Issue 78: Rockaway Beach Kite Festival

May 14-15, 2011

Fine Kites, Good Eats, Nice Lodgings, and Mixed Weather…
The Second Annual Rockaway Beach, Oregon Kite Festival

Yep. we’re “at it” again – off to another fun-filled Kite Festival. This one is the Second Annual Rockaway Kite Festival, put on by the Rockaway Oregon Chamber of Commerce on the weekend of May 14th and 15th. And, as usual, I am late getting away from Vancouver – AGAIN! More than anything, that’s probably why I choose to drive to these events by myself… I am (unfortunately) perpetually late getting on the road – but at least I only impact my own life, that way…

So due mostly to my own tardiness, I am heading through the “gut” of rush-hour traffic on a Friday afternoon, fearing the backup getting through Portland and out to the Pacific Coast, and I hit the traffic jam on westbound US-26 right about 5:10 PM along with the rest of the entire world – and the highway is three lanes of solid “Parking Lot.” YUP – it’s FRIDAY the 13th!

But sometimes, just sometimes, you get lucky, too. And today seemed to be “my day” for it – because within 10 minutes all of those cars and pickups take to the exits and leave the rest of the road to me and a handful of cars, and the usual 2-3 pickups towing travel-trailers – the bane of anyone wanting to get anywhere down the road. So by 6:15 or 6:30, I have the 50-odd miles to the coast under my wheels, and am southbound on US-101 and just “cruising.” Good enough, and maybe time for some food? I call ahead, and the crew already at the beach says they have just ordered at “The Bite” in Rockaway Beach(meaning that I am LATE, which I already knew) so I stop off in Manzanita, OR at a place called “The Big Wave” and have myself the Best Cheeseburger On The Coast (My emphasis – not the restaurant’s) and then tool on down to Rockaway by about 7:30 PM.

Believe it or not, in spite of all my “froggin’ around,” I am back on schedule and am pulling into the Surfside Resort at Rockaway Beach within 5 minutes of everyone else getting back from “The Bite.” And by this time, we are standing around in the Resort’s parking lot and jawing about these “puddles” in the asphalt… Hmmm… Standing water, eh? Perhaps things are not looking so good for a Kite Festival (in the rain?) on the morrow. But for the most part we are all dyed-in-the-wool NORTHWESTERNERS, except for Ms. Lisa Willoughby, in from New Jersey for this event, and we are used to flying in the rain – though while well-experienced at it, none of us are what you’d call big fans of wet Nylon strewn around our rooms – drying (or not)! Still, kites will fly in the morning, so time to get some shut-eye.

Waking in the morning, the weather didn’t look to be a whole lot better. Grey skies and a low overcast, and sort of a lack-luster off again / on again breeze, but perhaps it will get better? No “drippy” stuff thought, so maybe we’ll be all right… So I pull the van out and park it on the access road right at the center of town, and walk a block to “The Cow Belle Cafe” and eat breakfast with Penny Lingenfelter and her husband Steve. Good coffee! Hearty food and excellent company, too. Yep, Penny is here again to offer her AMAZING kids shows (Eat your heart out, Cecil B. De Mille), and around the place are several other kitefliers that I know and recognize as well. Yeah, we will fly our kites today, and have some fun, and put on a real fine show for the crowd, too!

The nice folks from Rockaway are well organized. Instead of using the parking lot to house spectator cars, it has become the “vendor” area and the parking lot for the BIG kite fliers. Close to the beach are 4-5 trailers full of big “inflatable” kites and all the gear necessary to fly them. Enough flight-lines and stakes, and various other components to fill the skies with colorful nylon creations. And the rest of the lot has been partitioned off for vendor booths. Last year, there was hot competition between several vendors for the very-best sandwich and who had the best lattes at the festival…

The vendors had changed this year, but the quality and variety of “edibles” was equally awesome again this year. BRAVO Rockaway! We kite fliers LOVE to attend festivals where there’s better food to eat than our local “Fast Food” spots, and yes – you’ve hit our “sweet spot” again this year. WOW, do we Love that!

