Issue 61: Bedford Kite Festival

Returning to Bedford England for the International Kite Festival this summer was like attending a much anticipated family reunion.

Most of the international guests arrived in Bedford throughout the day on Thursday 29 May. Godfrey and Karen Gamble from Australia came in early to visit friends and they were kind enough to man the kite making workshop marquee (in the USA we call them tents) in the center of town. It was a wonderful setting included in with the farmers market.

The morning of Friday 30 May was the press & TV day with the chance to say a warm hello to the local flyers and council representatives we knew from previous years. All day kite flyers from across the UK streamed into the hotel.

I was again reminded of what an incredible wealth of talented kite artists and makers there are in England. Just as important are the legions of dedicated kite flyers that support the many festivals that occur across the country during the very full British kite season.

The strong showing of kite fliers that arrived in Bedford was a tribute to not only a vibrant kiting community across Great Britain, but also to their love and dedication to Malcolm & Jeannette Goodman. Easily one of the finest couples in Kiting the Goodman’s are kiting veterans who excel in festival organizing, workshops, and collecting, all those very important aspects that keep the kite world flying.

We all stayed at the Park Hotel that sat adjacent to the ‘River Great Ouse’. It was a brief and very lovely walk down the river path to the flying field, and a beautiful way to begin and end the kite days. Rides were graciously provided for us by the organizers, but many of us preferred to walk. It was late spring and the banks of the lake were full of baby ducks and baby geese. I had seen many a baby duck in my day; however this was the first time I had seen baby geese! The gangly, spindly looking baby geese made me laugh out loud every time I saw them.

This years Bedford International Kite Festival was Saturday 31 May and Sunday 1 June 2008.

The actual flying field was a bit challenging in terms of size and also being surrounded by trees on all four sides. As Malcolm said, “your frustration begins!”  The good news is that the sponsors and organizers are well aware of the sites limitations and are quite pleased if everyone just tries their best.

The weather added to this years challenge. There were thick clouds with sprinkles of liquid sunshine, and very sparse wind.

The flyers did their best; some even sprinted across the field from time to time with their kites fluttering behind them.

These are the days when you realize too many kite flyers have gone the route of the soft kite. Framed kites are much easier to fly behind you when you want to ‘pull’ it across the sky, or are fortunate enough to have a spare golf cart you can fly behind.

There was a kite making workshop staffed by the Swindon White Horse Kite Flyers…AKA’s kite club of the year in 2007. They have the prestigious claim that every member they have is an AKA member. This is an even more impressive feet when you learn that they are a kite club from the United Kingdom!

I brought a kite history exhibit to set up across from the workshop station in the information marquee. No matter how many years I drag that exhibit around, it still makes me happy to see it enjoyed. It is especially gratifying when someone reads one of the sites panels (Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit Series) or sees the Garber Target Kite, then runs to get a family member or friend to show them the bit of kite history that they just learned. Then I invariably hear them saying as they walk away… “I didn’t know kites did that!”

Saturday evening was a delicious catered dinner with the Mayor of Bedford who graciously went around the room welcoming everyone.

The vendors surrounding the field on all four sides had a wide variety of wares. Some vendors had delicious hand made cheeses and meats from local family owned farms, others had arts & crafts, there were kiddie rides, local beers and an impressive showing of dogs!

At one time or another over the course of the weekend, every dog in the adjacent residential neighborhoods was walked to the park we were flying the kites in. A beautiful assortment of retrieving, herding, sporting, and even terrier dogs were on display. There was a huge, gorgeous, brown Newfoundland dog that parted the crowds like he was Moses parting the sea!

Doug Jones extraordinary kite historian and veteran member of the Swindon White Horse Kite Fliers was kind enough to take on the very challenging task of tour guide to some of the international guests. Can you say…herding cats! On Monday 2 June some of the international kite flyers who were staying on in England to attend the Wirral kite festival the following weekend took the train to London for the day. Now that man deserves a pin of some sort!

I was all pleased with myself when a reporter asked me for an interview. I told her all about kite history and the value of kites in education, I thought I was so slick when I tied it in nicely with Homan Walsh and the Niagara Festival. A few days later when I found the article on line, I was brought back down to earth as I read the article and saw the reporter said my name was ‘Meg Ryan’!

Ah-well, Malcolm tells me that when all was said and done the spectators and sponsors were happy, and I guess that is what really counts.

Until next time…

Meg Robinson-Albers