Issue 58: Townsville Kite Fest

We just finished attending the Coolum Kite Festival in Coolum Beach, QLD Australia, Sep 22-23, 2007 and after 2 days of doing bit of usual tourist stuff around Coolum Beach and a couple of other nearby coastal tourist towns, we caught a flight on wednesday Sep 26 (my birthday) from Brisbane to Townsville. The distance is about 1,000 miles. On our flight was myself, Steve Donovan, and Tony Rice. The rest of Steve’s Team KAOS, would flyup to Townsville on friday. Craig Hansen, his wife, son, and
daughter decided to take a casual 3 day drive up to Townsville, and would meet us up there on Friday.

Steve, Tony and I arrived, picked up our rental SUV, and checked
into our hotel. Shortly after arrival, festival organizer Doug Kingston of the Townsville Bulletin Newspaper, met us at our hotel, and had us following him up tot the top of a large mountain/hill that has a winding road that spirals it’s way to the top, and ends at a parking lot. The view from the top is quite spectacular, but we were informed that the reason we were brought up there, was to attach a very large, very, very heavy cloth banner to the flying line of Steve’s 125 square foot flow form. The banner was about 100 ft long by 8 feet tall, and was made from the same cloth that is used to make sports team jerseys. The weight of the banner was about 100+ lbs. Well, from the parking lot Steve gathers up his kite, flying rope, etc…, and since he has a bad back (military helicopter crash awhile back), he couldn’t help carry the banner, and Doug Kingston although fairly well fit, is a bit scarce on muscles. So, I ended up hosting the rolled up banner over my shoulder as we all climbed up about 500 steps from the parking lot, to the uppermost viewing area. We got to the top and my legs were burning, we were all a bit winded, and after a few minutes rest, we proceeded to set up the kite for launch in an area that was about 600 square feet. This meant trying to launch the kite on short line and hope we can catch enough wind to lift the heavy banner with Steve’s 125 sq ft kite, while standing right next to a safety rail that is on the edge of a 500 ft vertical cliff! The wind was coming from the direction of the cliff, which meant that the wind was blowing hard against the cliff then shooting straight up over our heads. This creates a swirling affect of wind on at the area we are trying to launch the kite. Down low there was almost no wind, and we could never get the kite to catch enough wind to successfully launch the kite, yet alone the 100 lb banner that we had attached to it. We finally decided to give up on Doug’s cliff side banner display idea, rolled up everything, and made the stairs walk back the car. Doug carried the banner back down the stairs, and when we got their, he said that it was the most strenuous work he has done in awhile. I told Doug he should have tried carrying the banner up the stairs like I did. ; )

We drive down to the Strand/Beach and park area where the festival will take place that weekend, and try launching the banner on Steve’s kite from there, but no luck, as the banner is just too heavy for Steve’s kite to lift. Doug is starting to get a bit frustrated that he may not be able to fly the festival advertisement banner, but we assured him that once Craig Hansen shows up by Friday, we will have no problem lifting the banner, because Craig works for Peter Lynn Kites in New Zealand, and just happens to be bringing the large Mega Ray, Octopus, and pilot parafoils for lifting. No problem maaan!

In the mean time, Tony Rice of Australia was invited to this festival because he specializes in doing kite building workshops for children, and every day, including the time we were trying to launch the banner, he was set up in a tent at the festival field, doing what turned out to be, one of many kite workshops, and what an excellent job he does with the kids! Tony also makes traditional asian style kites and hand painted the sail of each kite.

Later that night Doug treated us to dinner, then gave us free tickets
to Townsville’s Professional basketball Team’s games. The Team is named the “Crocodiles” or ‘Crocs” for short. It was a good game where the Crocs lost to another team from Sydney. I have to say that after living in America, it was a bit strange to watch a professional basketball game, where the entire rosters of both teams only had 3 total brothers playing for these two teams combined. ; )

A bit about Townsville. Townsville is located up on the North East
coast line of Australia, south of the tropic of Capricorn and right next to the Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea. Parts of the inland part of this city of 150,000 people, resemble the rocky deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, where as the beach area is very tropical looking with palm trees, sandy beaches, and 1000’s of tourist. A few miles/Kilometers off the beach out in the Coral Sea, is Magnetic Island, which also has tourist report hotels and day trips visits of it’s own. Ferries to and from the island run several time each day. The city is also famous for it’s cattle drives and beef. It reminded me alot of North Texas where I live. The city also has a professional Rugby team named the “Cowboys”, which are quite good I hear. I wore around my Dallas Cowboys t-shirt a few times and people gave me a thumbs up and smiled! Speaking of good beef in Townville, one night during our stay there, Doug Kingston invited a lot of us up to his house, so he could BBQ beef steaks on the outdoor grill. he did this he said, because he wanted me to compare Aussie beef to Texas beef. Doug cooked up ribeye and new york strip steaks that were as good as any I’ve had in Texas. The only difference was Texans typically use more seasoning on steaks than what Doug uses. But then again, Doug said he’s not much of a chef. Thanks Doug!

