Issue 31: Pincher Creek Kite Festival

The Children of the Wind Kite Festival is held on the third Saturday and Sunday in July at Windy Point on the Old Man River Dam a few kilometers north east of Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada. This is an area just north of Waterton National Park, tucked in the south west corner of the province, where real cowboys heard real cows with real horses in the hills and the valleys at the foot of the Rockies. The locals don’t drive SUV’s to the urban lounge to listen to pop tarts. They are more likely to seed a million acres of wheat with airplanes, drive trucks, listen to Garth Brooks and eat beans for breakfast.

This year, Ray Bethel made his regular trek to Pincher. Ray has been the big draw card every year since the first Children of the Wind Kite Festival in 1991. Also appearing this year were Janice and Roger Maddy with their Kite Puppet Show.

We got out of our campsite early Saturday morning. (We tented this year as not a hotel, motel, or B&B was available in the area; Paul Durant from Calgary tried 4 weeks prior and not a room was available.) Each morning the festival starts with a “toonie” breakfast of pancakes and sausages cooked up by the local fire department.

(Editor’s note: A “toonie” is a Canadian $2 coin)

As is typical for Pincher, you never know whether to bring your
ultra-lights or your coastal gale kites. The morning zero winds kept people on the ground but at about 11:00 AM somebody flipped the switches on the wind machines and there was too much wind.

Temperatures hovered in the low 30s so water sales were brisk.

The Sailboarders who come down to use the reservoir at the Dam had excellent conditions. Unfortunately the Kiteboarders once again failed to amaze, and mostly got dragged downwind until they met the rocky beach.

The kite building tent did booming business making sleds with all of the kids and gave out all of their kits on the first day. For those with less active wind aspirations, there were tours of the local wind powered electrical generation plant (windmills).

Just as Ray came out to do his demonstration flights, tour busses would roll in to the parking lot and out would clamber large groups of tourists in their blue suits and dresses. In a nice orderly line they walked to the edge of the field, watched Ray fly, walk past the various display booths, then back to the bus to continue their tour. Ahhh, Vancouver to Halifax by bus in 5 days, how good it is to see a whole country in such a reasonable
time! 😉

I managed to break all of my kites that day, including my 6 stick round kite with 50 foot tails that had split ring failures and shed 2 spars. They came in from 750 feet but nobody was injured.

Throughout the weekend, photographers from Canadian Geographic roamed around snapping piccies. No word as to when anything would be published (I didn’t ask) but you can expect to see some pretty cool pictures of John Freeman and Ray with their art.

Getting back to our campsite, we found that the high winds of the day had splintered two sections of our tent’s fiberglass structure. These were promptly repaired with Avia 2200s and duct tape.

A quick change of clothing and off to the local Swiss wannabe restaurant for the annual old guard pig-out and tale swap.

Saturday night, if the wind doesn’t halt, sees a night fly and usually brings a fireworks display, but due to the extreme fire hazard the fireworks had to be cancelled.

Time to watch the satellites and shooting stars and listen to the coyotes howl and get a good night’s sleep.

Sunday morning, tent still standing, time to pack up and head up for breakie and … no wind. Oh well, get set up anyway, 11:00 and it’s already 30 degrees…perhaps a hot air balloon will fly in this…CLICK…hey somebody turned on the wind machine again, and it’s stronger than yesterday.

I seem to remember that the Rokkaku challenge was cancelled due to the high winds. This has turned into the locals’ bragging rights competition. Various teams are sponsored by the local businesses, they make their own kites and the battles can be quite fierce (and at the same time humorous). During the weeks around festival time, the shops around town are adorned with kites of all shapes. This is one community that has adopted kites fully.

John and Marzlie set up a stunning display of banners and flew their huge works of art. Ray flew his routines whether there was no wind or gales (with the brain dead DJ spouting statistics of Ray flying in Italy in front of 30,000 then 300,000 then 30,000 then 300,000 people). Roger and Janice had everybody amazed with their Nerd Bird hopping through the crowds.

The Martini flag is hoisted, inviting the old guard for a sip and a nosh, more good stories and a peruse of the picture albums.

Late afternoon brings the inevitable goodbyes as people start making their way back to their jobs, or off to the rest of their holidays exploring the parks and mountains, or heading off to the Indy races in Vancouver.

That’s it for now.

Andrei Chichak

Links/Pics: Dave Tuttle and me with my kites a couple of years back at Sechelt, British Columbia.