Issue 67: Dave’s World – Wildwood

Susie doesn’t come to Wildwood anymore. She is a veteran of the old days with screeching tires, boom boxes, high hair and lime green spandex. She says when the festival shifts to Cape May, she’ll come back.

Actually, not too much has changed. The boardwalk scene is alarming for anyone with teenage children. The noise is relentless. Service in most restaurants is … unpolished. And the hotels are overpriced. Crowds still scatter as the Tram Car approaches. But there are some really great kitefliers on the beach. I haven’t missed a Wildwood in 20 years and didn’t plan to miss this one.

The legendary sport kite event that once drew 200 contestants with performers like Top of the Line, High Performance, Sue Taft (Sedgewick), Bob Hanson or Abel Ortega has now dwindled to two dozen fliers. Things change. The sport kite action is now out on the (non competitive) Revolutions field. And the Show Kites get a lion’s share of attention from the Boardwalk.

Winds were light on Friday when Mike Agner and I arrived from Philadelphia. Pete Dolphin had been kind enough to pick us up and give us a lift. First kites in the air were Dennis Hawley’s OLO, Tom and Debbie Zack’s Cuttle, Jeff and Joyce King’s Crab, and Jeff Burka’s Octopus. As the breezes grew during the day, the aquatic theme expanded with a pair of large Divers.

We were pleased to see Jack Rogers and his family return to a kite field. Jack was a major big kite fliers several years ago and then took a break. His son Danny is older now and together, they are re-building the Rogers Kiter Show.

One central piece in their collection is a Giant Sock we made for them about ten years ago.

The Roger’s Sock has a 150 foot barrel and detachable 150 foot streamers. Together they create an enormous 300 foot behemoth which is absolutely the largest spinning windsock in North America and possibly the world.

To inflate the sock, you hold the back closed and let wind begin to fill it. The trick is knowing when to let go. Release the back too quickly and the barrel collapses. Wait too long and you can’t control it. Socks of 150 feet or more as extremely powerful and require both expertise and caution.

Watching the Sock begin to fill, you sense the size and power of the thing. It is a spine-tingling sensation. Then as the fabric swells taught, the vents take hold and the mass begins to rotate.

The final step is to attach the tails. We used Velcro so they would safely tear loose in an emergency or could be packed separately to reduce package weight.

The wind conditions in Wildwood were perfect for a graceful launch and then grew so the sock could be safely lifted off the surface. It dominated the beach all day Saturday. Of course, bringing the monster in required a few more hands. Great show Jack!!

The Wildwood agenda included a night fly, indoor fly, Fighter and Rok contests, and workshops and exhibitions. I hung with the Show Kite guys.

Paul Keeler inflated a cool “family” of Caterpillars, Karen and Tim Waters few Crowns and Suttons, and Jeff May put up what we now call “Stars and Stripes-o-Pus”.

Check out this NBC Video for a better taste of the weekend.

BTW — anyone who has been in Wildwood knows to Watch the Tram Cars. For the rest of you, click here for a brief introduction.

David Gomberg