Issue 73: Pacific Rim Kite Festival

There’s a small little kite field, just outside of the downtown core. To your north, you see the end of the Coastal mountain range. While you can’t “directly” see it, Whistler Mountain is also up that way, where Vancouver played host to the Winter Olympics this past February. To your northeast is Vancouver’s downtown, which is quickly turning into a huge bank of highrises. Well, as high as they get here, maybe 30-35 stories. And out to the west, where you ideally want the wind to come from (and, historically, if it is sunny out, it’s likely coming from the West) is the Georgia Inlet, which leads out to Vancouver Island and eventually, the Pacific Ocean. On many days in the summer, if you wander down to this specific location, you will likely see two things. A bench, dedicated to one of the greatest living legends of the kite world, and the man himself, Ray Bethell. Vanier Park is Ray’s home turf, if you will, if you can consider that he still spends vast amounts of any given year flying around the world, demonstrating his style and grace with three kites at once. People the world over have witnessed Ray fly. His Youtube videos have racked up millions of views over the years but, this is the place that Ray calls home. It’s also the place that I call home, kite field wise. I’ve spent –countless- hours flying down there, and often sitting around with ray listening to his tales of travel which are often side splittingly funny!

But, it’s also home to a very long running kite festival, the annual Pacfic Rim Kite Festival. I actually made the effort to ask how many years it has been running and nobody was able to give a definitive answer but, the replies I did get ranged 30 to 40 years. So, I’m suggesting that it’s the 35th running of this event and a quick search through Google suggests I may even be right because I can find video from last years event, marked “the 34th. And out of those 35 times the festival has run, I think I can safely say that I have been 15 of them. Even in years where I didn’t get out to fly once when “bands” were so rudely interrupting my life, I almost always managed to get out to the kite festival. I even flew my first demo there, likely in 96, complete with shaking hands and shakey knees. The last 4 years, I have done the festival as a part of iQuad, much to my utter delight. Given I’ve done roughly 15 festivals a year for 4 years now, you can not even begin to image my delight in being able to get up in my own bed and head of to a kite festival, not once but two days in a row! No airports! No drive down to Seattle, no small seats, no waiting in bad lounges for bad food in a bad airport! Why I’d go as far as to suggest it’s heavenly except for the inevitable collection of delinquents, rapscallions, ne’er do wells, rascals, pirates, bandits, hoodlums and the like who tend invade my quiet Vancouver home. Or, as I call them, iQuad.

Everyone begins to trickle in starting Thursday afternoon, with Steve and (newly minted alternate iQuad pilot no less!) Willow Robin coming in from Vancouver Island (which, not so coincidentally is also where Island Quad who also graced the festival for their second appearance…), Bazzer, with John and Takako, who had trained up from Portland to the Poulter Mansion just outside of Tacoma. Me, I didn’t have to go anywhere, I just sat at home and waited for them. But, alas, while they got to go out and fly all day Friday in a grand effort to teach the Raiders routine to Willow in a few hours, I was stuck at work on a gloriously sunny day. Say what you’d like about all the travel, this is the penance I pay, I can’t get a day off for my own hometown festival. J But, I was very overjoyed when I did get down there later after lunch, as Willow had simply stepped right up to the plate and within ½ an hour, the entire routine was mostly working fine. Now that’s a learning curve, crash course.

Weather for Pacrim (as we Vancouverites call it) is somewhat hit or miss. It’s been rained out both days, it’s been sunny both days and usually it’s a mix of the two. Our first trip there as a team was a torrential downpour one day. But, we’ve been lucky the last two years, it’s been sunny, all weekend long, and with the expected western winds as well! Saturday morning started off that way and the forecast showed no signs whatsoever of rain for days. And it wasn’t too hot, nor was it even bordering on chilly at any point. Besides those mentioned already, we had a large array of other flyers around all weekend as well. Great demos were put on by Penny Lingenfelter, Tristan Underwood, Ray (of course!), Island Quad and Lam Hoac who was debuting a brand new kite, The Transformer (check into Lam’s website in a few weeks for more information on this kite). We managed to pull in good crowds pretty much all weekend, with a constant stream of onlookers, often simply walking the seawall and “wow, wait, there is a kite festival happening here!”.

Some of the other things going on included a rarely empty kid’s kite making booth (with the usual mayhem as eventually a kite with it’s cotton line will escape and drift across the demo field, this year nabbing Ray across all three kite’s lines.) and the ever popular Teddy Bear Drop. “Bear in the air!” was heard echoing around the park each afternoon as little kids would tear off in pursuit of their designated bear. Art Ross had another monster flowform that he’d made last year, in this case the scene depicted the Olympic rings and Vancouver 2010 sewn into the sail. Art ever did explain to me just how he managed to evade the 2010 marketing police during the Winter Games but, I’m glad he did and it’s a gorgeous kite. One thing I DID miss this year those was our annual Rok battle. It didn’t dawn on me until Sunday that they hadn’t had one on Saturday so, I think next year, I’ll have to quietly suggest it’s return to the schedule. Did I say schedule? We vancouverites typically have a pretty loose idea of that word, there’s never really one ever drawn up and people just organize themselves to a degree and keep the field full and the spectators amused.

While they ran the Teddy Bear drop, we rallied the rev troops into a good 16 person megafly both days, much to the delight of the crowd. When I remember back to festivals from the past, there were quite literally at least 1 or 2 years where I mah have had the sole Rev that was out on the field and flying. Now, we muster up vast squadrons of flyers, this year including a 3rd Vancouver area team, the iNots.

Needless to say, by the time late Sunday afternoon rolls around, everyone is utterly beat and tired but, you know? We’re already starting to chatter about what we may get up to for the 36th edition of the festival. Maybe I’ll put a note in my calendar for next year when I write about it that it is in fact the 36th 😉

Sittin’ at home, writing the articles…

David Hathaway