Issue 61: Lincoln City Summer Fest

Yep, I’m headed back to Lincoln City again.  This place kinda feels like “home away from home,” I guess.  Seems like it anyway.  It feels like we’re always close to going there again or just returning from Lincoln City.  Well, their Kite Festivals are spread throughout the year a bit, but there are enough Lincoln City kite-fests to just make ‘em seem close together.

More important, however, is the fact that the city of Lincoln City really gets behind these events!  And that’s not just lip service on my part, either.  I heard about this Kite Festival on the RADIO in Portland, 100 miles away!  Marquees and reader-boards in front of local Lincoln City businesses had “Welcome Kite Fliers” displayed on them when I drove into town, and Tourist Industry business had contributed rooms and meals and made other contributions to this festival.  And the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau, a part of the city’s government, was up front with the financial support too – including travel stipends for the invited fliers, lodging assignments, and support for flying-fields, parking lots, concessions, and vendors for the entire event!  Yep – Lincoln City puts their wallet behind this festival too!

So, I was late getting on the road – as usual.  I’d made arrangements to bunk with Ben D’Antonio, one of the invited fliers, and the General Manager for Revolution Kites.  Ben was bringing his Octopus to the party, so I guess I was sleeping with an Octopi! But, since I was late, I ran smack into the predictable traffic coming down to Lincoln City… meaning I was gonna be later still!  Well, I had Ben’s cell-phone, so I checked in with him a couple of times.  And when it turned out I was going to be REALLY late, he suggested that I just meet him at the Culinary Center on top of City Hall – which is where we finally hooked up. Good! I finally have somewhere to sleep!

Whereupon, the lovely and oh-so-gracious Maggie Conrad, one of the Project Managers for the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau, who also happened to be in charge of THIS FESTIVAL, offered, “We have an extra room.  Why don’t you use it?”  Well, I’d kinda been friends with Maggie ever since the 2007 Indoor Kite Festival a year ago March…  How could I say “No” to this kind lady… So – sorry to disappoint you Ben, but it looks like it’s gonna be just you and your favorite Octopus sharing a room tonight!  My, my, my…

Oh – the Friday night session at the Culinary Center?  It was a “hosted” affair and used as a place for all of the fliers and dignitaries to gather to start the weekend. Not very surprisingly, the Center overlooks the “D-River Wayside State Park” – which is the site of the weekend’s activities!  So I hung around for a good while, schmoozing with Ben and with Barry and Kim Poulter, down from Edgewood, Washington, and Ken Tumminia, one of the local kitefliers, and with big Brian Champie, who was up from San Ramon, California…  and the next thing you know, the room is full of Very Good Kite Pilots.  Even David and Susan Gomberg are there, but that’s really no big deal.  After all, they’re “locals,” living less than 5 miles up the road.  Yeah – I could go through all of the “names” but – why?  You’ll hear about them all tomorrow, on the beach, anyway…

So, Ben and I headed off to our lodgings – “home” for the weekend – both of us staying at the “Bel-aire Inn And Suites” right on Highway 101 in Little Old Lincoln City!  And for the second time since I got there, I was pleasantly amazed!  While our lodgings pride themselves on being an “inexpensive” establishment – the amenities available were anything but “cheap.”  The rooms were bright and clean and cheery… The public areas were all brushed up nice, and the people behind the desk were pleasant and helpful.  I did the “Free Continental Breakfast” in the morning, and found it appetizing, nourishing, and filling! (Enough so that I ate there the next two mornings too.)  So – if you happen through that town and need a place to hang your hat for a night or two – the Bel-aire Inn And Suites are certainly worth looking at!

Naturally, the Kite Festival isn’t slated to start “officially” until 10:00 AM on Saturday. Those of us who’ve been there before, however, know that to get a decent parking place, 8:30 is probably the later limit… so we all showed up before 8:30, parked, and then walked over to the Clipper Ship Coffee Company for a… well, a cup of Coffee, of course!  Well, most of us did.  I went over anyway!  Ben D’Antonio, however, did his “usual.”  He sent ME for coffee, while he set up his banners, delivered his Octopus to the guys on the beach saying, “I got it here.  YOU guys FLY it!,” walked back to his car, grabbed his kite bag, and headed for the beach to “Fly REVS” – which is what he does everywhere he goes…  It’s just Ben’s way!

