Issue 60: Lincoln City Indoor Kite Festival

Yep – we’re headin’ off to the Lincoln City Indoor Kite Festival again.

Sure, we’ll be going to this one for the fourth year in a row, and every time it just gets a little better… But I gotta tell you – there’s nothing “normal” about this one, and it ain’t your normal run-of-the-mill Kite Fest by any stretch of the imagination.  So if you plan to show for this fest next year, you probably need to get hold of us ahead of time, and we’ll fill you in.

Let’s just say that the Annual Lincoln City Indoor Kite Festival is far more “show” than Festival – but that’s not a bad thing at all.  Indeed, it’s one of the very special attractions as far a we’re concerned.  So much so in fact, that we start planning ahead with lodging reservation and car pooling arrangements and cross-country chatter between pilots, so when this event kicks off – everyone’s got their “assignment” well in hand.  What’s this bit about “Assignment” you ask?  Well, since Lee and Debbie Park are the producers for this “show,” all participating pilots will have a “role” to play…  Last year the show was all centered around “Beatles” tunes – and this year, we’d put on a show with a decidedly French theme…  (and maybe we’ll do “Disney” next year?  Who knows?)

So – as is the norm – there were a couple of Out-Of-Area pilots again this year, namely Scott Weider from Rhode Island and Paul de Bakker from North Carolina!  Yeah – a bit of a way to come to fly kites in somebody else’s choreographed show set to music…  But it’s always great fun, and the kite-folk camaraderie can’t be beat, and the facilities and amenities are really nice – and we always do some additional “fun” stuff on our own just to enjoy the company of the out-of-town folks like Scott and Paul a bit longer than normal…

Scotty Weider showed up on a Tuesday, and spent a couple of days with us before we lit out for Lincoln City early Friday morning.  Scotty and I had planned a quasi-expedition up the Columbia River Gorge, but we mostly hung around town and played at the Kite Shoppe – and watched it rain!!!  We did get a semi-clear day during the week, so we made a short auto-trip up there, but it was still cold and wet, and I don’t think I’d take that particular drive for a couple of years, now that my recent Gorge experience was so mediocre. And Paul de Bakker also flew in a couple of days early, met a friend and they went touring as well.

When we first started going to the Lincoln City Indoor a few years back, it started on a Tuesday!  Tuesday was the start of “practices” with a first performance on Friday evening.

This year, the stuff began at noon on Friday – meaning you had “Set Up” in the morning and a “walk thru” right after lunch, followed by a full-blown dress rehearsal later in the afternoon – and you still gave your first paid performance on FRIDAY EVENING!  And that’s why the mailed out music and flight “assignments” from Lee and Debbie!

Saturday morning was another mini-rehearsal at 9:00 AM (for those who still needed some small adjustments), followed by a performance in the early afternoon, an AKA sanctioned Indoor Comp later in the afternoon, and another performance Saturday evening.

And Sunday was almost a “vacation” day, with a late arrival at 11:00 AM, a few demos and a Hot Tricks shoot-out, followed by a final performance at about 3:00 PM (if my decidedly “Senior” memory serves me right, of course).

And throughout the whole affair, there were vendors making food and selling goods – including KITES, some free indoor kite lessons for the kids, event sweatshirts and tee-shirts for sale, and a host of other products and service available – all put together by the wonderful “Maggie!” (who is new in the job this year, and whose last name I’ve unfortunately forgotten).  So Lincoln City is not just the “location” of choice for the event…  The city also subsidizes the event – including renting the High School, travel stipends for fliers, some meal vouchers and other small amenities, vendor coordination, the event “publicity,” and all the rest of the organizational “stuff.” And in return, they staff the ticket booth and they take whatever proceeds accrue to help defray some of their expenses.

Well, so Scott Weider and I get to Lincoln City on Friday in time to get a few pieces of the free Pizza (courtesy of Lincoln City, via the lovely Maggie), and then Scotty is “big-time” into the “production” and I’m free to roam and shoot a few photos – which I do!  And – since I have nothing much else to do, I try to help a little here-and-there… with only marginal success.  Still, I keep busy and out of the way for the most part.  Helping set up The Kite Shoppe’s booth consumes a hunk of the early afternoon. And the “dress rehearsal” goes on too, so I attend to see what it looks like – and it looks like an absolute shambles to me, but what do I know really?

And come Friday night, it all comes slamming together and we have “a show!”  Now, I’ve been in both amateur and a few professional theatrical performances before, but this is just plain “uncanny!”  Nobody puts on any kind of a show like this with only a single rehearsal – but Lee and Debbie Park do it – and somehow, it works! Amazing!!!

