Issue 70: Windless Kite Festival

Yeah, we’re on the road again, this time to the 9th Annual “Windless” Indoor Kite Festival – the oldest continual Indoor Festival in the USA. Every year, I’m kind of surprised by how young this “oldest” USA festival is, but then I remind myself that Indoor flying is really a relatively new activity on the kiting scene, too. Before we had Indoor flying, Halloween signaled the start of a L-O-N-G period until ice, snow, and inclement weather finally gave way to flyable outdoor weather again. Like maybe April Fools Day – if we were lucky!

NOW!!! For those of you who STILL do not believe that kite flying can occur indoors, I have only TWO things to say on that score:

1. NO!!! ABSOLUTELY NO FANS are involved at all! Indeed, indoor air turbulence is to be avoided at all costs!

2. And to show you that INDOOR KITE FLYING ACTUALLY WORKS – open a browser – go to U-Tube – and search on “Indoor Kite Flying” and you will find all the proof necessary.

Anyway, this particular iteration of Windless turned out to be sort of special, since our “Invited Flier” this year was none other than Lee Sedgwick – in many ways, the originator of several of the Outdoor conventions we now use in our competitions – along with a few other ideas that didn’t hang around long enough to become conventions, too. In any case, it was our pleasure, honor, and delight to play host to one of the truly “Grand Old Men” of kiting… And I had the personal joy of picking Lee up at Portland International Airport on the Thursday before Windless got underway, and driving him around the state and sticking with him (or him with me) until I dropped him off again the following Monday.

Actually, Lee is really easy to accommodate. I figured he’d be hungry after spending a day on airplanes, so I offered him a decent meal upon arrival. Lee’s choice? “Beer and Pizza.” How could it get any easier? So with that kind of easy-to-live-with consideration from Lee, we fed him per his choices and gave him a bed for the night and then met up with John and Takako Barresi for breakfast on Friday morning prior to the 120 mile trek to Long Beach, WA. Well – we also had a planned stop in Astoria, OR along the way. John and Lee were the subjects of a Radio Interview with Carol Newman at KMUN 91.6 FM that Friday afternoon to help publicize “Windless” as an attraction available to the populace in and around Long Beach over the weekend. Then it was off to check into our lodgings, and then we headed for the Long Beach Elementary School gym – home of the Windless festival.

Friday evening at Windless is “gathering” time, event “setup,” and a Free Fly with an open gym floor. Kay Buesing, the Director of the World Kite Museum – which is the primary sponsor of the festival – is there. As is Scott Davis, the main Organizer of Windless for all nine years of its existence. And, by the time we arrive at about 5:00 pm, there’re probably a good two dozen people there – fliers and various other folks. So I help set up kites as “decoration,” and others do sound and floor equipment, and fliers are out making certain that favorite kites haven’t forgotten how to fly competition routines… But mostly it’s “Hi! How are ya?” time, and kicking the dust and cobwebs out of minds and muscles that haven’t flown kites in a couple of months. Yup – people connecting with other people, and re-connecting with Kites too!

Our arrival gives reason for small crowds to gather. John Barresi is well enough regarded as a pilot that others gather around to talk “kites” and to congratulate he and Takako on their recent wedding. Lee also has a few folks who want to talk with him – though mostly older folks who remember his name and his continuous contributions to the sport of kite flying… And little by little, that familiar kiting camaraderie among the participants is re-established again. To be quite honest, that kiting “family” harmony is what draws us there, as much as anything. After all – kiting is really all about people anyway, because without a flier on the other end of the line, a kite is really just “wall-art!”

But after 2-3 hours of impromptu “Demos,” and friendly banter, and sound-checks, and test-flights, and stories about our Christmas events, and other miscellany, it’s time to go find some food. So we head out to our favorite Thai restaurant – only to find that we’re too late for dining in, and only take-out food is available. So we all leave with boxes of their culinary delights and head back to the condo. Some of us make use of the Hot-Tub, and others just laze around, but none of us are awake for very long. The festival is “for real” tomorrow, and we all want to be sharp in the morning.

We all roll out of bed, dress, and “coffee up” and then head for the gym by 9:00 am on Saturday. The morning hours are Free Fly again, but this is really the time to warm up, make any adjustments, get your music out, and stretch out any kinks in bodies and minds. Several fliers have New kites to fly – Scott Davis and Connor Doran among them. And starting later in the morning, our intrepid sound crew, Bob and Donna Wendt open the floor for a few Demos, and by that time, there’re a fair number of spectators in the bleachers too. It’s high time to get this festival rolling. And out of about ten or a dozen competition-grade pilots, nearly everyone “Demos” at least once, and several pilots work in a second Demo too. Folks like Penny Lingenfelter and Lee Sedgwick and John Barresi who do not compete, also take a share of the Demonstration time as well. And each “Demo” seems to be just a little better than the last one, and a few pilots come off the floor nodding to the applause and wiping a bit of sweat off their brows, and – between the pilots and the spectators – it’s actually beginning to feel like we have a Festival underway.