On the walkway between the beach itself and the parking lot, we have the Sound Tent – manned (or “womaned?”) this year by Linda Hayes as our most able event organizer and announcer – and she’s also the President of the “Northwest Sport Kite League (NWSKL)”. Linda would keep the wheels greased and the Demo Field filled to capacity throughout the weekend. She would do a superb, near-perfect job of keeping everything rolling along. Major KUDOS to you, Ms. Hayes! And close by, Deb Cooley and Diane Weber from the Associated Oregon Kiters (AOK) “womaned” the Information booth, passed out “beach permits” (Red AKA Arm-Bands) and helped make about a gazillion kites for kids that weekend.

And down on the beach, there are two “roped off” fields – one for “Sport Kite” Demos, and another one for the big inflatable kite displays! The “Names” that would populate the Demo field on the weekend were pretty much the “Who’s Who” of Northwest Sport Kiting… iQuad with their amazing Revolution kite-team displays, consisting of John and Takako Barresi, Steve De Rooy, and Barry “Bazzer” Poulter. And Island Quad was there – only slightly younger as a team and a bit less-traveled than iQuad, consisting of Terry Wiggill, Willow Robin, Mike Tracy, and either Spence Watson or Lisa Willoughby. And “Last Flight Out” was also present consisting of Jerry and Marcia Cannon, along with “Evidence” who are Scott Davis and Toby Arndt – both teams being dual-line “Pairs” teams, plus Amy Doran (with her pet character Charlie Chaplin in tow), and Connor Doran (of America’s Got Talent fame) and our pal Spencer “Watty” Watson, plus Penny Lingenfelter and her “cast of thousands,” the bunch of kids-of all-ages she Shanghais off the beach to participate in her shows. And Dave Bradley and Brad Bixby were also coming, flying as single pilots. Actually, nearly every Sport Kiter flew a demo or two as a “solo” as well as any “team” demos they were involved in.

And in the other field – the big Inflatables from Team Suspended Animation and assorted friends. Up above, there would be 3-4 Sutton Flowform 450s flying with big streamer-tails, floating in the breeze, manned by Ray Hertz, Barry Tislow, and Phil and Barb Burks. And a level below, Russ Little spent much of Saturday morning trying to get a brand new-to-the-USA Peter Lynn “Tiger” kite to draw wind and stay aloft – with only marginal success due to light winds and a somewhat “marginal” Pilot Kite. Right beside Russ, Ed Paulsen was flying his new kite, a “Maxi-Devil” from Los Hermanos (The Brothers Gonzales) from Spain.

Ultimately, both “First Flight” efforts would be successful, with both kites gracing the skies most of the afternoon, though Russ finally used a Flowform as a Pilot Kite for a little better “traction.” And Gary and Lee added to the mix with a big delta kite, used as a lifter for a lovely Angelfish and a Martin Lester Scuba Diver. And, down below at ground level Susan Tislow showed us one of her new “Bugs,” and David Gomberg laid out a couple of his 50′ Peter Lynn Caterpillars.

Finally, near the end of the day on Saturday, Ray Hertz decided he needed to “air out” a couple of big (50′ diameter) Crowns, so he put on a little show with those two big babies!

Okay, I’ve about given you the whole festival in a nutshell here… and in doing so, I’ve already gotten ahead of myself! First things first! I start my festival day with a cup of coffee, and a walk on the beach! So I headed over to the vendor area and found the nice lady with coffee and got myself a cup – black with plenty of sugar, please! Okay, we’re off an Rollin’.

And before I even reach the beach, I run into Donald “Doc” Counce in the Parking Lot. Doc has been around, seemingly forever, and I have heard it said that Rockaway is probably Doc’s “Home” beach. Doc and I share a few pleasant words, and I wish him a good day. Knowing Doc, he probably spent most of the day flying his own kites a short way south of the Big Kite field.

Anyway, my first stop is to see nice-person Debby Cooley and get my AKA Armband – my “permit” to be on the beach. That done, followed by “hellos” to several people, it was down to put my feet in the sand! AAahhhh… That feels just like a FESTIVAL! And so it would be, too!