About 9:30, when everyone had wandered in, all the “Octo Pilots” gathered in normal mob fashion for a Safety and Strategy” session.  David Gomberg – who has some considerable knowledge about both this particular beach (it being his home flying field), and flying “the big stuff” (which is what he does for a living – worldwide!) – gave all and sundry THE WORD about flying safely and what to expect from the crowd we were likely to encounter.  All very prophetic words too, because we’d see Dave’s expectations realized over and over again throughout the weekend.  Fortunately, there were few if any “incidents” save a few “ruffled feathers” from casual passers-by who naturally wanted us to vacate all our parking spots so they could sit in their cars and view the spectacle.  Anyway, introductions all around and safety handled – Dave cut ‘em loose to start digging anchor-pits for sand-anchors… and we were underway!

I say we were underway, but that’s not quite true.  There were two (2) flying fields at the D-River Wayside that weekend – the “Big Stuff Turf,” and “The Demo Field.”  Both were roped off with the expectation (well, call it – “hope”) that the public would honor the ropes and avoid the danger of kite-lines and kites.  They wouldn’t entirely, but the situation would have been much worse without the City’s efforts in that respect.

Anyway, the “Demo” field also had a goodly number of “name” pilots in attendance. Amy Doran and her son Connor were there. Amy would perform her “Charlie Chaplin” routines several times over the weekend.  Al “twinkle-toes” Washington and his grandson Aaron would amaze and delight the audience with their solo Dual-Line kite performances. Carl and Lisa Bragiel were also out and about.  Just watching Carl fly three Shivas from The Kite Shoppe at once is almost a spiritual experience for me.  Yes, I’ve seen Ray Bethell – the grand old man of kiting – fly three many times, but for all of Ray’s magical performances, Carl somehow flies his kites in a mystical way that “touches” me somehow. And one cannot watch Penny Lingenfelter and her “cast of thousands,” all under 10 years old – without being delighted by their fun and exuberance.  And when practiced and pre-planned routines had run their course, able announcer Bob Wendt would throw some folks together ad hoc, put on a tune he just happened to have ready, and make ‘em perform!  And perform they would too!  Even Barry Poulter with his iQuad Revolution and Ben D’Antonio with his Barresi Rev 1.5 got roped in, and they performed well for the audience too!

So right along with “The Big Show” – all those OCTOPI – there was an ongoing, ever changing, Sport Kite show as well.  And it would continue that way as long as there was interest and there were spectators.  And – somehow – the D-River Wayside never seemed to run out of either commodity the whole weekend long.  And, come to think of it, with the caliber of fliers on that beach, it’s no wonder the enthusiasm never waned.  Several of these pilots have spent their share of time on the National or International competition podiums.

But for all the Hoop-de-doo on the Demo Field, announced as frequently as possible by able announcer, Bob Wendt – The Lincoln City Summer Kite Festival, 2008 – was truly ALL ABOUT “Oodles of Octopi” – as the event T-shirt proudly screams!  And now’s probably as good a time as any to introduce the cast of our Big Stuff spectacle!  So – without further ado – I can certify that AT LEAST the following were present, active, and proud to be a part of this show:

Dave and Susan Gomberg – whom you all know, or know of, or just plain SHOULD!
Al Sparling – out of Chicago area, who has traveled the world flying the Big Stuff
Jim Martin – from North Carolina, BIG kite pilot, and the Mega-Kite Team Captain
Mike and Judy Agner – also North Carolineans, world travelers, and Big Kite pilots
Jeff Burka and Marc Bernstein – out of Washington DC, Big Stuff owners & pilots
Phil and Barbara Burks – own and fly the only Rainbow Octopus, both Big Kite fliers
Brian Champie – from San Ramon, CA and flies about anything you can get aloft
Ben D’Antonio – from San Diego, CA, Octo owner & Rev flier who flies Big Stuff too
Barry and Karen Ogletree – from Lufkin TX, who own & fly the BIGGEST out there
Burnett Lee – from Sunnyvale, CA, a West Coast Kite-Fest Big Kite “regular”
Dave and Karleen Hoggan and Mike North – of Berkeley Kite Wanglers, Big Stuff

And my abject apologies to anyone and everyone who I inadvertently left out of this list.  No omission is intended, quite the contrary – but there’s always the odds-on chance that I’ve messed up and flat out missed someone!  And, if by chance, I haven’t messed up, you can still just mark it down that the geezer was WRONG AGAIN!  (Same caveat if I misspelled someone’s name, too!)