I was comfortable enough with what was going on at the gym that I took a little time out for a real restaurant breakfast and also I paid a long-ish visit to the widow of a dear kite-flier friend of mine. It was the first time I’d had a chance to see Debra Glass since her “best friend” passed away the end of November. But I was back in the gym, with my camera out and ready to roll well before the start of the Indoor competitions at 2:00 pm. Nope – No problem, folks.

And as the photos may show, shooting in the gym represents a few problems – the main one being the gym is a bit “light challenged.” So while there may be as many as 30 shots that finally make it into Kitelife with this report, I actually pushed the shutter-release roughly 400 times during Windless this year to get those 30 shots…

Anyway, I made it back in time for the “Pilot’s Meeting” that precedes the competitions. It’s awfully nice to have Bill Rogers as the Chief Judge at Windless every year, since he’s also the guy who literally “wrote the book” for the Indoor Competition Rules for the American Kitefliers Association (AKA). So Bill pulled the herd of comp pilots together at 1:45 pm for his Chief Judge’s briefing and we were underway with the competitions by 2:00 pm – right on schedule! It’s SO nice to have people who’re used to these routines, and help keep things pulled together, get things done right, and help festivals and competitions stay on schedule.

And we’re OFF! Like the Demos, each individual competition amounts to a pilot, with one or more kites, and flown to music as a “ballet” where the pilot demonstrates his/her skill at flying the kite(s) and interpreting the music, all for a score. At the end of the competitions, the individual with the best score wins (Oh, I suppose that really IS obvious, isn’t it?). In a way – it’s all pretty simple. But as the very best way to give you an idea of the complexities of it all, you really aught to go to U-Tube (as mentioned above) and view a few of the routines that people have used to compete. The variety of kites flown and musical choices and flight techniques exhibited is nearly infinite.

So – without going into a whole lot more discussion here – I will tell you that ten pilots competed. Each did their level best. And the results were AMAZING!!! I say this, NOT because any one pilot upstaged everyone else. Not so at all. Rather, it’s because AS A GROUP, these pilots have been steadily “raising the bar” across the board. I can remember when Windless first started where nobody had any idea how to do this stuff. What we now feel to be “basic indoor flying skills” just didn’t exist when Windless 2001 was held. The same is true of things like the musical selections and tricking skills and “choreography” abilities of the pilots. But we now see some 2-3 year pilots, a couple of them teen-ager “indoor” fliers, who are doing things now that would be competitive indoors world-wide. Oh, perhaps not top-of-the-heap competitive yet, but easily in-the-pack competitive.

Well, I’ll be announcing this year’s Windless competition winners at the appropriate time… right below, when we talk about the awards at the Windless Banquet. In the meantime… Once the competitions finished, there was time for a few more Demonstrations. And if I remember correctly, we saw demos from some pilots who had NOT competed – including John Barresi, Lee Sedgwick, Phil Burks, and Penny Lingenfelter and her cast of thousands. These are quality pilots, too. They simply did not choose to compete at Windless this year. But as the time got later, folks began leaving – going home for a quick shower and a change of clothes. After all – we all had “The Banquet” to attend.

A special comment is necessary here concerning Lee Sedgwick’s flying. Do you remember the old UFOs that have been around for a few years? That circular, flat sail-on-a-string thing that’s seemed to be a “toy” in the hands of kiddies (and some adults) at indoor festivals for several years now? Well, Lee brought several of his YFOs (YOUR Flying Object) with him, and lemme tell you this… In the right hands, these things are GLORIOUS! Lee had his flitting around the gym, spinning like a top, and rolling off his body all over the place. In short, we saw how YFOs and UFOs “should” be flown – and it was quite an interesting, even “exciting,” lesson in the art of the “possible.” While Lee is highly lauded as a first class innovator in kiting generally, seeing Lee fly… No, “play” is a better word… Seeing Lee “play” with his YFOs is not just fun, it is also a lesson in “pushing the envelope” – in examining and stretching all the possibilities in life… and in doing exactly the same thing with the art of flying a YFO kite, of course.

Anyway, the Banquet, like the rest of the festival, benefits the World Kite Museum there in Long Beach. So, as part of the festival, the “potluck” banquet is held every year upstairs in the museum. The theme this year was “Italian” again – meaning plenty of Lasagna and Spaghetti (and perhaps some red wine to go with – IF you brought your own?). And – this being a kiting event – there’s a bag raffle for sure, and a little talk from Kay Buesing about what’s happening with the Museum, and of course – the competition “Awards.” Okay then – Noteworthy are:

1. NOBODY left hungry. There were plenty of left-overs… There were even left-over DESERTS! (almost unheard of)

2. Kay gave her little History talk and also mentioned that the building is completely “paid off” and the budget is still on track at this point.

3. Bill Rogers, the Chief Judge, announced the competition winners. They were…

Masters Class:
1. Jerry Cannon
2. Wayne Turner
3. Amy Doran

Experienced Class:
1. Connor Doran
2. Richard Curran
3. Kristian Slater

4. Scott Davis said that the Bag Raffle had raised somewhere around eight hundred dollars in income for the Museum.

And after the Banquet was over, we all headed back to the condo and some welcome rest. Both John and Takako Barresi, plus Lee Sedgwick also chose to avail themselves of the curative powers of the condo’s Hot-Tub. But as for me, I had an early turn-in – there’s work to do tomorrow.