I won’t try and “explain” the show, but I’ll tell all you pilots that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen – or done – before.  Never mind all your fancy “Comp” tricks.  Instead, think of “entertaining” people by flying kites indoors, in a show envisioned by a couple of Ex- Cirque du Soleil performers… Lee and Debbie Park.  NO points are given for how flat your Axel is, or how many backspins or roll-ups you can accomplish – they don’t even care if you can axel the thing at all.  THEIR kind of question is:  Can you entertain folks?  Can you hold the audience’s attention? Can you seduce the folks in the “cheap seats” with your kite?  If so, well COME ON DOWN!

Yeah – THAT kind of kite flying!

So, anyway – Friday night’s performance came off pretty well. Oh, there were a couple of late entrances where folks forgot their queues and some of the performers hadn’t quite ironed out their routines as yet, but all-in-all things went pretty well – and the long and short of it is the audience never noticed several little glitches that separate a hum-drum performance from a “polished” one.

But if anyone made a major “glitch,” it was likely me!  Your not-so-humble photographer here made a major error in not upping the film speed on his digital cameras to ISO 1600 (now a “Standard” FOR THE Lincoln City Indoor), so lots of the photos – and I took hundreds – are blurry with movement, and turned out to be unusable.  Moreover, I completely forgot about checking my photos later on, so I continued making the same error throughout the entire festival.  “My Bad,” as they say, and I apologize to both our Kitelife readers and the assembled performers for my problems with “quality.” Yes – I WILL improve next year!

Immediately after the performance ended, I ran into the marvelous Mr. Gomberg, who is a local resident, living about 4 miles from the High School.  I happen to think he’s marvelous, mostly because he’s become a pretty darned decent friend over the years, rather than for anything he’s done (or not done) for and with the AKA.  Anyhow, we had a nice chat and I gave David a couple of bottles of Argentinean “Malbec” wine – superb stuff, if you happen to be a red wine drinker.  David himself does not particularly enjoy red wine, though also doesn’t really object to it, but MRS. Gomberg, who was not in attendance tonight, DOES like red wine. I was promised Susan’s personal “Thank Yous” the following evening, however, when she would attend Saturday evening’s performance.

Amazingly, most of the performers were wrapped up and ready to head for the barn – or the restaurant or bar – after a very short time, though I guess I shouldn’t wonder since it’d been a travel / rehearsal / performance day for almost all of the cast.  Maybe time for a little relaxation, some food to be sure, and perhaps a little libation or two to ease the body and soul.  So Scotty and I headed out, grabbed a couple of sandwiches, and headed off to the condo for a good night’s sleep. Besides, Scott said he had an up close and personal date with a hot-tub – which he accomplished, though he reported he only got about 15 minutes of immersion before the staff closed it up for the evening!

Saturday morning brought the inevitable routine (Yup, we’re back at a Kite Festival) – meaning grab a cup of Theresa’s coffee and head out for the venue to see what’s cookin’, and get ready for our day. The performers would do two shows, with an Indoor Comp sandwiched in between – meaning a relatively full day!

It’s sometimes amazing what a night can do.  Today’s first performance would give the audience the impression that it’d all been meticulously crafted, rehearsed, and fine-tuned!

Obviously that wasn’t the case, but the performers “romanced” the dickens out of the audience – flirting with spectators with low, slow overhead kite flights and dazzling the folks with displays of slam-bang visual artistry and sublime aerial delights from Lee and Debbie.  Folks like Scotty Weider and Bud Hayes and Paul de Bakker are masters of the low/slow stuff, and conversely Alan Cunningham with his “birds” and Jeff Reed with his staked fighters can really provide some “dazzle” at the center of the floor.  And Lam Hoac brings the whole package in a single performance. Lee and Deb provide marvelous indoor quad-line and single-line work, coupled with lovely gymnastics and Debbie’s specialty, “Tissue” work overhead. Altogether, the whole package was extremely well presented and the combination of flying and other artistry was nearly irresistible to the audience.  Great effort, buys!

Then, after a short break and a couple of warm-up demos, we were into the Indoor Comp! I’ll brush by this quickly – except to note that there were several NON-performers (not part of the show) who also competed – among them, Dick Curran, Toby Arndt, Connor Doran, and David Bradley.  Results are posted here on the NWSKL’s website, but I’ll save you the trouble if all you want is the flier’s places.  They were:

1st Lam Hoac
2nd Paul de Bakker
3rd Amy Doran
4th Alan Cunningham
5th Toby Arndt
6th David Hathaway
7th David Bradley
8th Dick Curran
9th Conner Doran

Following a quick dinner break, usually off the “Teriyaki” stand in the lobby, we were right back into it with the evening performance.  It was on time, well done, and almost “old Hat” with the performers now – so much so that some of them (Penny Lingenfelter?) began to embellish their assigned roles a bit, leading to both the audience’s and performers delight.  Everyone got comfortable now, and the show did indeed seem like they’d been performing it forever!  Again, fine job, people.

