Issue 31: AKA Corner

Fliers that have been to a national convention understand. So here is an invitation to all of you who have never been able to join us. AKA will gather in Dayton Ohio, September 29 to October 4th. Spend a week at the greatest kite gathering in North America. Come join us! Then you will understand too.

(Pictures from 2002 AKA Grand Nationals in Ocean City MD)

In Dayton, we’ll be flying on an enormous grass field in front of the US Air Force Museum. As many as 500 of the best known fliers in the country will be there so you will fit right in. Imagine joining Martin Lester or Corey Jensen for lunch. Imagine taking a class from Jose Sainz or Lam Hoac. Imagine bidding against Scott Skinner at the auction and winning, or having Marla Miller award you a treasured Japanese kite in exchange for a $1 raffle ticket. Imagine the award banquet held in the shadow of huge aircraft as we dine in the Hall of Flight.

The AKA convention isn’t like other festivals. Sure, the public is welcome to come and watch. The more spectators we have, the more we enjoy. But the focus of the event for once is members.

For me, the flying highlight is the daily mass ascensions. On Delta or Rokkaku day, you may see as many as 300 kites crowding the skies as each flier calls out for their free ascension pin. It is a giddy experience and an emotional sight for those of us that love kiting.

We also have a full slate of workshops, receptions, gatherings and fun flying challenges. And for those that enjoy competition…. well …

Sport kite fliers who have competed through the year receive coveted invitations. You have to be in the top three of your conference to qualify to fly an event at Nationals. That limits heats to 18 of the very best fliers, be they novices or masters, individuals, pairs or teams. Competition is fierce and that means everyone learns something from the experience.

For kitemakers, the Nationals provide the most intense and contested hand-crafted competition in the world. Each kite is reviewed for visual appeal, design, flight, and craftsmanship by panels that include former award winners and kitemaking instructors. To win a kitemaking trophy at AKA is really something to special.

Indoor flying will be in the museum. Instead of light fixtures and basketball hoops, you’ll need to navigate around B-1 Bombers and Stratotankers.

Meanwhile, fighter kite events are combated over several days and include line touch events, skills, and vigorous rokkaku battles. Buggy racers will find a mile long runway to build up some speed. Everyone has been competing regionally this year with plans to meet the best from other regions in Dayton.

First timers tell me there is too much scheduled for registrants to enjoy everything. Convention is like a kite flying Disney World. You have to decide what you want to see or do and then enjoy the ride. The best part is the people. It is a gathering of the kite clan — fliers from all aspects of the sport and all corners of our Association. It is a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.

The other thing that makes this gathering unique is that registrants pay all the costs. We aren’t being sponsored by a city tourism office or a kite store or local service group. We’re being sponsored by us. So everyone pays about $150 for the two banquets, room rental, shuttle busses, sound systems and toilets. Everyone pays — no one gets a freebie. And most attendees also volunteer through much of the week.

This year, we’ll be allowing RV camping at the flying site. That will reduce costs for many and provide a special social opportunity as well.

So think of the convention as a combination of Wildwood, Long Beach, the Junction Kite Retreat, a Fighter Kite weekend, Ivanpaugh, and your high school reunion. It is something special — or perhaps many things special. Come join us, and you’ll understand.