Oh, and a couple of other things that I might mention as a part of “setting the scene” for this “show.”

A “Standard” Octopus is roughly 90 feet long and roughly 25 feet wide (my guess).  They are BIG kites, they can pull DEVILISHLY STRONG at times, and THEY CAN BE DANGEROUS!   Therefore, it pays big dividends if you tippie-toe very lightly around someone else’s “Big Toys!”  Every Big Kite pilot’s “horror stories” includes the nightmare of an innocent and well-meaning by-stander being involved in a “Big Kite accident.”

Also, these babies aren’t particularly cheap either.  There is no such thing as a “Standard” off-the-shelf Octopus, since they’re all custom made to order by Peter Lynn in New Zealand, and it will cost you roughly $5,000 for a new one. (Though who knows what they cost in a $4.00-per-gallon economy…)  Then there’s all the expense of lines and tackle that you have to add into the total.  So what we saw on the sands at D-River Wayside on June 28th and 29th, was UPWARDS of  $110,000 worth of nylon and other assorted components.  And nobody there wants to see that kind of money shredded up in an accident either.  Again, please pay attention and stay OUTSIDE of the ropes!

Finally, the weather and the flying field also play a part in any kite enterprise of this magnitude.  It turns out that the weather was mostly agreeable for this event, being between 8 and 15 MPH out of the South on both days, but the field certainly left a lot to be desired. Why?

Well, there’s roughly 100 yards of usable sand between the wall and the high-tide line.  So to be on the safe side, the decision was made early on the first morning that kites would NOT fly over either the water or the walkway fronting the parking lot. So there’d be adequate free space left on either side, so the public could view these kites easily – but NOT overhead, or in-your-face!  Therefore – to make this thing work – the Big Kite pilots would have to “stack” these puppies… And THAT meant it’d take a good deal of trial-and-error discovery to figure out how all of them could fly together in the same general area.  This was not going to be a lay-em-out-and-throw-em-up kinda “picknic!”  One at a time, please…  Then, just wait a while, and adjust and tune if necessary.  Make sure that every kite has “air.”  Make sure that every kite is relatively stable. Then go for the next one…  And let us all know when they’re all up, will ya?

Yeah… Like THAT!  So now you have a rough idea of what these eighteen “Big Stuff” pilots were facing!  And, kite-by-kite, they started in.

They began by digging huge pits for sand-anchors, and then burying them.  There were five main anchors – roughly 50 square feet apiece (another guess), buried 3-4 feet into the sand.  Lines were run between kites and these anchors so that each of the first kites flew from two fly-lines.  “Pilot kites” pulled some of the first Octos aloft, and then the kites aloft were used to pull other kites aloft if it was necessary…  And the owners/pilots flew kites, adjusted kites, tuned kites, and “tweaked” kites…  And they waited, and stabilized.  And they waited some more.  Then they un-buried an anchor, moved it twenty feet, and re-buried it again.  Then tuned, and tweaked, and adjusted again.

If you had a chance to stand on the sidelines and watch all of this, it was either very maddening or quite fascinating – take your pick!

If you were frustrated by the slow pace of kites going into the air, too bad for you.  You missed the REAL show!

— This wasn’t science!  This was really Kite “art” happening before your eyes.

— These pilots constantly had to take wind-shifts and turbulence into account.

— Kites down-wind of other kites suddenly “lost” air, and fell to the ground.

— When that happened, one falling kite could drag 3-4 other kites down with it.

— Then there’d be a half dozen guys out there sorting lines and pulling nylon apart.

— Then they’d make adjustments – and try again!  Re-launch!

From Bob Wendt, the event announcer:  “While we wait for Amy Doran to finish setting up, please look to the North.  I count ten…  No Eleven…  No Twelve big Octopus kites in the sky…”

So, over maybe two and a half or three hours, they’d created what they thought really might be a workable flight set-up. They sat at fifteen Octopi in the air for maybe 15-20 minutes…

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” says Bob Wendt over the PA System.  “Please turn your attention to the North side of the field – where our Octopus Pilots have FIFTEEN lovely Octopi in the air at this time…”

…and so the pilots slowly added another three.  Then they sat like that for another ten or fifteen minutes – tweaking, tuning, adjusting here and there.  But mostly just watching, calculating, judging, deciding…  Where can we put the others in the air – WITHOUT causing another mass cluster-crash?

