Issue 58: Wind Party 2007

I’ve been at this a few years now, and I’ve had a chance to learn a few things…

First off – there are kite festivals…  Yup, the nice small and medium sized regionals…

And then some Kite Festivals with a capital “F”… These are major fests, often combined with a Championship Competition, but not always…

And then there are the real-deal KITE FESTIVALS! These amount to perhaps a half dozen in the USA such as Wildwood, Berkeley, Grand Haven, Smithsonian, perhaps Zilker, and WSIKF of course. Overseas, these events are held in places like Berc, Fano, Dieppe, Cervia and several other places. And I’m certain there are other events I’ve not mentioned which fall into these categories – but I just don’t know where they are held and what they are like…

So anyway – a couple of months ago, John Barresi and I found ourselves down in Argentina, expecting to go to a kite festival down there, just like we did last year.  But we found something on the order of a Kite Festival (Yup, capitals there)…  Or maybe even something approaching a KITE FESTIVAL!

How’d all that happen?  Well, lemme tell you about the 2007 Wind Party Festival – la Festival del Viento – and later we’ll get into how it differed from our original expectations based on the event held a year earlier – and we’ll see if we can’t figure it all out! Yeah – there are lessons there for we Americanos Del norte!

So we all hit the field on November 25th, with sponsor Alto Vuelo Kite Company and BaToCo (the only kite club in Argentina as far as I know) sharing the set-up duties.  This year’s fest had relocated however, from a rather small but nice park in Buenos Aires proper to a large field right on the Rio de la Plata roughly 400 yards further north.  This is significant only for two reasons – the new field was quite open, as opposed to last years venue which was ringed by trees, and the location put it in the “suburb” city of Vicente Lopez instead of in Buenos Aires.  And since Vicente Lopez wants to utilize the “costa” as a place to have fun, the city crews were out grooming the fields before we arrived.

Since I didn’t have much to do before the festival actually started, I availed myself of the chance to wander across the service road to one of the cantinas, and order myself a “Grande Café!”  It’s taken me a full year to figure that one out, by the way, so I’ll share the secret with you. If you order “una café” in Argentina, you get a dimitasse cup filled with quite rich coffee, plus the smallest spoon you’ve ever seen to accompany the cup.  Unfortunately, two sips is about it – and if you drink coffee as I like to do, one gulp and you’re finished! So John Barresi put me onto ordering a “café double” – last word pronounced “doub-lay!”  Well, that’s okay I guess, but I want a BIG cup full of Good Coffee!  So I started asking some more, and someone said to order a “Grande,” and that’s exactly what I wanted all along!  So, I’ve finally figured out how to do it – and now you can do it too.  Watch out, though… the café is not expensive at all (about $1.50 in US Dollars), but the “commute’s” a little pricey!

Anyway, everything was ready to go by 10:00 AM, which is normal for weekend events in Argentina. The Make-A-Kite tent was up and operational, and would do a land-office business the next two days – giving away the components for several thousand handmade kites. The sound system for the competition/demonstration field was functional with an absolutely “killer” announcer (more like a Disco DJ) testing his mikes and playing some warm-up tunes before the first scheduled event on the field. And BaToCo, in the form of our friend Gustavo Sonzogni, was filling the air with color over on the Single Line side. Gustavo had purchased some large inflatable kites from Gombergs (GKPI), and they would all fly throughout the weekend – along with many hand-made and manufactured kites from around the world, including several I had brought with me to fly at this fest.

The first major “scheduled” event after all the warm-ups was the Rokkaku Battle.  Nope – no qualification or elimination “heats” to run – just get out there on the field and fly your heart out – and the last Rokkaku aloft gets all the glory!  And that’s what occurred, too.  I happened to be over on the north side of the field when it all happened, away from the announcer, so I didn’t see who won the battle. But there must have been 15-18 Roks out there at the beginning, with the announcer doing a superb job of getting the crowd involved and cheering on individual kites. Lots of fun!

After that, it was “demo” time for the “power kiters” and dual-line and quad-line kite pilots who wanted a chance to show the audience their stuff. I’m sorry I did not get the names of the pilots, but two Power Kiters sponsored by Alto Vuelo Kite Company put on a grand show – one on a three-wheeled “buggy” and the other on a “Ground Board” similar to what we Yanks know as a “skate board” in the USA.  These two fellows were both well-experienced pilots and put on an excellent show, with fancy moves and jumps and getting plenty of “air,” and otherwise doing a fine job of demonstrating the capabilities of their kites and vehicles.

