Issue 31: Southern Oregon Kite Festival

Want to see a town get behind their kite festival 100%? Go visit this event in Brookings when you get a chance! The 11th annual SOKF pulled it off yet again… Supported and organized by local fliers and the Port of Brookings crew, they brought in featured fliers and kite makers from several states as they do every year…

Driving down from Portland, we didn’t get into our hotel until around 2:00am Saturday morning… Nilish (spelling?), owner of the Beaver State Motel graciously welcomed us even though we roused him out of bed at such an unreasonable hour and our package from the event was already in our room as well.  Needless to say, we needed to catch at least an hour or two of sleep before our big day on the field and it was nice to be welcomed so warmly.

As I’ve always found at this event, everyone in the city of Brookings is SO friendly!  From the coffee kiosks to the restaurants, the motels to the shops… You can’t help but get to the field in a good mood.

As we rolled into the harbor around 8:30am to find Dan Brown and Kerry Haines of team Centrifugal Force, they were catching the early worm to set their gear up on the somewhat foggy flying field.  Although there were only a few other people setting up that early, an incredible number of lawn chairs and the like lined the upwind side of the field, left by spectators who wanted to make sure they had a good seat for the show… Many were even set up the day before! Rarely do you see such enthusiasm from the audience before the event even begins.

Kitefliers even get their own parking at this festival… Just back right up to the grass, open the trunk and unload! In the same way, it’s very nice having the spectators right behind it all as they really tend to show their appreciation more directly.

Rick Talbot assumed announcing duties again this year, doing a wonderful job yet again of educating the spectators about the different types of kites and routines they were seeing each day, as well as being generous with the introductions and kudos for each featured flier and kite maker… We’re sorry to hear that this was his last year doing it, but after 20 years of announcing for festivals and competitions up and down the Northwest coast he is retiring to devote more time to family and home… We wish him the very best in his new endeavors.

As the crowds gathered, opening ceremonies included a Coast Guard color guard and the Bay Area Sundowners followed up with a moving demonstration flying their trademark 12-stacks of Hyperkites despite the light morning winds… In true professional form, they made the most of their conditions and delivered an excellent performance to wake up the audience.

As things progressed, winds came up to a fairly steady 4-6 mph for the rest of the day allowing all of the scheduled fliers a turn or two on the field… The Brookings staff did a good job of keeping the crowd busy and entertained, most of the people I talked to throughout the weekend in the audience had been there all day watching.

Team Too Much Fun, minus Susan Shampo who was visiting her family elsewhere, came down from the San Diego CA area to show off their dual and quad line team routines, three individuals rotating between kites to show a wide variety of team flying… As well as splitting into Bi Dance (Mark and Jeanette Lummas pairs team) and 11-time National quad line champion Ron Despojado leading his own one man show using all kinds of Revolutions in some classic freestyle routines.

Also important, congratulations to Benjamin Lummas for his 2nd birthday… He spent the whole festival out there with mom and dad (Bi Dance) like a champion in the making, this was his second birthday in a row at this event!

Down from the Bay Area, Miguel Rodriguez and Brian Champie performed both individually and as their pairs team Avispados to the delight of the crowds… With their passionate style and powerful soundtracks, the spectators always look forward to these regulars.

As a dedication to his mother who passed away recently, Brookings favorite and fellow Portland OR native Al Washington flew a heartfelt and passionate routine with his custom black and white appliqued Gull bringing a tear to more than one person watching… Myself included.

Al Stroh of San Diego flew both days with masterful dual and quad line ballet routines with unique soundtracks and an even more unique style all his own… Rounding out the quad line performers were Penny Lingenfelter who is well known for her artistic and finely choreographed performance pieces with the support of husband Steve, also Larry Clark flew dual line as well as quad line.

Despite the fact that there absolutely NO barriers or boundaries around the field, the spectators were very respectful of the fliers and their kites… It seems they were all too happy to sit and watch, only having to be told to back up once or twice over the whole weekend.

Among the single line kites and fliers featured were John and Mary Gabby of Windependent with their beautiful handcrafted Della Portas and other kites… Deb Lenzen came all the way from North Dakota to show off her incredible and unique designs, as well as the infamous Ron and Sandy Gibian from Visalia California!

Completing the Portland contingent, Rod and Cindy Thrall also made the trip down to put up their displays including the largest inflatable teddy bear in the world and a beautiful bol (spinning ring).

All through the weekend there were also kid’s kite making workshops, at no charge children could make their own kites with materials provided… Then in the afternoon they had a parade around the field to the delight of the parents!

Carl Bragiel did some amazing things flying three dual line kites simultaneously… Looking a bit like spider man weaving webs, he controlled six lines with relative ease.  On Saturday morning when the fog had been thick it was hard to tell where the third kite was being controlled from. The lines seem to come from nowhere as it just followed the other two kites around.

Seeming to fly a demo on the hour, every hour, on both days, Centrifugal Force flew their tails off (sorry!) both individually and as a pairs team… Flying their distinct California Wasps, there was simply no missing them.

As things were winding down into closing ceremonies the Bay Area Sundowners set up for one more tremendous display of team flying… Traveling to air shows all across the country, these guys really know how to put on a show!

After closing ceremonies the event graciously handed out free single line kites to all the children (and a few big kids) within earshot of the sound system… All those young faces lit up, and they were still flying those little kites when we left the field to head home!

Our deepest thanks to Nita and Whitney Rolfe, Russ, the O’Brien’s as well as the rest of the crew from the city and port of Brookings… And all the other people that I’m just too giddy to remember. We had the greatest time and look forward to returning next year for an even better one!

Fair winds,

John Barresi

Check out the separate photo gallery in this issue!