Issue 59: Up The River Indoor

Yep, it’s another Indoor Festival.  Seems like that’s about all a kiteflier gets to do during Pacific Northwest winters – well, at least as far as “organized” flying goes, anyway.

This time, it’s about 130 miles straight up the famous Columbia River Gorge, headed for the small berg of Arlington, Oregon.  What’s there?  Well, not very much… A wide spot right off Interstate 84… Maybe 500 souls, give or take… A bunch of grain silos, where crops are collected and then shipped downriver… a very savvy Mayor… the usual small farming town businesses… and a couple schools.  We’re headed for the Arlington High School, home of the “Honkers” (Canadian Geese) – and also the home of the annual “Up The River” Indoor Kite Festival.

Well, we say we “support kiting,” out loud, and often! And the Science / Shop Teacher at Arlington High just happens to be a past Novice Individual AKA National Champion in both Multi-Line Ballet and Dual-Line Precision – Alan Cunningham. And Alan, together with Rick and Kelly Wright of “Columbia River Kites,” plus the various members of the Arlington and Kiting communities – put on “Up The River,” the annual Indoor Kite Fest. Therefore – I’m headed off to be the event’s “Announcer” again this year…

So, come Friday evening, I put the kite-van on the road and make the 130-mile trek “up the river” without incident. I plan to stay at “Casa Chaos,” Alan and Colleen Cunningham’s residence, a scant two blocks from the High School. I will eat again at the “Pheasant” restaurant, and spend the rest of my time at Arlington High.  I will also attempt to both announce for the festival and shoot photos for Kitelife. And – as it turns out – those two chores end up being mutually exclusive – which is why the credits for the photos that accompany this report ALL go to Stephanie Booth, a member of Arlington High’s Junior Class.  Fine job, Stephanie!

All right – I’ve set this thing up enough, now… (So Get ON with it, geezer…)

Friday night is “Free-Fly” time… meaning the gym floor is open to anyone who wants to fly, tune, adjust, or just “play with” a kite.  “Working The Kinks Out” after a long drive or a long week at work is also allowed – and even encouraged.  So when I arrived at about 6:30 PM, there were 8-10 people on the gym floor, and another dozen in the bleachers or standing around yakking with each other – “kiters” you know.  So I check in with Alan to let him know that I made it again this year. He informs me that I’ll have “company” in my normal downstairs “digs.”  Dick Curran and Toby Arndt are lodged in the spare bedroom, so I have the couch / futon.  Fine by me.  I always sleep just fine wherever I lay my head down.

I also ran into Rick and Kelly Wright, who are old friends and who fund much of the expenses for “Up The River.”  Rick will be working as the “sound man” for this indoor festival, and it’s always nice working with “known” capabilities. Oh, Rick (and I) will make mistakes this weekend for certain.  But I know Rick well enough so that we’re old hands at covering each other’s back-sides.  Besides, Rick’s a good man who quickly fixes whatever problems crop up, so we will have NO major difficulties – which makes Rick a valuable ally. Anyhow, it’s nice to see both of them again!

I survey the gym floor, say “Hi” to a few folks, and take a quick tour to re-acquaint myself with the venue. For instance, I’ve found that it pays dividends if the Announcer can find his way to the bathroom quickly in the brief periods between announcements… Yep – both the bathroom and the route to / from it are still where I remembered they were. And the same goes for the location of the one available coffeepot!  So I’m really “Good To Go!”

Next – who’s NOT there that I’m expecting to see at “Up The River?” I ask around and find out who’s registered for the event.  About half of the projected attendees are here, which means that some folks I expected to see haven’t arrived yet. But I’m mostly interested in seeing Amy Doran and her son, Connor.  Both are close friends, but Amy and I have an outside project we’ve been working on, off and on, and I want a quick word with her when she arrives. No sooner do I start looking for her than Amy’s blue Jeep pulls up in front of the High School, and we get our 5 minutes of “business” done… Whew – got that out of the way quickly. I hang around for a while longer and check out the sound-system – specifically the microphone I’ll be using for the next two days – and when everything checks out well, I’m pretty much done for the evening.

I head for “Casa Chaos” to say “Hi” to nice lady Colleen Cunningham, and I hang with Alan’s lady for a while, and then head downstairs to roll out my sleeping bag.  I’m in the sack by about 10:00 PM at the latest – meaning that’s about when the rest of the Cunningham clan (all their pets) decided to check me out.  Still, I ignored ‘em all and was asleep within five minutes of climb-in.

