Issue 32: Kites Over Callingwood

Labor Day long weekend takes on a special interest for the city of Edmonton, Alberta. Buried deep in the west side of the city, Callingwood park is usually swarming with soccer teams, but Sunday, (or Monday if it rains) belongs to the skies and the people who float all kinds of creations in it. Callingwood field is a huge grass park interspersed with the occasional soccer post. It’s also a fantastic place to fly a kite.

Kites Over Callingwood has fast become a yearly tradition for the city. And this year was no exception. Ken Mueller, the organizer, brought this years festival to new heights despite a close call with wind conditions. This was Kens first year as ‘the’ organizer, and he pulled off a fantastic show.

The festival is a one day event, in fact it’s technically a 5 hour event, but the amount of activity packed into what seems a short time makes you feel as if you’ve had a full weekend of excitement. Hoards of people, fantastic and quite unique stage shows, children everywhere, and a great layout makes this festival a must attend event for all.

The day kicks off at high noon and provides everyone an opportunity to meet new friends and old, and to experience the generosity this city has to offer. The stage show this year was provided by a youth Philippino dance troupe that just never stopped. Children from as young as 4 all the way to late teens provided a fantastic show by performing authentic Philippine dances including a bamboo pole dance and an original fan dance by 6 beautifully clad young girls and feats of strength and endurance by the young men.

But enough about the side show, lets get to the kites. Variety is the call of the day in Callingwood. From uniquely crafted single line birds, to huge (and highly overpowered) traction kites, the skies were a feast for the eyes and soul. There was even a one-of-a-kind, custom built IKEA kite made entirely of balsa and yellow IKEA shopping bags. Edmonton is definitely a creative city.

Wind for the day was very touchy ranging for -1 to a gusts of up to about 10 km/h. This made for very entertaining activity. I took some time to stay way at the far end of the field and over the course of an hour I watched the wind die down to the point where only a single kite was floating way, way up in the sky (I swear this thing was helium powered to fly in this wind). But when the wind puffed up, the fun began. People running all over the place making every attempt to get their kites in the air, only to have the wind cease after a few minutes leaving that sole single line bird flying. (helium I tell ya, helium). Around 3:30 the wind decided to quit messing around and began to blow a steady 8 – 12 km/h providing a fantastic environment for all to enjoy. And enjoy they did. The children’s kite making tent was sooo busy all day, that they almost ran entirely out of material. There was barely enough left at the end of the day to make one more kite.

At 4:30, awards were giving out for various activities including best home built kite (won by a local with a Nasa Parawing), and the youngest kite flyer of the day (won by a 6 – 8 month old infant). Other awards included oldest flyer and prettiest single line.

Sunday night brought in some thundershowers so everyone bailed by 10:00 leaving me and Bud Taylor (from ‘The Kiteguys’ and who is also one of the sponsors) to the field alone. Just after midnight, the sky cleared up and we got a bit of midnight buggying in. That was neat. Just watch for the goal posts cause they’re hard to see in the dark.

Monday is the alternate day for the festival. This year, it wasn’t required. That means the field belongs to the hard-core kiters. This is when the massive traction pullers come out along with the high performance tricksters. The wind was howling at 30+ km/h so of course Bud couldn’t resist hauling out the Ozone, Sky Tiger, and Peter Lynn race buggy. Shortly after that, the Ozone couldn’t resist hauling me OUT of the buggy and across the ground. I’m fully healed now though thanks.

Highlights of the festival? Well, sleeping in my car Saturday night in the parking lot definitely was not one of them (Bud and his camping trailer showed up a day late). The dance troupe brought a unique feel to this festival. But the true highlights belong to the children. Herds of them I tell ya. Getting underfoot running around with grins so big I’m amazed their heads didn’t split in half. But, one of the funniest happenings of the festival belongs to a tree. One tree which somehow caught three children’s paper kites, attached them into a 60 foot long train, and flew them three kites from 4:30 until after long after midnight.

Kites Over Callingwood. A hearty festival for anyone who enjoys things that fly with strings. Labor Day Long weekend. See ya next year.


Terry Thillmann