Issue 55: Westport Windriders Festival

At times, it seems like I’m about “Festival-ed Out” with all of these fests and comps we’re attending… Whew! Getting on the road seems like a piece of cake now, but just remembering where I’m heading this weekend can sometimes be a problem…

Still, here we are – on the road again. And Theresa and I are in the motor home, bound for the Westport Windriders annual Kite Festival at Grayland Beach, Washington – just south of Westport. Yup – we finally got it together enough to be on the road fairly early (for us) – meaning we’d hit the highway BEFORE rush hour on Friday. Not much before, but enough so we could say we were ahead of it, rather than smack in the middle of it! We had reservations for a “hook up” site at the Twin Harbors State Park on the south side of Westport, WA.

On the road at a rather sedate pace, we chatted a bit. Both of us had about had our fill of “High Tension” festivals where everything was orchestrated and scheduled, and we decided that we’d take this one easy and just slide our ways through this one. We were actually in no particular rush, and had nothing to prove to anyone, so we’d just go as “tourists” rather than “participants” this time. Gosh – if only we’d known – we should have been using this kind of thinking long ago.

We actually made it to Twin Harbors in plenty of time to get to our campsite with time to spare. Enough so we could actually find the site and then wander off to the beach to check out the venue ahead of time – BEFORE dinner, even. (Amazing, for us!) So we got ourselves installed, had a look at the beach (Yup – empty due to lack of wind, but still there!), and were back to the campground in time to figure out how to manage things like electrical hookups, and put some new mantles on the Coleman Lantern, and so forth. Dinner came out of the cooler in the form of beef-stick and cheese and a little wine, while we waited for the rest of our party driving in from other parts of the Northwest to show up. And, wouldn’t ya know it – they did actually arrive on time and in good spirits. Yeah, those cellular communications are a great help in coordinating that stuff. We even had a campfire going by the time they arrived so that the late-comers could feast on some toasted marshmallows!

A late hand or two of cribbage made the evening complete, and then it was into our beds in the motor home. I’m getting happier and happier with this vehicle – even liking things like the fact that the refrigerator actually keeps food cold, both parked and on-the-road! But for this evening, a firm bed and open windows to the out-of-doors made for some fine, FINE sleeping!

Early the next morning, fresh ground and dripped coffee sure hit the spot, and we wasted very little time pulling out of the park and heading for the beach. It’s just a 4 mile drive down to the tiny berg of Grayland from the campground, and perhaps the nicest part of it was – we were taking the whole “camp” right along with us. How convenient is that? So we’re off to the beach, following a funny, white PT Cruiser covered with big Holstein spots with a pink plastic udder hanging under its license plate. Oh, goody – “Puff Cow” is coming to this festival too!

The Westport Windriders fest is one of the nicer fests on the whole West Coast – mostly due to the fact that the Windriders themselves are a quality outfit and do much for fliers of both Sport Kites and Single Line Kites (SLKs). At first glance, you’d think it’s certainly nothing much, looking at the sand. There’re miles and miles of beach along here, and there’s certainly not much to recommend this spot over the next one. But what the Windriders bring to the table is 1) Organization – they’ve got it covered, 2.) Enthusiasm – with enough folks who’re behind this festival, and 3.) The “Westport Windriders” club itself – with a large number of people, many of them retired, who enjoy kiting and being around each other. So – while the beach itself isn’t anything all that special, the Westport Windriders certainly are!

So there’d been some “drops” last evening… So the skies were a bit overcast… What did any of it matter? So did we hold the Windriders responsible for the WEATHER? Nope! We didn’t care – Theresa and I were “tourists” – on vacation! (At least, that’s the way WE looked at it…)

More than anything else, force of habit made us pull up facing the Competition Field. We’re used to being at the Sport Kite end of the fields for some reason (probably being roommates with John Barresi and Lam Hoac plays a part), and pulling nose in means we can sit in the front seats, means we can watch the action from our vehicle, right? Well, in this case – it’s WRONG! Tomorrow, we’d be smart and back the motor home in so we could sit at the table, sipping fresh dripped coffee! Anyway, as usual, Theresa and I went our separate ways immediately, and it’d be a few hours before either would call the other on a cell phone asking if it were time for a break and perhaps a snack…

So… I head off to the SLK end of the world again, where the real “action” was happening. Those Windriders offer a very nice festival from the point of view of the Single Line crowd. First off, that big empty beach offers LOTS of room for them to fly their “big stuff!” And the Windriders always sponsor an “invited single-line flier” to their festival and end up paying their way. And then, there’s also another field up beyond the Competition Field at the far north end of the beach where the Windriders host several Mass Ascensions (yup – you get pins, folks), and the Windriders also sponsor judged Kite BUILDING competitions – meaning this event is one where those who make their own can have them judged in competition for AKA points. And – as you can guess – the Single Liners think this is really a worthwhile festival to attend simply because of all the attention they receive.