Then people such as Rodrigo Posada and Fede Polizzotto, both Master level pilots, and Willy Borsani, an Experienced level pilot, plus several other various pilots all gave dual-line flying demonstrations for the crowd.  On the Quad-line side, we saw demo performances by Gustavo Di Si fro BaToCo, and John Barresi from los Estados Unidos (the USA), and I believe Héctor Cesaretti also flew one, among others!  I also think Gustavo Di Si demonstrated his skill at flying multiple kites simultaneously. He is able to fly two or even three kites at once.

And during the afternoon, the BoTaCo folks would take time out on the demo field to fly their magnificent kite, “La Banderola.”  This is a huge kite made of 1.5 meter squares of Tyvec – altogether some 2,500 square feet of stick-less Tyvec kite. This kite was built to commemorate a period in the 70s and 80s, when those people who opposed the military dictatorship in Argentina “disappeared” (and close to 30,000 people died), as a way to remember those who were lost, and at the same time to point proudly to the unity and patriotism of the Argentinean people. The men of BaToCo fly this kite at every festival, with pride and honor.  And so, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see this extraordinary kite fly on this day – and we would see it fly again on the morrow as well.

I stopped by the other, single-line flying field, and spent some time with both Gustavo Sonzogni, from BaToCo, and with Andrea Della Bianca who is associated with Alto Vuelo Kites. Gustavo is one of the kinder souls on the face of the earth, and we had formed a kind of a bond of sorts last year, so it was a delight to spend a little time watching his marvelous purchases fly and to reacquaint ourselves again. That’s truly one of the joys of coming to Argentina – getting to know these fine people and to share time with them both on and off the flying field. It was also kind of fun to help “wrangle” those big toys (a 90’ Octopus, a large manta-ray, a trilobite, a gecko, etc.), and to augment the contents of his kitebag by one GKPI Extended-Wing Cody! My pleasure, Gustavo.

Andrea Della Bianca is an interesting man.  Of Italian birth, Andrea married an Argentine woman and took her back to Italy. But when his bride, Agustina, became pregnant with their first-born, they decided to immigrate back to Argentina.  Andrea is a businessman involved in world-wide shipping, so he travels the world to manage his business interests.  But he has always been a kite flier and a kite maker as a hobby, so he originally happened onto Alto Vuelo as a place to buy his kite-making supplies.  At this point, Andrea is helping Guillermo Fernández as an advisor and a translator for his business dealings with suppliers in other countries.

In any case, Andrea was out kite flying on Saturday – having to leave on business on Sunday.  Andrea makes a very nice kite with an attractive sail, so we stood and chatted about Alto Vuelo and about the various kites we were flying, and I was very pleased by the wonderful display of SLKs in the sky above us – including some of Andrea’s hand-mades…  It was very special to have that time with Andrea.  Another new friend, and someone who I will think of often and befriend whenever possible, and especially now since Agustina has since given birth to a large (8 lb, 6 oz) baby boy named Federico. How very nice to have such fine kite friends in this world!

Another extraordinary individual also shared the field with us.  Dr. Nelson Borelli of Chicago, Il was in Buenos Aires to do a fighter kite workshop for BaToCo, so he joined the other pilots on the field, and was seen with a pretty fighter kite in his hand, flying with Héctor Cesaretti, another Argentinean fighter kite aficionado. Nelson is Argentinean by birth, but has spent the last 50+ years as a practicing Psychiatrist and an educator at Northwestern University!

Later in the afternoon, I made a trip to the restroom and happened to walk by the Make-A-Kite tent.  Yes, there was a fair line, and I also believe there were more people out on the field than I saw at any time during the entire 2006 version of Wind Party.

Upon returning from the restrooms, I glanced up and saw three stacks of diamond kites (Peter Powells?) out toward the Rio de la Plata.  After making my way over there, I saw the one of the pilots was our old friend Roberto Cassanello, who has been staunch friend to both John and myself whenever we have been in Argentina. I did not get close enough to see who the other pilots were, but it was nice to see the “stacks” in the sky, nonetheless.