I awoke slowly on Saturday morning… to the sound of Alan’s dogs going in and out the “pet door” beside my bed on the lower level of Casa Chaos. Still, drifting in and out of sleep, I began to sense a very lovely smell in my vicinity – Fresh COFFEE!  Sure enough, there was a full cup parked right beside my bed!  Good Lord!  I could get used to this! (I don’t even get THAT kind of service at home!)  Yep – sterling host that he is, Alan had provide the perfect “wake up call” on his way out to the High School to open things up for “Up The River.” I made my ablutions, dressed, and headed for the Pheasant and breakfast – only to find a clogged sewer line has them out of business until the Roto-Rooter guy could rectify things, so it was a decent breakfast of eggs and hash-browns at the Village Inn instead, followed by a short drive up the hill to the High School.

Of course, most of the usual “suspects” were in attendance by now, and the “Free-Fly” was in full swing by the time I arrive, just before 9:00 AM. Time to get the sound system cranked up, remind all the contestants that they need to get their music to us, and start thanking all the sponsors and broadcasting the other necessary announcements.  We’d soon be underway on a cloudy and very cold Saturday morning. They tell me it actually gets “warm” in Arlington, Oregon come mid-summer, but I’ve never had the moxie to make the 260-mile round trip during the summer. Something about “going to the beach” always seems to intrude for some silly reason.

By 9:30, we’re announcing our first calls for the first Open Individual Indoor Unlimited competition, due to start at about 10:00 AM. We will run two OIIU Comps today – one in late morning, followed by a short lunch break, with the second OIIU Comp coming right after lunch!

Then, at what seems like the last moment, the final puzzle-piece falls into place with the arrival of Arlington’s Mayor, Carmen Contour-Gronquest. For several years now, Carmen has helped by judging the indoor competitions.  It’s not often that we kitefliers are honored by such august assistance, but Carmen’s a “classy” lady who gives us her best effort – and over the years, she’s gotten to be a pretty competent judge for these competitions. Thank you, madam Mayor!

The comps are run as “open” or “combined” classes – meaning that both Experienced class pilots and Masters class pilots compete in the same event, but the scoring turned in to the AKA will be broken by class to keep the pilots current in Point Standings in their respective classes.  One single Award placement will be given to each pilot at the end of the day, based on their combined scores for both comps. In Saturday’s competitions, Bud Hayes and Jerry Cannon would compete as Masters class pilots, and all of the other pilots end up competing in the Experienced class.

We worked our way through the remaining time until the comp, and – being old hands – Rick and I handle getting the comp started with minimum problems and delays.  The Pilot’s meeting occurs, everyone understands the rules, and we’re set to go. And before you know it, we’re into the first comp – and out the other end before we even know it.  Ok, we have our first one in the bag now, so we can forget all about any “jitters” or “glitches.”  And – other than some CDs that refuse to play – we ended up being done with any problems for the entire festival. It’s always nice to have those problems over with…

The recap below shows the results of the first competition:


1 Amy Doran 89.980
2 Bud Hayes 86.920
3 Jerry Cannon 85.850
4 Tobi Arndt 76.120
5 Dick Curran 73.080
6 David Bradley 73.000
7 Jennifer Brown 72.630
8 Connor Doran 63.330

We broke for lunch immediately after the first comp was over, which meant walking across the lobby to the Shop where the Chamber of Commerce fed us all with a very nice lunch.

Afterwards, we had maybe 15 minutes to relax a bit, and then we headed right back into the second competition.  See the results below:


1 Amy Doran 85.030
2 Bud Hayes 80.670
3 David Bradley 79.950
4 Tobi Arndt 78.780
5 Jerry Cannon 77.730
6 Jennifer Brown 73.330
7 Dick Curran 67.550
8 Connor Doran 64.570

And, for those of you who might wonder… Yes indeed!  Amy Doran WAS competing at the Experienced level rather than the Masters level. But she was ALSO using her new “Charlie Chaplin” routines that she’s been developing – and obviously with excellent results!  (More about Amy and “Charlie” later, however.)

Yes, we successfully got through two comps in a single day.  Nope – we had NO time for Demos or other folderol, but we’re through the worst of it nonetheless.  Oh, the gym floor stays open for “Free-Fly” for those who want to hang around, but most of the pilots opt for a shower and some food (The Village Inn again for me!) before heading up to Casa Chaos for the REAL reason for “Up The River!”

