2006 AKA Convention: Day 1

And so it begins! The 29th Annual American Kitefliers Convention, in Des Moines, Iowa. Like most of the attendees, John Barresi and Monkey (David Hathaway) and I (Dave ‘geezer” Shattuck) flew in rather than drove. John and I were at the Portland Airport at 3:30 AM Sunday morning for our flights to Des Moines, and with a change of planes in Denver, we touched down in Iowa at about 1:15 PM, giving us plenty of time to check in, wander around a bit, and get a bit to eat.

We’d rushed through the last week like crazy-men, driven to get issue #50 of Kitelife written, constructed and ready for the Internet. We were mostly successful, but we’d been so rushed to get ready for this convention that we’d forgotten to unlock the issue on the Internet. John had no more than 5 minutes of work left to make it happen, but we had to get to Des Moines and a WiFi spot before he could turn the issue on. No matter – the Holiday Inn had WiFi, and we’d planned to do it as soon as we checked in… Except we couldn’t! WiFi wasn’t available at all in our room on the far side of the Holidome, so John raised a little Cain, and we got a new room – one with WiFi, and issue #50 hit the Internet within a few minutes. After that, it’s all been peaches and sweet cream. Then we spent a few minutes setting up what has become the “Kitelife Office Away From Home” and went in search of something to drink and some other Kitefliers…

Now, a bit about this place. The Holiday Inn in Des Moines is about 3 minutes away from the airport’s baggage claim – yeah, extremely close. And like many great plains motels, it’s built around a covered central courtyard – this one called the Holidome. Along one side of the courtyard is a wonderful café that opened for the first time on the Sunday we arrived called “The Sidewalk Café,” and IT IS TERRIFIC! Morning eggs and hashbrowns done just right, noontime salads and sandwiches and burgers (that’re juicy and actually taste like a burger), and for dinner, inch-thick slabs of Prime Rib with all the trimmings for $12.95. Oh – and a cooler full of beer they sell by the bottle too! The only drawback is that the café is only open until 10:30 PM. Other amenities in the Holidome include a pool, hot tub, workout room, and a huge carpeted “putting green” which turns out to be the perfect indoor practice flying area.

John started it all off, of course. He’d recently acquired an indoor Rev, and figured it was an AKA Convention after all, and he had a kite, and there was 100 feet of green carpet… Bet you can guess what happened, huh? Yeah, Barresi “playing with his indoor Rev”… making it walk, talk, and spit nickels, as they say.

David Hathaway joined us from his home in Vancouver, BC too… His flight had been routed thru Phoenix and then to Des Moines. That made for a very long day, however it did not stop him from grabbing John’s new indoor Rev and having a fly in the Holidome. After waiting for Egan Davis to join us for dinner it was a bit too late for the Sidewalk Café which had closed before we could eat. By the time Egan arrived, there were a half dozen of us waiting – and getting hungry. So we all went out for a meal last night at a local all-night franchise call Perkins, and then hit the supermarket next door to stock up on our beverages for the mini-fridges in each room.

So breakfast this morning was bacon and eggs and hash browns, and then Barresi, Egan Davis and David Hathaway headed for a “practice” session. Along with several other early birds, they worked on their individual routines and spent some time flying as a trio, “triQuad” as it were, debuting their new Rev sails. Afterwards, they somehow managed to guide a cab driver to their exact location in the 1,500 acre Water Works Park (“Well, we’re in the middle of a large park…”) and got back to the hotel just in time to get some more indoor flying in before heading off to the initial welcoming “ceremony”.

The Geezer, on the other hand hung around the motel, shot a few photos, yakked away with a few folks he knows – and a few more “new friends”. It’s already apparent that the camaraderie in this thing will be phenomenal as a few hundred Kitefliers assemble from all over the country.

The Opening Reception was advertised as Hors D’ouvres and Appetizers – so everyone went, expecting nearly a full dinner, of course. I went early, shot a few photos, and then headed back to the room to put the camera away before I got in line for the “eats.” Of course, by the time I returned, the other folks had eaten the buffet down to overcooked zucchini and a couple of other (soggy) “mystery vegetables.” Still, the Burger I’d had about 4:30 PM sustained me quite well.

Naturally, a few short “speeches” were offered, including a “Welcome” by outgoing AKA President David Gomberg. It was thankfully short, and ended with his being reminded about a certain Tee Shirt someone had printed up with “Dave Gomberg – The Man, the Myth, and the Legend” which Dave in turn modelled for the audience. That speech was followed by a short description of the kites spread around the room, which would become auction items on the weekend.

When it was time to leave the reception we headed back to our respective rooms, and those of us whose rooms overlook the Holidome were treated to indoor flying “practice” by Egan Davis with a homemade red Rev 1.5, David Hathaway with his Indoor Rev, as well as Alan Cunningham and his indoor bird kites, among others. After this demonstration of indoor mastery, some of us headed to the Hot Tub for a bit of relaxation, setting us up for the close to the evening and making it time to begin our first Daily Update from this event!

Indoor video from the Holidome!
(Right click to save – 10.7 MB Download)

The real AKA Convention’s workshops and programs start tomorrow, and so do the Grand National competitions.

See you on the next tomorrow, folks!

David “Geezer” Shattuck