Of course, on the north end of the beach in the Competition Field, the Sport Kite crowd is equally involved in a Northwest Sport Kite League run competitions as well. So if you’re a Sport Kiter, you’re equally at home at the Westport Windriders Kite Festival, since this fest has been a part of the annual league schedule since before there was air in which to fly kites. Coming here is just part of the normal Sport Kite Competition routine. Yup – nice kites are found there as well, of course.

What does all this mean to YOU? Well, from the SPECTATOR’s point of view, attendees will see some pretty unusual, and very nice, well constructed, kites in the air! Moreover, they’ll get to meet a fair number of the nationally ranked kite designers and builders, and rub shoulders with some of the hottest pilots you’ll find anywhere. Pretty darned hard to beat! Yes, there are other festivals that offer the same kind of thing (including the Whidbey Island Kite Fest coming up in September), but they’re really not all THAT common…

Anyway, I’m down on the southern fields in the SLK area. And the first person I run into is an old friend of mine, a lovely lady named Ellen Pardee. Ellen must stand all of five feet tall, give or take, but is one of those nice people who has a heart that’s at least ten feet tall all on it’s own. And Ellen happens to be this year’s Westport Windriders “invited flier.” And, while I know many of these folks on a first name basis, there’s sure nobody who I think deserves to be invited more than Ellen. Yes, there are a few who are her equal (Ellen would utter, “Pshaw… They’re ALL my equals – or better!”), but none I can think of who’re any more deserving…

So Ellen and I get our hugs from each other, and laugh and joke a bit, and then I get to see what Ellen has in the air that’s “new” this year. Now, I’m not all that up on what Ellen’s been making over the winter months, but everything she has up in the air looks lovely to me. Ellen will say that she’s no kite “designer,” but will admit to being a pretty good seamstress. I think she’s silly, because she’s every bit as creative in her kite designs as some of the folks she idolizes, but I don’t bother to tell her so anymore. I’ve told her so in the past, but she’s either outright refused to hear me or has just disregarded what I think out-of-hand. Either way, it doesn’t matter! Ellen’s earned her position up there in the kiting stratosphere! So we joke and laugh and kid with each other for a while before I head on down the beach. Yeah – that’s just our way!

I pass some others who I respect highly, but I’m kinda on my way with a “mission” to see a couple of friends and pass on a thought or two before I lose track of the thought. I’m looking rather specifically for Jerry Graham, and need to ask him about making some kite sleeves for me (“Bags” actually), but when I find Jerry, we get to yakking away, and I forget all about my avowed “mission” and am forced to return later when I haven’t a camera in my hand and haven’t the “wonder” of seeing all those lovely kites in the air together – though I may even have seen them all in the air beforehand anyway (which is kinda doubtful).

So I watch as Jerry sets, and fiddles with, and tunes, and worries about, his kites. And I start asking questions about why he does it “this” way as opposed to “that” way – and we’re off and running on another discussion again, which we both enjoy tremendously! We spend another half hour jawing about this and that – mostly kites – but some about other things too. Yeah – we’re “that way” – just a couple of old guys who enjoy each other’s company a lot, at least from my point of view. But, the sun is out, the air is clear, the wind is up, the sky is filled with interesting kites – and I have a camera hanging from my shoulder! Time to get cracking! So I sorta take my leave without even asking, and start shooting my way through this glorious “riot” of color hanging from the sky! (We’d get to my “mission” later on in the afternoon.)

And, as I worked my way north through the kites and their owners, I happen to run into Stan and Debbie Shelhamer – they of the “Holstein” PT Cruiser we followed to the beach. Debbie has been just “ga-ga” about cows since I first met these two folks at least a half dozen years ago. She wears “Holstein” clothing. She tells “Cow” jokes. She calls their car, “Cow 54, Where Are You?” And they’re some of the more likeable people on the beach – and admittedly a bit eccentric.

