Issue 32: Whidbey Island Kite Festival

As we came to a close on another excellent year of NWSKL competition and preparing for the AKA Grand Nationals in Dayton Ohio, fliers were already adding to conference points towards qualifying for next years convention to be held in Seaside Oregon… Coming from all over Oregon, Washington and Canada, competitors took full advantage of the wonderful 4-8mph winds and spacious fields of Camp Casey in Coupeville WA.

In their 4th year organizing the Whidbey Island Kite Festival, Marjorie and Allen Taylor were up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to take care of last minute affairs and put up signs as far as 3 miles away from the event to guide in fliers and spectators.

Facing the straights of Juan De Fuca, the field at Camp Casey is flanked by cliffs on either side which do a nice smooth job of directing the bay breezes across the beautiful driftwood covered beach to the field… Even with a 320×320 foot competition field, there was more than enough room for 8-10 people to practice on the downwind side as well as for a good number of larger single lines, kite arches and a few parafoils on the southern end of the field… Although there’s not a ton of free fly space, this continues to a favorite event among competitors and is one of the few events in the Northwest held on grass.

Spectators were invited to partake in sport kite lessons from Dick Barnes of Pizzazz Kites and other fliers, who worked overtime to help bring even more people into our sport… This is also one of the few events in country to hold a true beginner class, where first time competitors are briefed before and after their precision event by other more experienced fliers, judges and field staff… Many of them come back for years afterwords, having been fully bitten by the bug.

Barry Poulter, originally from Britain but now residing in the Tacoma area, was the featured flyer, and regaled the crowd with his original designs and remarkable craftsmanship.

A little after lunch kids of all ages were rounded up for the bear drop, where a well trained teddy bear is fitted with a parachute, carried up into the sky on a line lifter and released for some lucky kid to catch… Assisted by an able crew, Allen Taylor helped deliver several brave bears on Saturday despite a rare wind lull of 3-5mph.

One of the mainstays at this event is the raffle tent (organized by Linda Barnes) which always features a great selection of kites, gear and toys where you put your tickets in a bag for whatever item you have your eye on… Also a favorite is the Used Kites tent where fliers can display their old kites for sale or trade which gives newcomers a chance to get some great equipment at a really great price.

After a long day flying everyone headed off to the lasagna feed and awards banquet… Aside from the day’s winners, the Northwest Sport Kite League handed out the prestigious champion jackets to acknowledge the year’s top finishers in all categories.

Immediately after the awards we all headed across the street to participate in the indoor event which saw EIGHT fliers performing musical routines to the delight of spectators and judges… Our hats off to Scott Davis for his outstanding work in expanding the Northwest indoor flier base by scheduling three brand new indoor events this year, coinciding with other established festivals up and down the coast. It was nice to see so many local residents as spectators.

The bear drop experienced no lapse in wind on Sunday, and airborne critters made the best of it by floating 50-100 feet before being snagged out of the air by one of the excited children selected at random out of the crowd by announcer Robin Haas… To help the youngsters get to the right spot for a good catch, they were guided primarily by Brian Davis, Kirstie Hayes and Dan Haigh.

Speaking of youngsters, the Beginners Competition was well attended by young fliers, which serves mostly as a workshop to introduce beginning flyers to the “ins” and “outs” of completing – setup, field crew, functions of pit boss and field director, etc. Again, the intention is to make the whole idea of competing less intimidating to new and younger fliers. There are many cases of current Novice and Experienced flyers who got their start at Whidbey’s Beginner Competition.

It was nice to see sponsor banners placed facing the primary foot traffic, where so many events leave it at simply shirts and programs. There was a mass ascension on both days, launching countless kites into the sky and filling it with colors galore.

Teams from the northwest also used this competition to warm up for the AKA Nationals little more than a week later in Dayton Ohio… Cutting Edge, Team MVM and the Snowbirds.

One of the final events was mystery ballet in which 15 (!) different competitors flew each to a random piece of music… The 1st place prize of $50 went to Wayne Turner, Jim Soellner took 2nd and Cal Yuen brought 3rd home to Canada. (Reid Wolcott was a really close 4th.)

We were fortunate to have a large Canadian contingent come down for the festival and competition. Mario DiLucca, Ron Hardie, Jeremy Perceval, Aiyana Marking, Ray and Tristan Underwood (age 7!), and Cal Yuen competed, and a large number of single-liners and spectators came down for the event… Hot Tricks was taken by Egan Davis. Also present was a newer team working on their routine, the Alpha Bits.

With an abundant variety of wind powered goodies I was only mildly disappointed by the lack of large inflatables… Maybe next year?

The weekend’s competition saw Jamie Landers sweep Novice Individual Precision and Ballet, Don Ostey took home 1st in EIP and 1st in EIB went to Ron Hardie… Wayne Turner won EMP and Ron Hardie took another win in EMB.

In outstanding form, Reid Wolcott preserved his position as the premier Masters class individual in the Northwest with a sweep of MIB and MIP, then again in MPP and MPB with his father Rick.

Masters team was closely contested at this event with Team Cutting Edge winning MTP, and Team MVM with the upset and a win in MTB.

Also held at this event was the 4th or 5th new indoor competition in the Northwest Sport Kite League… Jerry Cannon finished 1st with a beautiful routine flown with a Wren. If this is any indication, indoor events will continue to expand and gain even further attendance next year.

John Barresi