“May I direct your eyes to the Big Kite field once again, where our pilots NOW have eighteen Octopusses airborne,” says Mr. Wendt into the microphone.

Finally, they added another – and watched and waited…

Yep, about like we thought…  Let’s put another one up over there.  So they did – then waited a while…

Oh, heck – LET’S GO FOR IT!

The last Octopus into the air was a big red one – and suddenly, EVERYBODY knew what was about to happen.

I don’t want to imply that all motion ceased or anything like that – but if you look very carefully at the photo titled “Launching The Last One,” the fellow with his back to you on the extreme right edge of the photo in black clothes is Al Washington – one of the Dualie pilots from behind us on the Demo field.  Nope, Al couldn’t stay away from this spectacle either, so he’d left the Demo field and walked over for a closer look…

Then the pilots finally had TWENTY-ONE OCTOPI IN THE AIR!

Bob Wendt tried to inform the audience of what had finally happened, but the roar from the crowd overshadowed his comments.  The public had watched this event for themselves!

And let’s let them settle in…  Maybe a little more adjusting, but don’t mess around too much.  Don’t upset the delicate “balance” of all these HUGE kites in the air!

Yep – a new World Record for the number of Giant Airborne Inflated Octopi Flown Simultaneously!  (G.A.I.O.F.S.?)  All smiles, nobody hurt, all exactly as planned!

There was a smallish party upwind on the beach for a few minutes.  Photos of pilots for about a gazillion folks with cameras…  Hugs and handshakes – yeah, of course!  Nice Job! Congratulations to YOU too, my friend!

And after a while…  the big kites all rode the air just fine!  Oh, one or two touched the ground a time or two during the afternoon, but there was always someone ready to give a small tug on the proper line to nurse the recalcitrant Octopus back into its “proper” place – airborne, and flying free very nicely, thank you very much!

Lest you think the work was done, I have to tell you that twenty-one Octopi airborne is NOT a situation where Big Kite pilots can rest particularly easy.  Oh, they can “rest” all right – no big “relocating anchors” exercises or hauling on lines or anything like that.   But there’s “rest,” and then there’s “rest – with vigilance.”

Proud?  Yessireee…  But we’ll remain vigilant, thanks!  Too much nylon up there to ever completely walk away and just forget about it!  And so that’s how they spent the rest of the afternoon, too!  Resting – smiling a lot – but with an eye aloft!

Well, while all this was going on, what had I been doing?  Oh, I had my usual “chores” from the get-go.  I wandered through the crowd. I found out where they’d stowed the fresh coffe, and sampled a bit – just for “public safety” reasons, you understand.  Hunted up Maggie Conrad and thanked her profusely for the very nice, though unexpected room.  I watched each of the Demo performers strut their stuff at least once, and I could be wrong but I think I saw them all fly demos several times – excepting only Barry Poulter and Ben D’Antonio.  I’m not certain that either of them hit the Demo field more than once, however. And I ate a hotdog purchased from the food booth.

And I schmoozed with the crowd and took a few photos, though mostly of kites rather than people.  One of the “local kite celebrities” happened by, so I shot a few photos of Rick Brown’s newest (and prettiest?) Cody flying very well…  Barry Poulter and his wife Kim had waded the “D-River” to go fly Revs over on the north side, in front of the Sea Gypsy motel.  Barry had also put three of his 50’ “Meteors” into the air, and I took a couple of shots of them, too (since I own one).

I happened to be up on the sidewalk overlooking the beach when Carl Bragiel flew three Shivas with 100’ tube-tails tied on the wingtips, to some Irish lass singing “Danny Boy.”  Carl flew so smoothly and so gracefully… and so “one” with the music – that it took my breath away and literally brought tears to my eyes.  After it was over, I went out to Carl to thank him and tell him what he’d done to and for me…  We shared a big hug, and I told him, “You NEVER quit this, Carl!  I can’t put into words what I feel you’re doing, but it’s really VERY special!  You’re doing things with kites that nobody else is doing!”  Carl got this big grin on his face, and thanked me… as did Lisa, Carl’s wife.