And that happens to be – Alan’s mastery at the counter-space between his kitchen and his living room – where Sir Alan reigns supreme as a Master Sushi Chef!  (We all KNOW that kiting is just a sideline-draw… Alan only uses kiting as “pull” to get us all up there to eat his SUSHI!). Needless to say, nearly the entire festival population descends on Alan’s abode, and he tutors all comers in the arts, delights, and other enjoyments of the Japanese Sushi discipline.  Oh, and there’s beer and wine in the fridge (and non-alcohol for the youngsters).

And for Rachel Day, there’s also Cosmo – the Cunningham’s cat!  While everyone else partied, and ate sushi, and played with all of Alan’s other “toys” (which are numerous), Rachel and Cosmo held their own private “Love-In!” I think the Cunningham dogs (2) were the only entities present who didn’t enjoy themselves immensely, being a bit green-eyed with jealousy!

And, yes – Colleen Cunningham and I DID have our usual conversation regarding the “humor” clippings displayed on her refrigerator door. But I was a bit bushed, and headed for the lower level – and my sleeping bag – a bit early.  Tomorrow was another day, and I kinda needed some healthy “rest and recuperation” sleep.

Sunday morning broke about like it always does in Arlington – cloudy and very cold.  I actually think it was even colder than Saturday was, but who’s quibbling about a few degrees… The BIG change was that the aroma of fresh coffee was missing from my bedside when I awoke – though I eventually found some in the still piping-hot carafe in the coffeemaker in the kitchen upstairs. Ok, now for some breakfast. No, the plugged line at the Pheasant hadn’t been rectified, so the Village Inn got my business two days in a row.  Then it was up the hill again for the High School – and “Up The River!”

We were into the “free-Fly” portion of the schedule when I arrived, of course.  I’ve long since quit worrying about being the first one to any event, and now just concentrate on making certain that I fulfill MY part of the activities. We’d go until about 10:00 AM today before we’d start Demos for real.  Yes, we had a list, so we spent about 5-10 minutes tracking down those fliers who were on the schedule and who hadn’t bothered to provide music to go with their Demo slot. It always sorta mystifies me when someone asks for floor-time, but hasn’t the mental forethought to provide the components necessary to make it happen. I think perhaps, I should begin using Dennis Smith’s bio techniques – modified a wee bit – and if we don’t have music by the time the flier is up, they’ll just fly a “Mystery Ballet” to whatever I chose!  And I know where I can get hold of a whole album of tunes recorded live at the “Edinburgh Tattoo” – an annual competition for massed Scottish Bagpipe Bands!!!

Anyway, Demos are demos, and things went relatively smoothly – except for the one incident where a pilot’s CD would NOT yield the tune he specifically wanted… He finally just selected another one off the same CD and did ok with it!

Near the end, someone asked it there was interest in doing a quick Hot-Tricks competition as part of the demos?  Four interested fliers were quickly assembled, and about 15 minutes later, we had a “winner!”  Unfortunately, I can’t remember who that winner was for the life of me – so you only get the tidbit that there WAS a Hot-Tricks competition, but not who the winner was. (Of course, someone will remember who it was and quickly remind me all about it – but only by reading about my “memory lapse” here in Kitelife first!)

Then it was time for a quick lunch.  Rick Wright did the honors this time, with kielbasa and additional fixin’s… Good food, Rick – and our Thanks!  Then we had a short break after lunch, so I grabbed a kite from the car and flew it out behind the High School in rather robust, but frigid (in the teens), breezes, What’s going to a Kite Festival all about if it isn’t about flying kites? Well, I flew one that Sunday! After lunch, our schedule said “Mystery Ballet,” and yes, there was a sign-up sheet!  And that set the stage for one of the most amazing feats of kite flying I’ve ever seen occur anywhere… Yes – even as amazing as seeing Rick and Reed Wolcott flying their Pairs routine as “R.A.W. Power” in Long Beach at the Northwest Stunt Kite Championships back in 2006 – flying Vented Northshore Radicals in 50-60 plus MPH “breezes.”

Let me set this one up for you…
Once we started “Mystery Ballet,” it quickly became obvious that whoever selected the tunes had a rather nice CD of 40s and 50s dance tunes in their collection (I suspect Don Ostey, but haven’t bothered to find out). Anyway, everyone that flew Mystery Ballet either got a tune they recognized immediately, or at least got one with the style and grace of 40s-50s Big Band music.  And that means, the pilots all had “easy” tunes to fly to… So, one-by-one, the participants trotted out on the floor, heard their music, and just “went with it” and did very well.  The music was such that EVERYBODY could relate to it and could fly to it fairly easily!

