Issue 58: Treasure Island Kite Festival

To properly tell a tale, one should always set the tone from when the tale begins. So, let me paint a picture for you. When I left Vancouver, BC to head to what is pretty much the diagonal opposite of the continent (that being Treasure Island, just outside of St. Petersburg, Florida), it was a balmy 28 degrees Fahrenheit. This for Vancouver is about as cold as it ever gets, so, its safe to call it the dead of winter. Of course, Treasure Island is also in the grip of winter, but, this means quite a different thing. It means mid 60s for daytime temperatures, so, kind of close to a cool Vancouver summer day!

But, the beginning of a trip to a kite festival starts far before your car heads out onto the road to get there (no, I flew out of Seattle. While I love driving, 5000+ miles each way is a bit much for this monkey). It begins with a group of people who decide to put one on. Years ago, Treasure Island had a vibrant mid winter festival scheduled, but, as often happens, things can begin to peter out as organizers run put of steam. Successful festivals require that new crops of people cycle in throughout the organization in order to bring new ideas and enthusiasm to any event. While the Treasure Island happenings had begun to die down a few years ago, some “new blood” moved into town around the same time. Steve and Sherri Pigeon had begun to run the Kitesville kite shop in town, and with the forming of the Sunset Flyers Kite Club, a reinvigorated Treasure Island kite festival began to take hold. The Kitelife offices had heard about this last year, and we’d made a mental note to keep up with how it panned up out for them the next year as a trip to St. Augustine 2 years had shown us clearly what an awful lot of fun Florida had to offer. Also within the mix of Kitesville is one Jay Nunes, brother to Sherri, and long time kite flyer who has escaped the Northeast a few years back for some warmer weather, and it was a call from Jay that began this trip.

At first, it was a couple of us who’d be making the trip down. Last fall, Jay had become a member of iQuad and he dearly wanted to bring some of us down to his home turf for a little winter flying. At about the same time, the St. Augustine kite club was pondering what to do with their disappearing beach. A long season of storms had left the once huge beach with about a postage stamp’s worth of sand, which left their winter competition in deep jeopardy. This in turn also had an adverse affect on the Tricks Party USA organizers as well, as the St. Augustine event had become a welcome tradition for their flyers as well (lets be serious, with most of the continent locked in a cold winter, who wouldn’t like to go down to a kite comp in florida!).

So, the idea was hatched. The TI festival would quickly grow to accommodate all manner of kiting, with the SASKC group moving their competition to TI, as well as Tricks Party USA. Add onto this some fighter kites, a bunch of buggies and a whole lot of people, and what’s the result? Easily one of the biggest winter kiting events seen in a very long time! Sounds great doesn’t it? Every facet of kiting, represented on one beach, over a few days on a beautiful beach in Florida, whether your passion was single line kites, buggys, sport competition or just general fun flying, the festival had all the bases covered. But, something else began to take shape as well as we got closer to festival date. Quad mayhem! With a few members of iQuad coming down for the fun, day by day, more quad flyers began to make their own plans for some winter relief from the snow. Another iQuad member decided to come on down. A few more quad flyers signed in. Could we get enough together to take a crack at the North American quad mega flying record? I guess you’d best keep reading to find out…

Mere days before we left to head south, Jay had been telling us to bundle up because it might be a little chillier than usual for Florida at this time of the year but, for us in the Northwest, a day in the mid 60s often defined a decent mid summer’s day so we simply laughed at him and promised to show up in t shirts, and indeed, we did! In the end, we’d managed to rally up seven members of iQuad to head on down, with 5 coming in from the North on a red eye flight into Tampa Bay, arriving at a nice early time of the morning on the Friday. Who needs sleep when you are going to fly all day long? I don’t remember seeing any of us looking tired as we bounced out onto a beach that was already filling up with kite flyers. In all directions, the kites were beginning to go up, whether it was the large inflatables of Dennis and Kelly from Larger Than Life Kites, to the tricked out duals and quads of the competing people from all over the US, to a group of buggies racing around off in the distance, to a smattering of Revolution quads sprinkled all over the beach, all down to enjoy was a pretty pleasant winter day. There was no official agenda or plan for Friday, it was simply a day of fun, games and practice and settling in. But, it was also a chance to catch up for friends who are often all too distant during the winter months. It had been months since iQuad had flown in a proper festival setting, and with the AKA convention months behind everyone else as well,  the main order of the day was often simply finding out what everyone had been up to over the cold months. There was also a few manufacturer’s reps on hand as well, with Ben D’Antonio from Revolution flying some of their 20th anniversary kites, and Dodd Gross from New Tech giving lessons on some of their new kites. We also enjoyed watching Full Throttle (comprised of Ron Graziano and  Shawn Tinkham) working on their Tricks Party Pairs routine for a while just a little further down the beach. Looking sharp indeed!