Soon, however, it was time to stop the show, tear down and button up.  We all had an Argentinean BBQ to attend.  John and I never know where they will be held, so we always end up riding with someone else.  This time, the restaurant was actually a really decent buffet (but don’t ask me where), and there must have been close to 100 people who showed up at the banquet.  The food was quite good, as was the wine, and the desserts were spectacular.  Once most folks were finished, Dr. Borreli provided a little levity to the evening by flying one of his lightweight fighters around and between the tables in the restaurant.

And I availed my self of an opportunity to chat with a gentleman I’d seen on the flying field, but could not place.  I’d not met him before, and he was not flying kites today, for his right hand was wrapped all the way to the elbow with several Ace bandages. So I asked his name and then asked about the bandages.  He is Luis Claris Skoczdopole, and it turns out that he’d just had his wrist operated on for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome a day or so beforehand, and was waiting out his “healing” time before he could start Physical Therapy.  So I asked what he did for a living, and he admitted to being a Plastic Surgeon. And then he also admitted to being one of the three founders of BaToCo way back when… and then happily informed me that BaToCo was all a “joke” anyhow. BaToCo is an acronym for Barriletes a Toda Costs – which literally translated, means “Kites At All Costs!”  Still, their organization HAS been active for at least 10 years now, and I happened to notice that, somehow, there were more than the three original founders present.  Some “joke,” when they can do as much as that organization accomplishes!

Then it was time for the “speeches!”  Sure, I had hopes of being left out of those singled out for honors – or at least I hoped to just be allowed to simply stand and wave – but John and I were called on to accept gifts from the City of Rosario, a half-days drive northwest of Buenos Aires.  So we both headed for the hotel later on with a boxed desk clock and a new leather wallet!  These gifts weren’t too bad, though.  Last year we received framed posters down in Comodoro Rivadavia.  It’s really difficult to get a large framed poster aboard an airplane without some TSA or Baggage-person getting awfully upset these days! Anyway, we finally left the Banquet-cum-BBQ, gifts in hand, in the company of Victor Derka, another fine gentleman – and a BaToCo founder, along with Roberto Cassanello and Dr. Skoczdopole. Yes, a ride straight to our hotel.  Sure, we could have grabbed a taxi, but it is awfully easy to get used to being chauffeured around by these warm and congenial people.

Well, Sunday was another big day.  Yeah – same weather as yesterday – 85 degrees plus, bell clear skies, and breezes from the Rio de la Plata east of us starting at roughly 3 MPH and gradually building to 12-15 MPH, and steady from that point on. Sure, and that’s the way it was, too.

And… “Every Sunday” being BaToCo’s meeting day, and our festival location being their usual flying field… certainly didn’t hurt us either.  The crowd just looked a little denser, and began to build a little earlier than Saturday.

So, after about a half hour of free flying for competitors to test the winds, and the sound people to make their tests and adjustments, and we were underway!  Dual Line Competitions were the first order of business.  Now, I’m used to the North American Comps, but if anything these Argentines have a “handle on it.”  I may be wrong, but I think there were some Precision figures for each contestant to fly, and then it was straight into their Ballet routines.  Yep – they were using the European Format or “Mix” format.  So that means no separate Precision and Ballet Classes, and you fly your figures and ballet routine back-to-back in one outing.

Yes, it seemed to work quite well.  No, nobody whined or beefed about it. And yes, it was MUCH better than it was last year, since last year’s Ballet Judging rules seemed to favor “complexity of stunt” scores for each stunt flown in a ballet routine, They’ve been revised this year to do away with separate tricks scores and focused on overall perceived scores in three categories, very similar to the US system in that regard.  So, last year the fliers used about the same amount of time as this year, but the judges could mark their score sheets on an individual in less than 5 minutes this year – which was a huge change! Still, it did take some time, and the crowd was happy to await the decision of the judges.  By early afternoon, the judging on all of the Comps was complete.

Meanwhile, over on the other (SLK) field, some other judges were peering critically at hand-made kites, and once the sport kite comps were over, the hand-made folks wandered over to the demo field to perform the Flight Test portion of their competitions.  I have no idea who won the hand-made competition, but I was quite happy to see my friend Alice out there, competing again.  That sled with the eyes in it sure looked good to me, Alice!

Then it was “La Benderola” time again, if I remember correctly.  Our friends from BaToCo certainly have something to be proud of in that kite. It represents their club, their passion (kites), their grasp of history, and their country well.

And by that time, the guys were ready with some Quad Team demos and some Dual-line Team routines too. I DID watch some of the early Quad-Line stuff, including some of the “Burst” and “Reform” routines…  But by that time, I was over watching over some SLKs again.

