had dinner at the buffet, played in the casino, sat in the bar and socialized, or just went to sleep early.

That weekend, the hotel was also hosting a Chili Cook-Off competition, and I discovered that there is green chili AND red chili. In green chili, besides using green chilis you use chicken or pork and it tends to be hotter. The general public is invited to try out the chilis and vote for their favourite. This is challenging, because by your fifth taste, unless you are a southwesterner, your taste buds are history. They also were hosting a Harley Davidson bikers’ rally, so you had kiters, bikers and chili-makers all together in one festival! Fabulous hogs were parked next to the chili booths, and incredible-looking biker types in leathers wandered through the kite field! There was even a commemorative pin, with chili, kites and bikes on it!

Ah yes, and Superman?

Saturday the wind was HUGE. Many of us struggled to fly, and with the loan of some 600-lb. line from Ed Lindsay (California) I tried to fly my Mock Flow, ‘Northern Flights’. It was flying fine so I tied it down. But I turned my back for a few minutes and BOOM, when I looked for it again, it was gone from the sky. I frantically scanned across a sandy field, over a wire fence to the parking lot about 100 feet away. Lo and behold, there was Superman, high on a small trailer, cape blowing in the wind, rescuing my kite, which had landed on the trailer, the carbiner dropping INTO the trailer through a vent! Superman, thanks to Washington’s Westport Windrider to the rescue! I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea he flew so far from the Westport beaches! But given the power of the suit, anything is possible!

I ran to the scene, camera in hand, and by the time I arrived, Superman (aka Rob Robertson from Washington state) with the help of his Lois Lane and several other friends, had managed to free my kite!

So next time Superman’s costume comes up for auction at the Windrider’s monthly fly-in (they use it as a fund raiser), I hope that s/he who is chosen to wear it appreciates the power that the suit holds…for far away in the desert, in a foreign land, any one of us may be in need of rescue, and if you are lucky, Superman may be there to help you!

Back at the festival, Ron Gibian, John Gabby and Frank Kenisky took turns at the microphone, and there were demos by anyone who wanted to put on a bit of a show, so we had performances by the Flight Squadron, the Wind Witches, Roger Maddy, Mel Edlund, and a beautiful commemorative fly to honor Rob Thompson, who had recently passed away.

The only “scheduled” event for the weekend was what was to be a killer fighter kite event dreamed up by Scott Skinner and Randy Shannon. Attendees were to make and bring a “mouse-ka kite.” I really didn’t know what that meant, so I brought a Canadian “moose-ka-kite” fighter instead. Unfortunately the winds did not cooperate on Sunday, so it turned into a “grass gallery” day, with everyone putting their kites together and just displaying them. This was almost better than flying, because it was a wonderful opportunity to look closely at many of the kites you had only been able to admire from afar, and talk to the makers. I had my sketch book in hand and was busily taking notes on construction from some of the best and most generous kite makers in the world.

The day began to wind down with a gathering of everyone with their kites for a massive group photo and a kite parade amongst the chili cook-off booths and motorcycles. Too soon, people began to say their good-byes and started to drift back to their real worlds. Mel and I left mid afternoon for the two-hour drive back to Las Vegas, having experienced a wonderful, magic-filled three days of ‘a little bit of kite heaven’ in the middle of the desert!

AVI is a touch-and-go thing with the casino, and we don’t know from year to year whether it is going to happen; however I have had the word that it is a ‘go’, and will be held November 20, 21, and 22. My plane reservations are made and I’m looking for a roommate! For more information, call Kathy Plummer at (520) 565 9592, after 5 p.m. Nevada time.