Issue 57: Callaway Kite Fly

My wife and I took our four month old daughter to Callaway, NE for the annual Callaway Kite Fly on Labor Day weekend.  Instead of exploring the field, chatting with everyone about their kites, I stayed close to our pop-up sun tent, and can report on the kites and kiters that came to see us.

Callaway, NE is a friendly town that hosts hundreds of kiters from the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states every Labor Day Weekend.  Callaway is located in western Nebraska, about 65 miles north of Kearney.  Kiters are invited to camp in the park in the middle of town.  Groups in town put on pancake breakfasts, dinners, concessions at the flying field, and a craft show throughout the weekend, to round out a weekend of great flying.

We arrived in town late Saturday afternoon.  Nearly everyone had packed up and headed to dinner when we arrived at the field, but we decided to check out the field anyway. The concession stand was closed and the parking area was almost empty.  Unlike Boulder, where we had been suffering through summer doldrums, the wind at the field was howling.  What I had heard in Colorado about the Callaway fly was true: WIND!  There were a few tents around the edge of the field that were still being disassembled, and a few kids trying to keep their erratic kites up in the stiff wind.  I put up a DC with a long tube tail just to fly something in the warm early evening light.  A couple waiting to watch the night fly said it had been a great day with “some really huge kites big enough to drive a car into!”  Another couple down the field put up a 6′ blue delta and quickly let out enough line that the kite was hard to find in the sky.  We packed up as it started to get dark.

I woke early on Sunday morning to thunder and rain, but it was all blue skies and sunshine when we arrived at the field at about 9 am.  We put up our little sun tent between two other sun tents along the rope line demarcating the kite field from the parking area.  We were asked at the admission gate whether we were there to watch or were “professional kite flyers.”  I don’t know that there are many professional kite flyers, but I took their meaning and parked at the “serious kite” end of the field.  I met John and Mary Gabby while buying kite raffle tickets.  John was preparing for the day as event announcer.  The raffle prize was a beautiful Pentasoar kite with a dove of peace flying across the sun on a sky blue sail, made by Mary.  The wind went from light and variable to steady and strong in the mid-morning, leading to an unofficial mass ascension.  Families outside the rope watched as roks, deltas, parafoils with line laundry, and a giant, swimming manta ray took to the sky.  This is the only kite event I’ve attended where people come just to watch the kites from outside a roped-off flight area, but it looked like many who came to watch ended up flying a newly purchased kite.

I met some great kite folks from around AKA Region 7.  Elmon Morrison was doing more chatting and picture taking than kite flying, and filled me in on some of the kites built by Midwest Winds club regulars.  Mike Shaw inspected my appliqué work and explained to me how he had pieced his prize winning bird and double butterfly.  In the afternoon, Don Murphy and others were trying valiantly with a young man to get his new diamond kite into the sky.  Sport kites were also represented, but they were mostly further down the field, so I didn’t have much interaction with their pilots.  There was a large parafoil hauling a purple and lavender spiked spinsock that looked large enough to swallow a family sedan.  There was a dad teaching his daughter to fly a rev on short lines.  There was a giant red, white and blue delta with matching spinning tail.  We enjoyed all this to the sounds of Elvis’ gospel album over the PA.

The lunch concession at the field is operated by the Callaway chamber of commerce, and represents the “food” part of the Callaway fly slogan, “Family, Fun, Food, and Flying!”  We had hot dogs, yum-yums (yummy sloppy joes), lemonade, and homemade wild plum pie.  I’m sure we’ll be back in Callaway next Labor Day Weekend, and it will be partly to try some of the other seven or so varieties of homemade pie on offer.

Around lunchtime, a rough and tough looking guy from the “observer” side of the rope pointed at my new rok and asked gruffly, “Did you sew that?”  I cautiously answered, “Yes.”  After a pause he said, “Well it’s real nice.”  “Thank you,” I said.

In the afternoon, some clouds appeared and then passed over after dropping some rain but no lightning.  Kites came down and then went back up once the rain cleared.  The wind changed direction so that I could see everyone’s grinning faces from our sun tent.  We packed up as things wound down after four and most people headed back to town for dinner.

This was the 17th annual Callaway Kite Flight, organized by the Callaway Kite Flight Association (Co-chairs Betsy Spanel and Mary Ridder) and the Callaway Lions Club, and I think they did a great job.  I look forward to participating more with the in-town activities in the years to come.  Next year we also hope to arrive in time for some flying on Saturday.  The whole Sunday we spent at the field was pleasant and friendly, and the wind and field could not have been better.  The Callaway kite fest is a great way to spend Labor Day Weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Jason Stotter