Glance at the skies… Nope, no rain – yet! Fingers crossed and keep ’em that way the rest of the day! Ahhhh… NO! It’s hard to hold coffee that way! Okay – gotta keep movin’. Over on the Demo field, iQuad is “loosening up” – like they need any loosening… and Island Quad is right behind, practicing – working routines out – feeling the kites and the wind. These Revolution pilots have a MAJOR advantage over everyone else. They can fly in “nearly nothing” so winds are not the problem that a dual-line pilot has – and never mind the “Big Inflatables” kites. So the Rev-folks are out there movin’ around, feeling the breeze, making sure it’s all flyable and they’re in sync with it…

Over on the Big Toys patch, however – things are not so sweet. Oh, there are at least three Sutton Flowforms up there and drawing all right (which means we have at least 3 MPH fairly steady)… but the big inflatables could use just a tad more wind. That handsome brandy-spankin’ new Peter Lynn “Tiger” of Russ Little’s looks a mite bedraggled and a bit “impotent” this morning. Russ and Ray Hertz and Phil Burks and several others are busy jawing up a storm about it… but the fact of the matter is that nobody’s huffing and puffing up enough wind to get that Big Kitty up off the ground – in spite of all the ad hoc “committee decisions” to the contrary. Phil Burks continues to dig holes and bury sand anchors, though – just in case wind actually arrives. (Smart man, Phil. Wind IS coming – but “when” and “from what direction” are the two key questions.)

Okay – keep on wandering, geezer. No kites – or people – are being hurt. Everything will be okay. Just keep on moving… Take your walk on the beach. So I do that! Dave Gomberg is over there, and I say “G’Morning,” so we swap simple pleasantries – and then I keep on moving.

I make a tour along the water’s edge, up past the Demo Field. By this time the little hand has passed the 10, so we’re officially underway. Linda Hayes has a stream of demos queued up, so someone’s out on the field with some kite or other, and some tune is coming off the sound system, and I am paying NO attention whatever – and I just keep on walkin! Hmmm… ‘nother sip of coffee… Good!

The nice folks from Island Quad are out at the water’s edge, flying – but not flying over the Demo field. Some other team “owns” the Demo field right now! So I stop, and watch, and say “Hi,” and G’Morning,” and they respond in a kindly fashion. Terry Wiggill is a genuine Prince of a human being, and Island Quad is his baby to lead this weekend. He’s come all the way from well up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (in Canada, folks) down here to Rockaway beach to fly kites for these people. Well – Okay! For himself too. And with his pals – these kite pilots. Indeed, Lisa Willoughby has come MUCH farther, flying in from Medford, New Jersey – catching a flight out of Philly yesterday morning early!

Willow Robin also comes from Vancouver Island, but from the “citified” area – Victoria! And Mike Tracy is the “nearby” pilot – down only about 150 miles from the Tacoma, Washington area. Have they flown together before? Yes, they have. But do they practice together often? Hardly! They practice a bit before they fly their routines at the festivals. Terry Calls the moves as the music plays, and the fliers respond. Will they be “picture perfect?” Nope… never happen.

Will they get through it well, and receive a round of applause from the audience?

Yes, they will. And will they have FUN doing it? HELL, yeah they will! Absolutely!

And, like all good kiters – they will have the respect, admiration, and Love of their fellow kiters for doing it, too!

And believe it or not, every pilot here will be treated that way, and that Love and admiration and respect and approval will get swapped so many times this weekend… Gosh, we couldn’t possibly count them all. But the real truth is – kiting is all about people, not kites. And kiting is the freest and most “welcoming” sport that I know of… Seriously! Wanna feel good about yourself? Go fly a kite! (Yup – YOU GOT IT!)

Anyway – I nod and smile, and Island Quad just picks up their handles and go back to flying Revolutions again, and I keep wandering. Ah, there’s Amy Doran – Hi Amy! And Jerry and Marcia Cannon are here, and I can get a “Marcia Hug.” Dave Bradley’s here too – down from Portland. And I keep wandering…

Eventually, I make the full circuit of both fields. I stop and say “hi” often – just because it feels good to do it! And as I walk, I notice things, too.

I notice that Linda Hayes struggled a bit on the microphone initially, but she’s settling in very nicely now and she will be WON-der-ful by the time the weekend is over.

I notice that the Big Kitty is still struggling to break free of Mother Earth, but the owners, keepers, and tenders of said cat are far less excited and much more relaxed now. They have figured out that there will be wind eventually, and they have remembered “waiting for it” a time or two in the past too – and have figured out that there’s nothing that can be done other than “wait it out!” Yup – Sometime we just have to wait for the coffee to kick in, folks! Common sense seems to roll around soon afterwards!

I notice that (in spite of semi-recumbent kitties) there are several of those strange animals called “spectators” up there on the boardwalk too. How nice! We are happy to see you, fellow human beings! Come on DOWN, and get “up close and personal.” Talk to a kiter. Have fun! Catch the “kite bug” – just like us!