Debbie and I share a job history – my having been a parts driver for NAPA in a prior existence, and Debbie still works for NAPA. Stan, on the other hand, just doesn’t really mind being thought of as a bit eccentric, but he is truly one of the more knowledgeable kite “historians” I’ve ever met – with a very strong kite-making background, and a real, abiding interest in the old paper Eddies or “diamonds” you’d find in five-and-dimes or drug stores when we were kids. Want to know all about those “Hi-Fliers” kites? Just ask Stan, but you need to be prepared for a l-o-n-g answer!

And Stan is here today as one of the “judges” for the kite-making competitions up at the other end of the beach. We say “Hi” and are quickly into telling “cow” jokes (Debbie always knows all the punch-lines), and admiring the pretty kites in the air. I work hard NOT admiring any of them too much – not wanting to sway Stan’s opinions one way or another, but he’s a big boy anyway, and is pretty adept at just ignoring my babble – knowing I’ve no real basis for liking a kite other than just enjoying seeing it in the sky and the way it’s flying at the moment. I intentionally “ease” my way out of our chatting, which is probably a mutual feeling since Stan will be up north out on the “judging” field any time now.

Still, by the time I’m done shooting and stopping to yak with folks I know, I find I’ve spent about 3-4 hours wandering the beach, taking pictures, and making or renewing friendships! So – mebbe time for some breakfast? So I whip out the cell phone and dial up Miz Theresa. And it turns out that I’ve interrupted her while she was busy slicing beef-stick. Yup – BREAKFAST!

After a genteel on-the-beach repast, we sort of hang around the motor home for a while, watching the Sport Kite Comps for a bit. Still – all that “color” in the air still pulls at me, so I grab the camera again and head south. Theresa, on the other hand, heads north, where they’re setting up for a Mass Ascension. Before the weekend is out, she’ll have garnered all four of the ascension pins possible, and have a grin to go with those pins to show for it! Good for her! She needs a little relaxation every now and then!

I manage to use/waste/enjoy most of the afternoon somehow – not taking very many photos, but enjoying a number of conversations and discussions with the single-line folks. Do I have anything to show for that effort? Nope – nothing but an assortment of facts and opinions I didn’t have before, and a fondness for some folks I’d never met. But that’ll always be the way it is with me at kite fests. YOU might be there just for the kites, but I’m equally interested in what’s on the other (lower) end of the lines.

I’ll tell you one thing I DID happen to observe… Bob Serack is one of the nicer folks on the beach, and specializes in (among other things) custom “banners!” Yes, there are others that make them, but Bob does some pretty special work, and he won’t rob you blind when it’s time to pay him, either. And, on more than one occasion, Bob has made a banner for someone “just because he thought they deserved one!” And, he did so this weekend too – for a fine kite-maker, fully capable of making his OWN banner – Barry “Bazzer” Poulter!”

As is Bob’s preference, Bazzer was up the beach (and away from the banner) flying his “eyes” Revolution when Theresa and I came to get him. Naturally, Barry had no idea what was going on – except that these two friends of his wanted him to put his kite down and wander down the beach with them. Now, when the wind is up, and you’ve this beautiful sympathy going between man and kite – it’s NOT the time to interrupt! Except that these two friends were getting darned insistent, and since he’s an all-round nice guy, he’d acquiesce – but just this once!

Well, we walked him down the beach, then turned Bazzer in toward Bob Serack’s banner-farm until he saw this beautiful banner with “Bazzer” emblazoned on it in vertical letters, accompanied by an appliquéd “Comet” along the spine of the banner.

Barry is rarely speechless, but he was for just a tiny moment. Then his loquacious self took over and he and Bob began to discuss this wonder, starting with Bazzer saying, “I’ve been meaning to make one, but…” Well, it went downhill from there and included a lengthy discussion of the research that Bob did to ensure that the Comet on the banner matched the exact design of the 150’ long kite that Bazzer makes.

And if you think kite folks are stuffy or hide-bound or otherwise self-centered – you just don’t happen to know the right ones, pal. Yup – there’s a good reason why I’m in this “kiting” game and love this sport. For me, never mind about the kites – it’s all about the people!”

Well, the afternoon finally ended, and we were going to head back to the campground – except it was getting kind of late and Theresa had been kind enough to stop by the information booth early enough to buy a couple of tickets to the festival banquet! So we’d best just head on out to the Ocosta Rec Center pretty quickly – which is exactly what we did.