Townville is also home to one of Australia’s premier army bases, and while we were there on the festival field Friday the day before the festival, we gladly made the field vacant of kites so a unit that had just returned from duty in Iraq, could use the field for an hour or two to play a game of Aussie rules football. We were very happy and honored to oblige them!

The host hotel was the Jupiter’s Hotel and Casino and is a nice 4 star hotel. Warning, never assume that Valet parking is included in the comped rooms that the hotel provided to invited kiters, as Steve Donovan found out after being presented with a hefty valet parking bill at checkout!

The festival was split between a small grass park area that was no
larger than a football field, and a beach area that was about the same size. All single line flying was done on the grass area, where I also did some quad line stack demos with my 8 stack of 1.5’s. The beach area was used for sport kite demos by Team Kaos, in which both fields drew large crowds during both days of the festival. On the single line field, Alan Bayley, Craig Hansen, Steve Donovan and a few others, put up large Peter Lynn inflatables. And by the way, Craig was able to easily launch the large 100 lb festival banner that Steve, Doug and I had unsuccessfully attempted to launch a couple days earlier. We told Doug not to worry, and after it’s successful launch, where many pics where taken, Doug was a happy camper!

Also at the festival was a wonderful, attractive young women that
specialized in performing with as many as 10 hula hoops at the same time, around her legs, waist, arms, and neck, all to music. She had told us that she sometimes gets hired to do private, more exotic hula hoop shows for men, during bachelor parties. Several of the unmarried kite flyers wanted to know where those shows could be seen? Ok, even the married guys wanted to know too!

During the preplanning stages of the festival Doug Kingston had
suggested that we should do a night kite fly during the festival on the beach, but that was quickly waved off, as Steve reminded Doug that the area is well known for it’s salt water Crocs, and that at night, those crocs like to crawl out of the sea onto the warm sandy beaches. Could you imagine doing a night fly and having to constantly watch or run from Crocodiles! I’m all for trying new things, but that’s a bit extreme!

During the festival there were also several vendors of various types
satisfy everyone’s hunger. During both days of the festival there were thousands of people watching the festival or strolling by the strand’s walkway that separated the beach from the festival grass area. the media was everywhere, taking pics, interviewing kiters and spectators. I was even awakened one morning in the hotel room at 7:00 am so a local radio station could do a live phone interview with Steve and I.

Just outside of Townsville a few km/miles, is a wildlife area named
Billabong Sanctuary. Craig Hansen, his family and I took a few hours one day to go tour the sanctuary, and what a experience that was. We were able to get up close and touch small Crocs, Wombats, Koalas, Pythons, Turtles, Dingos, and see a lot of Australia’s deadly venomous snakes such as the infamous Taipan snake, that if you’re bit, you will most likely die with in minutes. Australia is host of 7 of the top 10 deadliest snakes in the world! The tour was capped off with a show of the big crocs. The animal handlers got close to them and bribed them with fish hanging from the end of long bamboo poles, so that the crocs would come onto land or even lunge 3/4 of their body length into the air.

Townsville also has some of the finest seafood you’ll find anywhere! Our host Doug Kingston treated us all to two nights out eating seafood, such as large prawns, shrimps, oysters, white fish, calamari, etc… Thanks Doug!

As the festival concluded, we all said out farewells, and caught
flights back to Brisbane. I stayed a couple days in Brisbane with Team KAOS member Russell Hammond and his wife. Russell is a mechanic for Australia Airlines, so getting from the airport to his house was very quick. During the two days in Brisbane we did a bit of souvenier shopping in downtown. Brisbane is a very nice city of over a million people. It also sits on the coastline, and is just a 2 hour flight north of Sydney on the Sunshine Coast. Russell and I flew Rev 1.5’s in a local park next to the yacht club, and later that night Doug and his lovely wife treated me to dinner at the yacht club. thank Russell! Btw- If you’re ever at Russell’s house, never leave cigarettes on the back patio table, or his young dog will eat them, as I found out! ; )

I’d like to thank Doug Kingston and the Townsville Bulletin Newspaper and Steve Donovan for making it possible for me to attend this festival, and thanks to Russell Hammond and his wife for their gracious hospitality, ya’ll are Numero Uno in my book!

The next morning I take the long 34 hour journey back to Texas!

Until the next festival,

Troy Gunn