Or – if you cannot do that – at least enjoy yourself, and this place, and these people, and this “show.” Yes – we ARE doing it JUST for you! (…and for US, too!)

Well, shucks… time for a couple of “quick checks” here…

How’s the weather doing? Well, it looks like we have maybe 4 MPH of breeze now, just enough so Big Kitty says “almost” out loud. Maybe mid 50s, and no sign of sunshine, but no precipitation either. If we can just “UP” the wind-speed a couple of more MPH we can live with the rest staying as it is – and that’s pretty much a fair statement of how the rest of the day would go too! We would not feel a drop of rain all day, nor see the sunshine except at the very end of the day when we were leaving dinner, just before sun-down.

Anything else? Yeah, the coffee cup is empty – but the bladder is full. So I left the beach and headed up to the “Comfort Station” just off the parking lot to get myself a ration of “comfort.” And while I was up there, I stopped to say “Hi” to Theresa, my landlady / house-partner. She was doin’ okay in the kite selling booth, though I had to baby-sit a bunch of kites while she went off to get some “comfort” too!

Demos keep rolling on. iQuad demos a couple of times, but my camera is still in the car.

Then iQuad breaks itself into “chunks” and the “chunks” demo for a while.

Steve De Rooy from iQuad is far and away the best individual Revolution flier going as far as I can tell. Steve flies TWO Revolution kites at once. By himself.

To music – choreographed! (Yeah, there were some darned fine pilots at Rockaway Beach this year, folks.) So Steve does his thing – and the crowd is awestruck!

Steve comes back later on with Barry “Bazzer” Poulter in tow, and Steve and Bazzer fly FOUR Revolution kites between the two of them under the pairs name “Rum Buddies”. Not quite as well as Steve flew alone, but well enough so you could tell that it will eventually “get there” and when it finally happens – those two kids will be a FORCE! Yeah – like that!

Charlie Chaplin showed up (With Amy Doran underneath all that costume stuff).

Penny Lingenfelter captured about 20 people to help in her “show,” and stole the hearts of all the parents who watched their kids “help” Penny in her routine.

Scott Davis and Toby Arndt flew together publicly for the first time as pairs dual-line team “Evidence,” and did well. Marcia and Jerry Cannon flew together as pairs team “Last Flight Out” and also did well. Connor Doran flew an outdoor Revolution as a solo demo, as did ALL of the other Revolution pilots! John Barresi flew his own Kymera dual-line kite as a demo too! Indeed, all of the dual-line pilots also demoed, though I am not real certain that Phil and Barb Burks actually demoed their Trlby 12-Stacks, though they well may have. I’m not sure there was enough wind-speed to keep their Trlbys aloft.

And somewhere in the middle of all that “demoing,” Dave Gomberg took the microphone away from Linda Hayes and orchestrated another fabulous version of “The Running Of The Bols!” A “bol” is a kite shaped like a mini-parachute. In other words – a “bowl” shaped kite 8-10 feet in diameter, with parachute shrouds and a hole in the top like old-time parachutes. Give one to each kid, and have them race their peers to the other end of the field. Start with small youngsters. But as the “races” progress, increase the ages of the runners – so that teen agers and twenty-somethings can end up racing too. Good for roughly half an hour to an hour worth of fun for all concerned – including the audience. This usually occurs right around lunchtime, so the announcers (in this case – Linda Hayes) can have a little comfort and maybe even a bit of food too!

Speaking of food, this shot of Spence “Watty” Watson is too funny – getting off the field after his “Banana Man” performance in which he dogstaked a Rev to a song of the same name by Tally Hall.

Well, after a Pulled Pork sandwich from the Pork Chop City kitchen, I went back to the van and grabbed my camera. It was obvious by now that I would NOT see the sun today, and whatever shots I was going to get should happen fairly soon. So after lunch, I was back out on the beach, grabbing photos.

At about the same time, there were a couple of epiphanies occurring on the Big Kite field. First off, it occurred to someone to “look up.” There were three big Sutton Flowforms flying way up there, and each one could carry a big inflatable kite aloft quite easily. Why not hook each of these struggling inflatables to a Sutton instead of these pilot kites – which weren’t cutting it? So they did that, and Voila! One Peter Lynn Tiger – aloft at last. One Peter Lynn Manta-Ray too, which had been up and down like a yo-yo all day long – aloft and steady!