I really cannot say enough about the Team flying in Argentina.  I have watched the ones that came to Wind Party, and I need to pat each team on the back for their efforts.  Contra–Viento is a team down from Rosario.  They were far and away better than the other two, but not THAT far and away… Still, Team Contra-Viento has been together for at least 3-4 years now, correct?  Freaks Team is a team of a Father and three Sons. Fabian Fernández has been an enthusiastic team supporter in the past, and has wanted to put together a family team for quite some time.  They look very good, Fabian… Especially for a team less than a year old now. And TENSION is the newest assemblage of pilots.  They had a rough time of it this Sunday, but our knowing that they had never flown their team kites before this day might let us cut them a little slack, right? And TENSION will get better over time – their coach says so!  (Correct, Lalo?)

Still, the day had to play itself out.  The old master had to trot out Bugs Bunny one more time.  John Barresi needed to play with Roberto Cassanello, and then fly against the two huge concrete “umbrella” structures that are a part of that field.

So people flew, but by then – the big story of the day was the crowd. I’d been past Make-A-Kite a couple of times and found up to 40 or 50 people waiting in line. On the SKL field, and out toward the Rio de la Plata, and everywhere there wasn’t some organized kiting activity occurring – people flew their own kites.  It could be kites they’d brought with them, but often it was either kites they’d purchased there or kites they’d made there themselves.

And while many people came just to enjoy the show, as far as I’m concerned – they missed it!  On that Sunday afternoon, in that particular location, anyone flying a kite was a winner!

Still, the day eventually ended…  One by one, people packed up and left.  Fliers and other participants did too!  And a few of us ended up in Carlito’s Cantina again – eating hamburgesas con queso (cheeseburgers) or panqueques (just like it sounds) with stuffing… and drinking cervezas (beer) or Pepsi!

So how did this festival stack up against what John and I expected to find, and what caused the changes?

First of all, the festival we attended last year was quite comparable to a fairly new regional fest in America.  Fun, and with plenty of kite flying to enjoy, but otherwise not a whole lot to really crow about.

The 2006 Wind Party was a) a single day event, b) attended by 20-30 families who had driven in to support their fellow kiters plus an equal number of supporters from greater Buenos Aires, c) had plenty of components, d) and “might” have had 5,000 people attend all told.  Moreover, e) competitions were held, but were flawed by an inadequate set of comp judging rules and f) a kite festival venue ringed by trees is generally NOT good for either fliers or participants.

So – our expectations (at least mine) – were more of the same, with a few significant changes to note this year.  BOY WAS I WRONG!

So what changed to help “grow” this festival?  Well, we’re never certain, of course, but the following “might” be contributing factors:

  1. Somebody did some actual Honest-To-God planning!  And if you’re going to make changes, RIGHT THERE is a good place to start.  It’s obvious that BaToCo “planned” to succeed this year.
  2. They changed the venue to be better for both fliers and spectators.
  3. They saw a single day as inadequate or at least “marginal,” so BaToCo went to two full days!
  4. They changed the flawed comp rules, not only to make them easier to judge, but also to come much closer to IRBC standards.  Bravo!
  5. While they did not have much more staff than they had last year, they used them better and gave them a few rest, food, and bathroom breaks.
  6. And – they either got VERY lucky, or saw an opportunity and just “went for it” in getting a “killer” PR team going.  And if you GOTTA do only one thing to make your fest grow – more and better PUBLICITY is IT!

Well, where do they sit now?  After their resounding success this year, I’d certainly put them in with the Major Festivals in the US.  Nope – certainly not Wildwood or Grand Haven or WSIKF, but equal to or better than lots of other fests that have the word “Championship” in their name.  And – for Argentina – that’s half way to becoming a KITE FESTIVAL!  Yeah – one of the “big Boys!”  And if they can pull that same caliber of festival off for several years, they’ll start attracting more of the good pilots from around the world!

Pssst…  Barresi’s talking like he wants to take iQuad down with us next year….   (Shhhh – someone might hear that!)

Well – don’t say I didn’t tell you, but next year there’s still room for a few more – either spectators or participants. And if you wanna talk about it – I’m here for you!

There’s also an extensive gallery of pictures taken by Gabriel Palmioli located here : Windparty Gallery 2007

Fair Winds and Good Friends –