As I remember, Amy Doran was about 2/3rds down in the order.  So she did as she normally does – she came out onto the floor in her full “Charly Chaplin” regalia – tux, tails, and bowler hat!  She’d planned on using a Borelli fighter to start with (to get the “feel” for the music).  She’d also been practicing with three wide, different colored, ribbons glued onto a stick as a “showpiece” – almost like waving a banner, except the ribbons trailed out 6 or 8 feet behind the pole.

Well, there was a bit of a “glitch” when Amy took to the floor – in that there was a big snarl of line about 20-25 feet down-line from her Borelli fighter. She tried to undo the snarl, but her set-up time was running out, so she decided to just fly, and not let the fighter’s line out beyond the snarl – which was exactly what she did.

Once the music started, it was obvious that Amy (Charly) either recognized her piece or at least understood the piece’s style, and she knew she could fly to it without difficulty. So she flew the Borelli very well for the first third of the piece. Then she decided to switch to her ribbon-pole – and in making the switch, Amy threw the snarl on the end of the Borelli line behind her. But what she didn’t realize was that the snarl never hit the floor.  Instead, a loop of the line hooked over the button at the top of her tails on the back of her tux – and the snarl held the line there and lodged in tight!

Amy, completely unaware of any of this, proceeded to unfurl her ribbon-pole and started to walk away from the Borelli fighter, flashing her ribbon-pole to the music as she had originally planned. Then she sort of looked back over her shoulder – only to discover that the Borelli was following her – and flying about 8 feet in the air (the shock of it was displayed ALL over her face)!

Well, Amy stopped, held the ribbon pole, and gestured with her free hand for the Borelli to PLEASE settle to the ground like a “good kite” and let her finish the performance (STILL completely unaware that the kite was really “hooked” to her…).

She started to walk away again, and began working with her ribbon pole again, but quickly glanced over her shoulder to be sure the Borelli was “behaving” – only to find it airborne again and following… as the entire audience knew by now, would continue to happen!

Well, the remainder of the Ballet saw Amy (still acting “in character” as Charlie Chaplin) struggling to make the ribbon-pole work – then quieting the Borelli – then working with the ribbon-pole again – then shushing the Borelli – and so forth! And when it was finally evident that the tune was ending, Charlie (Amy) turned around and stomped her feet at the Borelli kite in perfect Chaplin-esque displeasure to end her Mystery Ballet – just as the music finished! The applause was heartfelt – and tremendous!  And when the ovation was finally over, we all heard Jerry Cannon holler, “Amy, You make me LAUGH!”

And when Amy’s Mystery Ballet scores were examined later on, all five judges had given her perfect scores!

Sorry, folks – thinking about that performance is still bringing tears to my eyes as I write this one – and it’s been about a month since the Up The River event occurred.   WOW!!!

Well, we finally finished off the remainder of the Mystery Ballet performances, and with it, we came to the end of the “Up The River” Indoor Kite Festival.

Oh sure, there were Awards to give out.  And there were people to recognize and thank for their contributions.  And there were plenty of individual “feel goods” to go around, too.  And several Bag-Raffle items got handed out.  And then there was still some open “Free-Fly” time left, of course.  But by now, Up The River was mostly all done.

So like most other kite festivals, those folks who had long drives ahead packed up pretty promptly, and said their “goodbyes” graciously but with dispatch too, and they soon put their wheels to the highway and were on their way back home…

Oh, I hung around a while since I had nowhere I absolutely HAD to be. I made sure that both the Cunninghams and the Wrights got my Thank Yous, Up Front and Personally! But, like most other folks, I too got the kite-van headed west to Vancouver, WA fairly shortly.  My own bed would feel pretty good tonight…

So, can we say that Up The River was a “success?” Absolutely – and on several different levels, too.   For one, any time you can get kite flying in front of a bunch of strangers and have them smiling about it, I count that as a success!  Then, two successful comps in one day is generally worth a smile from all those pilots. And, on a very personal level – I’m pleased with meeting the folks I now know in Arlington that I probably would not know if there were no “Up The River” Festival. And finally, I’d certainly NOT have missed Charlie Chaplin’s  (Amy’s) performance in 2008 for anything I can think of.

So – all told – Up The River continues to live up to its billing.  It’s a fine, small-town Indoor festival.  I sure wish there were more Kite Festivals like Up The River!

Fair Winds and Good Friends

Dave “Geezer” Shattuck”