And, with that “technique” in mind, Ed Paulsen brought out HIS new kite to fly next to Russ Little’s Tiger. Ed pulled out a brand-new Maxi-Devil from Los Hermanos over in Spain. I’m not sure Ed need a Sutton as a pilot kite for his new Devil, but one was available if needed, and perhaps that’s all it took. Anyway, Ed’s Devil joined Russ Little’s Tiger, with both new kites side-by-side – both on their official “First Flights! I also understand that Russ’ Tiger kite is the first Tiger in the USA!

Finally – the “Big Kite guys were where they wanted to be all this time! WHEW!!!

Of course, as soon as someone noticed that accomplishment and mentioned it aloud, the wind (what there was of it) started to shift, then began to die – which it accomplished almost completely in the succeeding 20-30 minutes. Well, Gosh, folks… We did what we could, and I hope you all had your cameras ready (I did!)…

Fortunately, we were nearing the end of the day anyway. The Festival was to officially run to 4:00 PM, and it was 3:30 or 3:45 PM before folks got all that big stuff down onto the sand anyway, so it was really “No Harm – No Foul” time. Time to pack it all away – while it’s still “dry” – and we’ll see what happens tomorrow, eh? And so it was, too! Everyone was just happy 1) that they got a decent day in with not much in the way of real problems, and 2) all of the kites were safe and stowed away and dry, and they could have been a WHOLE LOT worse!

Time to head for the barn though. Maybe a shower? A glass of wine? Put your feet up and kick back for a while… We have a dinner to go to at 6:00 PM. So we all pulled out and headed for our lodgings and a wee bit of clean-up and rest.

And we certainly should have known… Rockaway Beach had certainly treated us well from the beginning, and Saturday’s dinner was no exception. We all gathered at St. Catherine’s Church Parish Hall for a fine, even delightful, meal. Plenty of food, good camaraderie, nothing over-blown but no “cheapie” meal either. It’s always nice when we get to eat together with good food in a comfortable setting! Plenty of parking too, and the desserts were decent, and there was even a bit of bright “sunset” in the west when we left the Parish Hall. Then we tired puppies headed back to the Sunset Resort and collapsed into bed before long. Tomorrow would be another day…

And so it was too – another day. As it turned out – a “Wet” one! Well… Okay… Let’s go to breakfast and see if it quits? So most of us eventually made it over to The Cow Belle Cafe for a somewhat “leisurely” breakfast today. No real rush getting back as long as it’s still raining out there. Sure enough, good food, nice conversation, and warm and dry all helped. Still – we eventually ran out of excuses and headed back to the beach to find out what needed to happen.

The long and the short of it was – Rockaway Beach cut us loose. No sense getting all wet when the only people out there on the beach would be you folks. At least, that seemed to be the prevailing opinion – and one most kite fliers agreed with. We have all had our share of wet kites drying in our motel rooms or taken home wet, only to be washed and then dried again before stowing them away.

So it was with mixed feelings that we left Rockaway Beach and headed home early. We kind of felt like we’d been unable to fulfill the original terms of an agreement we’d have much preferred to keep – but we couldn’t see anything anyone could do to make for a more “positive” end for the fine people of Rockaway Beach and their Second Annual Kite Festival! I guess we could call it sabotage by Mother Nature, and there’s nothing we could do about it – other than to reach a positive conclusion!

Well, here it is then… Most of us are quite used to checking the weather forecasts before any outdoor kite festivals. And the forecast for the weekend’s weather in Rockaway Beach Oregon before I left Vancouver Washington said a strong chance of rain both Saturday and Sunday – up to 50 % chance both days. Well, we got One (1) Good Day on Saturday, but I guess our luck ran out on Saturday night. No, we didn’t have perfect 12 MPH winds, or sunny, blue skies, or 75 degree temps on Saturday, but the bottom line was “flyable” – and we performed on Saturday to the best of our abilities. And there is absolutely nothing any of us could do about Sunday’s weather – nothing! Yes, we will always hope for “perfect,” but we will happily accept whatever we get, as long as we use the days well – and we did that part just fine this year.

Yes, we’ll be happy and grateful to come back again next year and try again. We absolutely love coming to fly at Rockaway Beach! See you at Rockaway Beach, Oregon next year, the middle weekend in May? I sure hope so. I’m already planning on being there!

Fair Winds and good Friends –