And once the show was complete, I was approached by the Gombergs, including Susan’s mother, and I told the story of the wine with a strong suggestion that they take it home and sample it.  Susan wanted to wait until the Lincoln City Summer Kite Festival, but I admonished her to try now, on the “there’s more in the stores if you like this stuff” basis.  There’s really no sense “waiting” if the wine is drinkable now.  I imagine I’ll hear the results sometime later – maybe even at L/C’s Summer fest if I get out there!

Anyway, tonight we finished early enough that there was actually time for “dinner” together.  Lindsey Johnson and Ronda Brewer had recommended a place behind a Motel in Lincoln City, and being as they are local residents who normally show us good places to eat, we took their suggestion again – and it was a good one.  Unfortunately, we arrived right at the time when the hosts of the place turned out the lights – but we were informed that they were still serving, it was just that the place was participating in a “blackout” to save energy as part of an Earth Day celebration or something.  So we just ordered, enjoyed our candlelight conversations with fellow fliers from around the country, and eventually shared a very nice meal with all and sundry.

Then it was time to beat feet to the condo in the hopes of getting Scotty some more Hot-Tub time, which was accomplished, even though the soak was more abbreviated than the night before.  No matter however, since Scott was satisfied and refreshed, which is what counted. (Scott is still recovering from major back injuries suffered in a rear-ender with a UPS semi on his way to Wildwood on Memorial Day weekend 2007, and he needs that relief.)

Sunday morning found us a bit “lazy” around the condo, with even enough time for a second cup of coffee.  Yes, I’m always grateful for those “second cup” mornings!  Still, we cleaned out the detritus on the front floor of the Kite Van and loaded up for the 5 mile trek to the High School again.  And by now, heading over there is almost a “way of life” again – so much so that I began feeling a little nostalgia over the pending separation from all of these fine people who would soon wend their ways back home to other parts of the country.

Warm-ups, demos, and a short Hot-Tricks competition started the activities today, and I took some time and wandered the vendor booths just to say “Hi” to the folks out there.  Theresa, owner of The Kite Shoppe in Vancouver, Washington (and my landlady) had a booth there, so I spent a little time “watching the store” while she “rested” and then grabbed another cup of coffee before returning.  Jeremy Colbert was out there with son Ben like he always is – teaching any youngsters who want to learn how to fly indoors.  Other “locals” Deb Cooley and Ken Tumminia had been alternation in the Build-A-Kite booth, and my old friend Dawn Brademus from The Nordic Inn was busy selling tickets at the front door.  Yep – Lincoln City was still doing a fine job of supporting the sport of Kiting!

Then it was time to head back into the gym for the final performance of the weekend! It occurs to me that I’ve not mentioned much about the “content” of the “Show” that’s the reason we were all assembled in Lincoln City.  All I can say is that it’s something akin to a combination of top-notch flying skills performed by some of the best kite pilots in the country, woven together with a loose story-line similar to the kind of thing you’d find in a well run Cirque du Soleil type of show.  If you’ve not seen one, it’d awfully difficult to describe this kind of “performance,” but if you EVER have the chance, for heaven’s sake DO NOT pass the opportunity up!

Anyway, needles to say, the last performance went off on time, flawlessly (well… as precisely as a bunch of kite fliers who only came together on Friday afternoon can accomplish), and with grace and style – which is the specialty of Lee and Debbie Park.  Lincoln City and Aerial Delights, the company the Parks own, deserve each other and do great things for Kiting in the process!

Finally, it was all over…  Oh, sure – there was an awards presentation for the Comps and several other kudos and “Thank Yous” handed out to the fine folks from Lincoln City who’ve made all the difference in the weekend. Bless you ALL, Lincoln City minions!  We love you to death!

Then it was “tear-down” time, and before you know it the gym was empty – save for the occasional bits of debris that any audience leaves behind in the grandstands.  All right…  Perhaps time for a little food and beverage, and a chance to unwind?

As for us… we stayed overnight.  And the next day, Paul de Bakker and Scott Weider took a little sea voyage in search of the Grey Whale (found some too), and then we all went flying.  Paul de Bakker had some new kites built by his company, Focus Designs.  I bought a marvelous Indoor SLK kite named the “Skate” (which also flies in darned-near ZERO wind OUTDOORS – see the piece on “Tulip Town), and another called the “Jinx” which is a nice outdoor Sport Kite with an MSRP in the Mid $200 range.  Both kites flew this weekend, and deserve your attention if you’re in the market.  I’m likely to buy 3-4 more “Skates,” just because it’s an exceptionally nice kite to have around when you’re out there on the beach “waiting for wind” – which is not an altogether unusual occurrence for an SLK flier like myself.

See ya all on the beach somewhere really soon.  I’ll be the guy flying the “Skate” when nothing else will hang in the air!  See ya there!

Fair Winds and Good Friends –