One of the nicer aspects of the festival became apparent very quickly. With very few exceptions, any of us who had to travel to partake in the party were all in the same motel directly on the beach, with all of the rooms facing inwards onto a courtyard. Nearly every single room was filled with kite flyers and the courtyard gave us all a great little socializing area that was just off the beach. All the better for that catching up on winter goings on amongst our friends I’d mentioned above. Was there a single person who felt that perhaps the overcast day was a let down? I’d highly doubt it, as it was warm enough for light jackets and a nice breeze made for a fantastic day of flying, in January. And if you weren’t careful with the sunscreen, you could get a burn… As the day wore down, people packed up and headed off to find food, and then ice cream at the parlour just across the street from motel. Many of us headed into a local place called the R Bar just down the road on Jay’s suggestion and we found some good food and an awful lot of fun to be had… “toooo the place, where I belooooooooong”  and some bad singing. By us.

Thankfully, the poor musician at the bar took our attempts at karaoke with a great sense of humor, and off we headed for some ice cream, which then led to an attempt at some night flying. While we have certainly wrestled revs in the dark in less windy conditions, it was a little variable and made for a tough go of it for the most part, though Ben D’Antonio had the best idea and used his progressive stack of Revs to great effect. By this time, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone was completely worn out, and thus deserving of a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning dawned to find a somewhat overcast day with the winds coming from the south, up the beach. The event officially opened with a really well done Color Guard presentation from a local group of cadets. Even for a Canadian like me, it was a moving start to the day and glancing around, there were more than a few people that were deeply effected by this. It wrapped up with Steve DeRooy and John Barresi flying a pair of red, white and blue Revs to the tune of America The Beautiful. A fine start to what was going to be a pretty full day on Treasure Island. Many of the cadets wandered over to Dodd’s flight school and took some lessons on his kites afterwards!

While it was overcast and a little foggy, it was still a pretty pleasant day outside, at least when you have come from the fairly frozen Pacific Northwest. I compared the day to what a typical summer day at Ocean Shores can be like in the middle of August, so I spent a lot of the day in simply a t-shirt (with jeans, naturally). The main field was consistently filled with people doing demonstrations of various aspects of kiting, including a couple of great demos by Robert Randolph of Air Oeuvre Kites which are hand made by him just a little ways away from the beach that we were on. iQuad did what we usually do in any situation where we find ourselves, we flew all day long with barely a break to grab some drinks and food (and a special thanks to Mom, who kept us well fed then entire weekend! Mmmmmm, meatballs subs!). Various people down at the festival with their Revs joined in with us and we did a few tours through the main demo field as well.

And just a little further south on the beach, the SASKC people had begun their competition events for the weekend. As you can see from a few of the pictures in this article, as the day progressed , the weather got foggier and foggier, to the point where we could barely see a couple hundred feet in front of ourselves! While we could tell other things were happening along the beach, it was tough to make out exactly what was happening! But despite the lack of clear vision, they managed to make it through most of their events for the day with few hang-ups, until the very end of the day. If we thought it had been a little foggy earlier in the day, a thick pea soup of fog had begun to fill the beach entirely, and as a few of us were getting ready to judge Team Train (an event I really like watching, being a sucker for anything with the word “team” in it… especially if one of the team names is “Trained Monkeys”!) when an emergency announcement was made. Just offshore and making it’s way towards where we were at a rapid pace was a huge storm that was threatening actual tornados, with thunder and lightning. You’ve never seen a beach get cleared of a festival as fast as it was, and sure enough, about an hour after the word had been given, a truly amazing storm landed on the beach, with lightning all around us, torrential rains but, thankfully, no tornados were seen. But, wow, that was a truly amazing display of what storms on the Gulf can mean! Back at the hotel, all of us were warily watching the skies as we got ready for the banquet and auction. Some of the lightning strikes seemed awfully close to the Thunderbird but, no issues were reported beyond some dropped jaws at the sheer fury of the storm.

Unfortunately, due to he unexpected numbers that came down to the festival, the banquet had been sold out previous to the start of the event, but, that made for one very packed room at the banquet, and following a pretty good meal, Scott Weider managed a really fun auction, complete with a guest appearance by Dennis “The voice of the Eastern League” Smith cameo’ing to rightly handle the auction of the New Tech Air Guitar. There was some great deals to be had and it was one of the more animated and entertaining banquets I had been to in quite a while. We all managed to raise some good money for the festival and afterwards, while it was tempting to take advantage of the high winds for some night flying, the weather was still being odd enough that we decided that perhaps it wasn’t too safe to be flying a kite out on the beach. All around the central courtyard of the hotel, groups of kiters congregated for some further conversation and some deep relaxation in the hot tub. Another fine day drew to a close…

