At Long Last… Momentum!
Like a push-turn at the bottom of a power dive, kiting is turning in the right direction.
It’s kinda scary, really. After four years leading AKA, and then three years on the Board of the Kite Trade Association, I was ready to focus on my own small business and try to pay a few bills. But something was nagging at me.
We all lament the fact that kiting is suffering – that festival attendance is down, that manufacturers are struggling, and that stores are closing. If we don’t do something about it, who will?
At the beginning of January, I sent a quiet email to several members of the AKA Board. It was titled “A Provocative Proposition”. In it, I outlined a proposal for a joint AKA/KTAI program to promote April as “National Kite Month”.
The idea was to focus our limited resources in a way that would best present our sport and hobby. We didn’t have a lot of money. We couldn’t put billboards on every corner like the milk folks do, showing movie stars flying kites. But what we could do is put a kite festival, demonstration, or workshop on every corner and in every school.
I suggested a four-part agenda:
*Draw people to kiting introducing them to it at the grassroots level. Encourage a proliferation of local events, demos, and workshops. Then support those events with information, insurance, advertising and media support. Local festivals are where most people “discover” kiting.
*Promote contemporary kiting nationally. And what better tool do we have to do that than our big festivals? We have four major events / festivals in the Spring. Let’s hire a professional firm to get Smithsonian, Maryland, Miami, and Phoenix noticed!
*Support the industry – and our most dedicated customers. A lot of kite stores don’t offer much to the advanced flier. But if stores held an “open house” aimed at local club members, they could introduce special products, present catalogs from the recent Trade Show, and show samples of the latest new kites. Maybe they could even get local manufacturers to show up and offer something. The point would be to help the best fliers and the best shops in an area to strengthen their relationship.
*Finally, we should help teachers *teach* about kites. Most school programs are designed by kiters who know little about education, or by educators who know little about kites. (There are some great exceptions.) If we could put a comprehensive curriculum on the web, using kites as a tool to teach about math, science, art, history, culture and recreation, we could have kids all over the country out flying.
So this was the program I took to AKA and KTAI in January. AKA had been losing money and members over the past three years. They said they couldn’t afford to support the project, but also said they couldn’t afford *not to*. They signed on right away with money, support, and enthusiasm.
For ten years, KTAI had steadfastly argued that their job was to help kite businesses, and not to organize festivals or promote workshops. Now that’s their *old* policy. To support National Kite Month, they put up $10,000, hired organizers, and contracted with a nationally ranked PR firm.
I was proud of both organizations for their courage and commitment. There was just one catch. I was asked to stay on as KTAI president and head the Kite Month Steering Committee.
Susie wasn’t happy. She was looking forward to building the business in 1999. She was tired of all the volunteer hours, the politics, and the concerns about our business being a conflict of interest with Association efforts. She was looking forward to “association retirement”. But in the end, she told me I should do it. I was proud of her courage and commitment, too.
The plan is to jump-start the effort in 1999 and have it fully implemented in 2000. We’ve hired a nationally ranked PR company to promote the big events, and an experienced kite manager to organize and support the grassroots programs.
Our web page is online at www.nationalkitemonth.org and we are registering events already.
Intellicast, the weather service that draws 3.5 million hits a month is planning to feature kites on their web page and link to Kite Month.
We’re planning remote weather broadcasts in TV markets across the country that feature kites and kite fliers like you.
And now, new events are emerging that want to be included in the media plan.
All of this is good news and I feel *very* confident that with the support of this “assisted launch”, we can look forward to one of the best kiting springs in many years. Only one thing is missing. That’s the event that you are planning.
AKA and KTA have their necks stuck out a LONG way. They are trying, and trying HARD to support kiting. With your involvement, the program will only be better.
Your contribution can be very simple. All you need to do is fly kites one day in April. It can be a one or two person fun fly, a local club event, or a workshop. If the weather is too wet or cold, organize an indoor demo. Then register your event with National Kite Month Headquarters. The point is that we need a LOT of local activities.
So like I said before, good things are going on. But we need your help to succeed. The program will grow, or flop, depending on whether fliers choose to support it. Get involved now! And years from now, you can tell your grandkids that you held an event at the very first National Kite Month.