Once there, we immediately purchased a bunch of bag-raffle tickets and set about signing them all, then making certain that they got in exactly the right raffle bags. Miss Theresa tried to pull a fast one on me – telling me that the banquet tickets cost $5.00 apiece, but I found out their actual $15.00 price – so I bought the raffle tickets myself. Anyway, once the tickets were distributed properly, it was right into the line for food – which was pretty darned fine fare for a Kiting Banquet. Ham, Beef, Turkey, all the trimmings (even cranberry sauce if you opted for Turkey) plus veggies, salads, potatoes, desserts of several varieties, and the (non-alcoholic) beverage of your choice.

We chowed down like newly retrieved prisoners of war (we were pretty hungry), and then the fun began! First up were the announcements of the winners in the kite-building comps (and those results don’t seem to be available on any website I can find, I’m sorry to say). Those were quickly followed by the results of the day’s Sport Kite comps. All of the results of the Sport Kite comps (both days) can be found here.

And then – we all got right into the bag-raffle. It’s all quality stuff (well, “most” anyway), and each winner is accorded both cheers and guffaws – depending on where, and with whom, the winner is sitting as much as any other reason. I ended up winning a Don Mock original kite that I’d admired flying all day at the north end of the field, and Theresa ended up with several items, including the only “Susie Basket.” And for those of you who are uninitiated, Susie Baskets at Westport are exceptional items and much sought after. Think of an old reed laundry basket stuffed with trinkets and delicacies, and you’ll get the idea. And then it was on to the larger kites, including some spectacular hand-made kites – some exhibiting extraordinary craftsmanship. A few of these items went for in excess of $300.00 – which, while not exactly AKA convention auction caliber, are still really fine kites! All proceeds go to the Club to fund next year’s festival, of course. Anyway, we all had a grand time, and left ready for tomorrow’s day on the beach. Then it was “home” for us to the Twin Harbors campground, another hand of cribbage, and bedtime.

The next morning found a repeat of the day before, except Mother Nature didn’t bother with the early morning rain. The weather was still spectacular, and would remain so for the rest of the festival! And this time when we arrived, I BACKED UP to the Competition Field so we could sit at the table, drink a cup of coffee, and watch through our “picture window” (which is huge) – and that’s exactly what we did to start the day!

But it wasn’t long before we decided that sitting on our butts watching wasn’t what we’d come to do, so we might just as well get “out in it.” This time, as I made my way back to the SLK area, I noticed many fewer kites than I saw yesterday, and some of those in the air were quite different too. It seems that the festival had started on Friday for several of the fliers, and they’d bailed early to make an easy time of it going home. And the different kites were simply “other” kites – deserving kites that hadn’t seen air-time the day before. So a walk down the beach brought me a few more camera subjects – and if I didn’t remember well, perhaps the same kites I’d shot the day before.

As far as people go, John Freeman and I have had this “Hi – how ARE you?” kind of dance going for a few years, so I finally had/made a time to sit down and chat with John for a while – and a couple of “nuggets” fell out. I opened my part of the conversation by voicing my admiration for a Kitelife article John had written a few years back, regarding how to change Sport Kiting to make it more attractive to the non-kiter.

Well, we got to jawing, and – as usual – one thing led to another. I asked John how he felt about his own work in Kiting… What he just endured, what he enjoyed, and what he felt he thrived on. I’m not sure he completely answered the question, but apparently there’s no “enduring” about anything having to do with kiting. But as far as John is concerned, his priorities of activities are as follows:

1. John certainly doesn’t mind doing the theoretical part of kite-building – the designing, researching, figuring how a new kite needs to go together to fly successfully.

2. But John really begins to get excited when he’s actually “building” a new kite – sewing the sail, framing it up, building and adjusting a bridle and so forth. He begins to lose a little interest, however, when the kite actually flies well.

3. But, as far as John is concerned, the ultimate thrill is teaching others to build and fly the same kite – watching the construction process from their viewpoint, seeing the different possible sail patterns emerge, and so forth. Then watching the excitement, the thrill, of others the first time their new creation flies.