When I opened my eyes to check out what was in store for Sunday, I was greeted by an awful lot of sunshine. NICE!  Though after fetching a mandatory coffee and heading down to the beach, I found that the wind was coming in off the city (ie, bouncing around a few buildings before it hit the sand) and damn, if it also wasn’t a little chilly. It still was a good bit warmer than the Northwest was but, ya, there was certainly a bit of a bite in the air. And BOY was that wind bumpy too! I’d be cruising across the sky with a vented 1.5 and it was nearly like hitting potholes on the road with your kite, it’d just lose all forward drive until it hit another pocket of power. Due to what was missed in the schedule the previous day when the storm thundered in, Tricks Party was moved to the morning and from everything I have heard, the winds made for quite the challenging conditions. But despite that, they did manage to get through their schedule and below are the results for the first Tricks Party of 2008 :

Individuals :

1 – Ron Graziano  – 54.99
2 – Todd Haymans – 30.68
3 – Ted Goodman – 26.85
4 – Patty Tinkham – 24.44
5 – Robbie Boerth – 24.24
6 – Spencer Meeks – 18.61
7 – Doug Coates – 17.39
8 – Marc Conklin – 9.79

Pairs :

1 – Full Throttle 21.12
2 – Rainman Forrest 16.96
3 – Flight Risk 7.60

Congratulations to everyone who stuck those conditions out and for a complete breakdown of the results, you can find them linked below from the Tricks Party USA website:

Immediately afterwards, the SASKC competition resumed on the comp fields and while the wind had smooth out a little bit from the morning rocky ride, it was still in the high teens and frequently gusting beyond 20. But as I look over those results, I’m pleased to see a few names that are new to the sport, and that’s decidedly a plus. Hopefully they understand that most competitions aren’t quite like that with respect to wind and again, kudos for them sticking it out! You can find all the results for these comps at the Eastern League’s web site:

Meanwhile, back in the other field, flyers and their Revs were beginning to assemble for a rather auspicious occasion. You see, when iQuad has been at WSIKF the last couple of years, we’re constantly trying to get megaflys going, with a goal of setting a North American record (the “world” record for this currently sits with the Japanese at a staggering 49 revs at once!). Over the past years, we’d managed to hover (ha!) at around 18 flyers, but with the huge convergence of Rev flyers that came down for a little sand and sun in the winter, we hoped to smash that to pieces. And you know what? We did. We managed to get up to 29 flyers in the air at once, firmly setting a new North American mark! We could have gone even higher than that, but, due to a scheduling conflict with the re-arranged schedule for the comp events, I know we lost out on a few great pilots that could have pushed us into the mid 30s. We delayed as long as we could afford to, so, my sincere apologies to those people that missed out on the fun, you were certainly missed. And, I must say, it was quite obvious that the overall skill level of Rev pilots has climbed in general as well. Previous attempts at this over the years have frequently resulted in some utter chaos as people skid out of control and take down a few others in the process and this time around, despite the higher numbers involved, there wasn’t any truly harrowing foul-ups that I saw, and with Bazzer and I situated pretty much in the middle of the pack, we were well situated to be in the danger zone. My hat is off to everyone involved for having so much fun and keeping it all mostly under control. Below is a list (not in any particular order) of the flyers who participated :

John Barresi (Team IQuad)
Steve De Rooy (Team IQuad)
Todd Rudolph (Team IQuad)
Mike Kory (Team IQuad)
Jay Nunes (Team IQuad)
Barry Bazzer Poulter (Team IQuad)
David Monkey Hathaway (Team IQuad)
Ben Dantonio (Revolution Representative)
Sherri Pigeon (Kitesville USA / Event Organizers)
Steve Pigeon (Kitesville USA / Event Organizers)
Dennis Hawley (Larger Than Life Kites)
Kelly Mayhew (Larger Than Life Kites)
Bob Havard (Sunset Flyers Kite Club)
Denny Skagseth
Mark Chef Williams (St. Augustine Sport Kite Club)
Marvin Harris (TISKK)
Gary Resnick (TISKK)
Alden Miller
Brad Weiner
Charles AJ Jackson
Cath Shook (CIA)
Elliot Shook (CIA)
Mike Stephenson (Illinois Kite Enthusiasts)
Nick Stephenson (Illinois Kite Enthusiasts)
Zack Stephenson (Illinois Kite Enthusiasts)
Isaac Trejo (Illinois Kite Enthusiasts)
Greg Lameroux (AKA Region 1 Director)
Christopher Scott Weider
Scott Weider (Event Announcer / Number 29 for Sure)

That’s a pretty incredible list of people. Alas, there were SO many people flying that few if any pictures exist that I have seen of the whole spectacle!

And with that, the day began drawing to a close but, not without one more thing to be seen by all. It was perhaps one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen, and what a fitting tribute to the work that the Sunset Flyers put into making this multifaceted event the success that it was. Sherri, Steve and everyone else involved put together an amazing festival that covered every single angle of kite flying you can imagine and, I can’t wait to see what happens with next year’s event, which is now in the planning stages already.

Thanks again, and we’ll see you on a beach somewhere again soon.

David Hathaway