And for those who’ll read this write-up and cry “Baloney — Ray Bethell can do THAT!”  I’ll answer, “Yes, that Grand Old Man of Kiting can do WHATEVER HE WANTS!  Still, Carl is doing things in the air with three kites that NOBODY else is doing!  Carl’s style is very different from Ray’s style, and while I love what Carl is doing – I certainly take NOTHING away from Ray!  And I also take nothing away from Carl, either!” (So Email me if you want to quibble about this some more.)

Anyway, as the sun headed down toward the horizon and the air began to chill a bit, the breeze began to taper off too.  So finally, one by one, the big kites began to drift to the sand, to be rolled up or stuffed into duffel bags, waiting to fly again on another day.  And as the sun hit the horizon, the beach was empty of everything but a little refuse and a whole bunch of footprints.

I don’t rightly remember what I did for dinner on Saturday night.  I will readily admit, however, that I was certainly tired – done in by all that walking, all that fresh ocean air, and all that fine excitement!  I may have eaten dinner by myself, or with Ben D’Antonio.  But I might have just gone back to the motel and climbed into bed too.  Whatever happened, I certainly slept well.

Sunday was a one-for-one repeat of Saturday.  Well, “almost” anyway…  The beach was the same, and so was the weather – including the winds.  Everyone who was there yesterday was there again today.  About the only change was – the pressure of hunting for a World Record was missing.

Sure… There were Octopi in the skies at the D-River Wayside.  Yes, Bob Wendt held the mike in the Sound Booth.  And the invited Demo fliers covered the sands with their usual antics and demonstrations of skill.  People ate, drank, wandered on the beach, let their kids run wild, and Oooo-ed and Ahhhh-ed at the pretty Octopi in the skies. Ben D’Antonio flew Revolution kites all day – and I wandered hither and yon, yakking with whoever might share a word with me.

Among other folks, I happened to run into Mr. Barry Ogletree… who I’d probably met on Friday night, but we shared a few words on the beach.  He was interested in his big “OLO” – standing for Over Large Octopus!  Barry really owned “The Biggest Kite On the Beach.”  While the length of a “Standard” Peter Lynn Octopus is 90 feet, Barry has a black one he calls “Wiggy” that measures 120 feet instead, and he wanted to know if I had any shots of his kite in the sky yesterday in my camera.  Well, I would have about 400-500 shots by the time the weekend was over – most of ‘em taken on Saturday.  Yeah, I’d be sure he got the best photos of “Wiggy” that I had.  So, when I was selecting shots for this article, I made sure I put the best one of “Wiggy” in, and he – and all the other Octo pilots – got copies of all the selected photos for this event report, too.

I also ran into Jerimy Colbert, flying his hand-made Codys.  I didn’t see his boys, though I don’t think I’ve ever run into him with out at least one in attendance, so I must have just missed them.  Anyway, Jerimy is a special guy and one of the nicest, most “selfless” people I’ve ever met, and he really knows his kites too.  He’s a “local” from the Lincoln City area, so it’s always my pleasure to run into him when I’m down there.

And, out on the beach, I got lucky and ran into Doug and Linda LaRock.  Doug is one of those people who constantly remind us that safety is paramount when it comes to flying big kites. Oh, not because he ever says anything… just because he’s still around – because he’s a man who was unfortunate enough to be involved in a major kiting accident. No, Doug’s not the kind who’d throw that in anyone’s face at all, but his mere presence is enough to remind ME to “fly safe.”

Anyway, Doug had a new kite in the air – a cellular he’d built, and he figured that this D-River beach would suffice for a test-flight.  So I unstrapped the camera and banged a couple of shots off.  Pretty kite, and it’s darned stable in the air too!  And though I didn’t know it at the time, I’d see him on the beach on Monday, when he’d fly his big 45’ hand-made patchwork delta.  That’s also a lovely kite to see in the air, but he didn’t have it with him on Sunday.