With the competitions “in the bag,” there wasn’t a whole lot to rush over to the gym for on Sunday, so Lee fried up about a half a pound of Bacon for “nibbles” to go with our coffee, and we sort of lolly-gagged in getting over to the gym. Besides, all the gear and equipment was left there overnight all set up, including everyone’s kites. So I dropped Lee off and went to breakfast again. Then it was back to the gym to watch the Free Fly and the Demos. With no pressure other than getting on the road “sometime in the afternoon,” there was plenty of time for all pilots to fly at least a couple of demonstrations – which everyone did. Spectator attendance was down a good deal today, so it was mostly fliers flying for each other and waiting for their own turn to demo.

In the early afternoon, Bob and Donna Wendt offered up a “Hot Tricks” competition – just for fun. Unlike the more rigorous AKA Competitions, Hot tricks is a one-on-one single elimination tourney where literally ANYTHING goes! Two fliers fly against each other to music that’s been selected by the Announcer ahead of time – swapping off every 30 seconds. Winner/Looser is determined by a poll of the Audience, which is really based pretty much on “entertainment value.” Truly – the “Last Man Out” is the winner!

So we saw competitions – of sorts – between old-time Indoor kite-flying skills and “chaotic, creative choreography” (for lack of a better term). Sometimes – we saw both sides of that coin in the same presentation. Dick Curran is a fine example… Dick’s flying skills are never in doubt, and are always well displayed, but he also has a “wild side” as reflected in his usual attire, and in some other pieces of apparatus he sometimes brings onto the floor “for entertainment value.” And so a Hot-Tricks competition is an event where Mr. Curran can exhibit the full range of his skills and creativity – which he does with regularity approaching “certainty.” We saw Dick fly outdoor kites indoors – while lying on his back on a skateboard. We also saw him fly using a “third foot” for stability – if a roller-skate can be called a third foot…

Anyway, Hot Tricks proceeded as usual – flying skills versus “zaniness” being the norm for this event in the Northwest. And as usually happens, the final came down to skills versus “creative chaos” with flying skills taking the prize this time. Dave Bradley used some creativity of his own, repeatedly placing his well-flown single line glider in the basketball hoops of the gym – flying against Toby Arndt who piloted his kite from a scooter he borrowed from Marla Miller to get around the floor because he had eight stitches in his knee from a NON-kite-related accident. And, this time – Mr. Bradley was the winner!

Finally, however, it was time for all of this fun to end. So we tore down and packed up and loaded the cars and made our way toward departure for home – another 120 mile drive through the still-raining weather. And – as usual – there were many people to bid adieu and a few others with a few last questions or shared comments – and plenty of fond kiter HUGS too! The kiting fraternity is our FAMILY, after all is said and done.

So while the trip out is normally filled with high anticipation and a certain amount of delight, the trip home is a time to remember the fine times we’ve just enjoyed – but we do it grudgingly, and mixed with some regrets, too. Still, we got it accomplished. Dinner that night was left-over spaghetti from the potluck, followed by stints in the sauna and the Hot-Tub for Lee and Theresa – while I settled for just immersing myself in the liquid delights of bubbly water myself. We finished the night with a viewing of Lee’s DVD of a walk-around near his home in Erie, PA showing “Dunes” of snow 10-12 feet high along the shores of Lake Erie where he lives. Nice presentation – though I was quite happy just to see it on a TV screen rather than experiencing that snow and ice first hand, myself.

Yep – I deposited Lee at the Airport on Monday morning, and have received notice that he made it home without any worries at all. End of report on Windless 2010! I would be remiss if I didn’t thank two parties, however, so bear with me a bit more.

One group is the “Invited Fliers” we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hosting over the years. Lee Sedgwick was pure delight to have with us this year. Lee’s ever constant curiosity and creativity is well-known to those kiters among us who live on the eastern seaboard, but it’s our distinct pleasure to experience your kind and gentle nature, Lee. Thank You for joining us for Windless 2010. And the same would be true of other – prior – invited fliers too, such as Paul De Bakker, Scott Weider, Shawn and Patti Tinkham, and several others. Having you share yourselves with us is always a distinct pleasure – one we look forward to year after year.

And finally, we cannot say enough about the efforts of Kay Buesing of The World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame there in Long Beach, WA. Kay, your efforts constantly add to the joys of kiting in ways I’m fairly certain you cannot even imagine. Thank you. And the same is absolutely true of Mr. Scott Davis, our festival Organizer – whose idea it originally was to create the Windless Indoor Festival in the first place so many years ago. You are truly a “Prince Among Men” my friend, and your dogged determination has served you – and all of us – well for nine years now… and counting. Thanks for all you do, and for all you ARE, Scott!

Finally – now’s YOUR time to comment if you enjoyed this festival or even just enjoyed this report. We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email any of us via the links below.

Fair Winds and Good Friends –