John said this is especially true of someone who attends a kite workshop and cuts their teeth on a John Freeman kite as their very first hand-made kite. And he pointed down the beach toward Richard Hurd, and also at the kite Richard had in the air at the time. John said that kite (Ir’s a lovely red-white-black “barndoor” kite) was the first sewn, nylon kite Richard had ever made – and John talked with affection about watching Richard’s efforts to build and fly that kite. WOW – talk about chills up and down your spine!

And, before I left, I kind of sounded John out (in a round-about way) about whether or not he’d consent to being an interview subject for Kitelife. I didn’t get ready consent, but I didn’t get a “No” answer, either… So I think perhaps I might need to pursue that idea. I think John and Marzilie might be delightful folks to read about in Kitelife!

And, in passing, I stopped and said “hi” to Richard Hurd, whom I’d met before, but in the aspect of someone who had traveled to kite festivals in India, and we’d taken a kite he’d brought back from India on to the World Kite Museum on his behalf. And at the time I met him, Richard was a dedicated “fighter” kite guy, and very involved with the folks at of the North American Fighter Kite Association (NAFKA).

So, without letting him know that John and I had been talking about him, I asked Richard about the kite, and how he’d come to “stray” from the NAFKA folks. Oh, he wasn’t exactly “straying” – he still loved flying fighters. No, this was more an interest what went into a “sewn” kite, and how they differed from fighters… and, YES, he was VERY pleased with his Barndoor kite.

And as I left, I said I was still planning on getting down to the “fighter” field come next Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF)… and Richard’s reply was “Oh, you can hunt for me down there if you like, but I’m planning on spending most of my time up the beach at those kite-builder competitions.”

Okay… I’ll just find Richard Hurd “somewhere” on the beach at WSIKF! Yup – the operative word is “somewhere!”

So, I strolled back up the beach toward the Comp Field – and all of the SLK folks seemed to be following me for some reason. The “Pied Piper” of kites? Nope – just folks going my way – up to the next Mass Ascension… So – I decided I’d break with tradition – and actually take/make the time for me to fly a kite at a festivel. And that meant putting the camera away, and assembling and flying a kite – and I had the perfect candidate for today’s wind too!

So I dug out an old Professor Waldof “Conic” kite, I’d traded with Lan Hoac to get. Pretty thing, all yellow/orange/black. Lam called it a “Halloween” kite because of the color, and said he’d acquired it over in Germany somewhere. So I spent some time assembling it (discovering how the connections between spars were REALLY supposed to be assembled, in the process) and then launched the thing into the air… And the kite was ABSOLUTELY LOVELY, from my perspective.

I flew it for a few minutes, when a couple came along and asked where they could buy some kites, and in my inattention while I was answering, the Conic lost enough wind to come down among the crowd. BOY, was I EVER sheepish about THAT! I bid the couple a hasty adieu and went to retrieve the kite. Nobody had been within 10 feet of the kite when it grounded, let alone even touched or hurt by the kite or line, but I felt terrible about my lack of responsibility! Therefore, I must shout this warning loud and clear!


Yes – and ME TOO!!!

So, I put the Conic back in the air and DID fly it responsibly. And my friend Bazzer wandered over, and opined that he thought he knew both the festival when he last saw this kite, and the name of its owner at the time. So I will have to call Bazzer and see if he remembers the information. I’d love to get hold of the prior owners…

Anyway while I was disassembling the Conic, Theresa wandered up with her Delta Conyne, having just returned from the Mass Ascension with her fourth and final pin – and with a big grin plastered on her face in the process! Nice Job, Miz Tee!

And, in a very short while, it was time to pack it all in and put it on the road for home. We watched and then helped tear down the NWSKL Comp Field. Friend Bazzer, with a gleam in his eye, muttered “More beach for me to fly on…” and wandered into the middle of the open space with his “eyes” Revolution. But Theresa and I packed our remaining stuff into the motor home, and got ready to head for the city. And by this time, there were darned few folks left anywhere on the beach to return any “goodbyes” we might chose to give – Bazzer excepted of course. So we left Barry and his “eyes” kite out in the middle of what used to be the Comp Field, with his new “Bazzer” banner flying beside his automobile. “So long, Bazz!”

It was an easy, gentle trip home. We missed much of the traffic, but we were quite slow so we hugged the right-hand lane anyway. It’d been a very fine, very relaxing, kite festival – and neither one of us could remember having such a nice time at a fest… So we vowed to do it again sometime, but we aren’t exactly sure when that’ll be…

And in the mean time…

Fair Winds and Good Friends,