And, before I knew it, I began to experience some of that old post-festival “let-down” too.  This twenty-forth Lincoln City Summer Kite Festival was coming to an end – whether I liked it or not.  And, as I was wandering around, wondering where all the people had gone, down to the beach came Lindsey Johnson and Ronda Brewer, another pair of “local” kite fliers.  Lindsey makes at least part of a living producing kite paraphernalia and kite-kits, and Ronda’s a real “trooper” in the kite community of Oregon and in the AKA too.

Ronda and Lindsey have a rather nice way to combat that post-festival let-down I was mentioning up above.  When a festival’s over – they go fly kites!  So I hung around a bit and sorta “helped” them combat those post-fest blues… and ya-know – flying kites kind of helped me over that hump, too!  But after a while, it was time for me to hit the beach as well.  After all – I had a “party to attend, so it was back to that very nice Bel-aire Inn for a quick shower and a shirt change.  Then it was off to “The Beach House” with Ben D’Antonio to attend our gathering!

As I mentioned, I didn’t know Barry and Karen Ogletree, and their son Will very well, but they seemed like nice folks, and sure, I’d be happy to accept their invitation to attend a small gathering this evening.  It turns out, Barry and I agree that talking on the beach at a festival isn’t necessarily the best place to get to know people.  I mean, when we’re on the beach – most of us just talk about “kites!”

So… Barry decided to host a small get together for all the Big Stuff pilots, and I was invited, as was Ben D’Antonio – so we went!  Nice folks.  We mingled, roamed, ate a few canapés and salmon-cakes.  I had a glass of very nice Merlot, and Ben did his normal coffee bit…  I think I probably said hello to everyone there by the time the evening was over – including the restaurant owner! Anyway, we did all right, stayed a couple of hours, and then headed back to the Bel-aire Inn again for a stint watching some movie on the tube, followed by a good, healthy rest again.

Next morning, Ben decides early on that he needs to abandon any thoughts of going to the beach and just start his trek back to San Diego (a whopping long drive to make solo, brother), and I didn’t blame him one bit.  It’s a bit overcast this morning, but I had a date at the D-River Wayside again. So I rolled on back to a very empty D-River Wayside once again, where I’d planned to meet Phil and Barb Burks.  Yes, they were there all right, and were intent on flying a couple of Dualies as a “pair,” so I let them play a little bit.  Doug and Linda LaRock were also there, and Doug was thinking about assembling and flying the hand-made 45’ patchwork Delta. So we yakked for a little while and then I readily agreed to be tutored by the master if he’d give me “Delta” instruction, and Phil and Barb said they’d come and help too.

When I call Doug’s big Delta “hand-made,” I mean ALL of it was hand-made – even the extruded aluminum spars!  Doug’s a machinist by trade, and he built every one of his spars – each with 3-4 rigid locking joints.  Well, we assembled away – Doug’s spar joints are actually pretty simple, once you’re walked through the first one.  Soon the kite was assembled and airborne, so Doug unrolled a long sheet-tail for the kite which seemed to just flow in the wind from the back edge of the kite…  What an entrancing creation in the sky, and only slightly less lovely on the ground, too.  We flew for about an hour – me helping Doug and Linda, and Phil and Barb Burks pulled out some of their own stuff to fly.  Next thing we knew, we had our own little mini-fest going right there on the beach.  But the hour was nearly up, and Doug started making noises about getting everything packed away and starting on the road back to Yakima, WA.  Soon enough, Doug had his gear all packed in his rig, and Phil and Barb and I were all kinda looking up at the overcast…

Hey, we’d had a very fine festival and enjoyed ourselves tremendously, but “now” might be a pretty good time to think about putting it on the road for home. So, that decision made, I helped Phil and Barb truck stuff up to their little Saturn – which already had a ton of stuff inside, including an extremely pretty “Rainbow Octopus!”

Well, even though it’s always a mite sad, I reach a point where the thought of my own bed, and my own shower, and a home-cooked meal – even if it’s only plain old spaghetti – sounds pretty fine to me.  So I headed over to the kite van, gave a friendly wave to good friends Phil and Barb, and headed off for Vancouver, WA.  And about two and a half hours later, I rolled to a stop in front of the house – quite happy to be home again. Yeah, the folks at Lincoln City put on one dandy Summer Kite Festival this year, but nice as it was – home always feels pretty darned fine!


See ya all there next year…  I’ll meet you on the beach at the D-River Wayside!

Fair Winds and Good Friends,