Issue 43: !Traditions! Wind Festival

During our kiting life, we have been lucky enough to attend literally hundreds of events around the World and every one is a little special its own unique way. One of the more recent ones we have been to is the !Traditions! Wind Festival, near Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was the third consecutive year that we had been invited to this event and as usual we said yes without a minutes thought.

!Traditions! is a complex located mid way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. This historic area is home to a number of Native American Pueblos and is rich in both history and beauty. The area is also home to some of the country’s best known Native American artists.

The owner of the !Traditions! complex, Jim Long, is an amazing man. Also owning a number of local hotels, he insists on ensuring that everyone is very well taken care of and personally welcomes all of us to his event. He provides accommodation for all of his invited guests and even puts on a party on Saturday evening for all of the attending participants. You could not want for a better host!!

Albuquerque resident Richard Sarfaty also proved to be a gracious host… Although we were still on our way into town and didn’t make it over there, he invited all the festival guests and organizers to his home for refreshments and entertainment on Friday night. A relatively new flier, he seems to have found the excitement in kiting and is working rapidly towards forming a local kite club.

As for the festival itself, it is held on a large open field beside the !Traditions! shopping complex, with nothing else for miles around. So you would expect crisp, clean wind, right!! …….

Well, not exactly. For the past 2 years, this festival has had winds ranging from about 0 to 4 mph and rotating around through just about every direction. So it was with some surprise that we arrived at the site at 8am on Saturday morning this year, to find the American flag already flowing straight out and the wind blowing at a pretty constant 15+ mph!!

Given the history of the wind conditions at the previous 2 events, the organizers (John & Mary Gabby) had planned ahead and organized that a local hobby shop would come along to put on Radio Controlled Helicopter and Airplane displays, so that something would always be happening!! Well, they too were in for a challenging day, as the winds grew all day, often blowing at a steady 20 mph and occasionally gusting over 30 mph!

!Traditions! draws a number of well known fliers along and this year was no exception. Providing sport kite displays all weekend were:

  • Team Too Much Fun
  • John Barresi (Kitelife)
  • Troy Gunn (Team TKO)
  • Chris Shultz (Team TKO and New Tech Kites)
  • Jerry Hershey (Team TKO)
  • Jeff and Donna McCown (Pair Windjunkies)

The single line area was also well attended, with beautiful pieces constantly being flown by:

  • Ron Gibian
  • Jose Sainz
  • Al Stroh
  • Scott Skinner
  • Gail Woodul
  • John & Mary Gabby

This year’s event also featured a historic display of kites from Germany placed by The Drachen Foundation and Scott Skinner was there to talk everyone through the history of each of the pieces and to answer questions. Also on hand were vendors providing traditional Native American food for everyone to experience at very reasonable prices, which all added to the experience.

Another regular part of the !Traditions! event is the Hill Stompers band. Each year they come along and provide live music for the public and even for some of the flyers to fly to. They also play the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ for the opening ceremony, which is always flown by Team Too Much Fun. The Hill Stompers are an amazing group of musicians, who never fail to have fun and put an enormous amount of energy in to their music. It is truly a pleasure to have them there each year.

After the blustery conditions of Saturday, we all returned to the ‘Nativo Lodge’ hotel where we were all staying. The hotel is being significantly renovated by Jim at the moment and certain parts of it are not yet available to the public, including the pool. Now it has become traditional over the last couple of years for a Saturday evening ‘water polo’ game to break out in the pool between some of the fliers and the members of the band. Not to be outdone this year, we discovered that the evening party was to be held at the Sheraton in Old Town Albuquerque, one of Jim’s other hotels and that if we liked, we could make use of their pool before hand. So a number of us made our way over there to soak away the exertions of the day and to throw spherical objects at each other!!

When the scores were tallied and the soaking was complete, it was time for the evening party. Hosted again by Jim Long himself, this consisted of a buffet by the poolside and as usual, it was wonderful. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was great and the band was even asked to strike up and play for us all. Scott Skinner hit the dance floor to ‘strut his funky stuff’, whilst Jeanette Lummas switched from kiting to musician to join the band and play the clarinet. A great time was had by all and we can’t thank the Long family enough for their wonderful hospitality.

Sunday dawned a very different day. We arrived at the field and this time the wind had returned to its normal pattern. The flag was moving slowly and the wind was probably about 3 mph. John Barresi and myself hit the field with a Sea Devil and a L’Atelier Transfer XTR and spent a while chilling out and enjoying the light breeze. It was a good job that we did, because before long, that breeze disappeared and we were left with a very hot and pretty windless morning.

Despite the challenging conditions, a number of single liners were hoisted in to the air and the sport kite field was kept filled as much as possible, by fliers working their routines hard and throwing in the odd 360 here and there for good measure! The band played over and over and the Radio Controlled demos were able to continue with the much more favorable conditions. The wind came and went all day, but after lunch we did receive a little more breeze and were all able to put on much more of a show in the main arena.

Some of the highlights for me were watching Chris Shultz flying a ballet with a 3 stack of Mirages and seeing John Barresi dog staking and putting on his ‘Wolf’ routine. John had to contend with very light wind and as for Chris, well I just didn’t know that the simple looking Mirages (diamond kites, or more accurately, rhomboid) were capable of so much. He is certainly one heck of a pilot!!

Difficult conditions aside, this was a wonderful event with a pleasant camaraderie amongst the invited guests and we have to thank both Jim Long for making the event possible and John & Mary Gabby, who put in an amazing amount of work to ensure that the whole thing came together and flowed smoothly. We very much look forward to returning next year and if you happen to be in that area, do stop by and enjoy the show.

Fly well,

Mark Lummas