Issue 79: San Ramon Wind and Art Festival

An annual Bay Area favorite!

For 14 years, we’ve been going to the San Ramon Wind and Art Festival in sunny San Ramon, CA. It lands on Memorial Day weekend giving us an extra day to play with friends in the Sun. We’ve done most of the sightseeing over the last decade and experienced heartwarming adventures.

Now the recent years find us eagerly waiting to make that ungodly trip to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, sit in a cramped plane for a few hours, lug luggage, fight the lines, learn or not learn the controls on the rental car’s GPS, take a few wrong turns on the way there so we can wait hours for our hotel room to be ready.

Dream trip? OH YEAH!! All so we can spend a weekend visiting with Kite flying friends in the Bay area, enjoy that wonderful ~ don’t you dare take it for granted!~ sunshine and of course the opportunity to fly our kites on the luscious green fields at the San Ramon Wind and Art Festival

This festival ALWAYS has it going on! Two kite store booths, Highline Kites and Old City Kites, are there to sale their wares along with a plethora of vendors, small carnival rides for the kids, free kite making, a field for the public to fly kites, several stages throughout the park that host various bands, dancing and singing groups.

There is a skate park, fire truck displays, helicopter landings and more. I heard there was a variety of food and it was good, but I was too busy to actually eat. So, yeah, this Festival does have it going on!

This year something very special was added to the festival. The Chinese Delegation from Weifang was present as a cultural exchange. They brought kite making to share with the public. They shared miniature kites, flew long dragon kites and various others at the festival daily and brought us a colorful closer look to the Chinese Kite Culture.

A banquet was held Saturday night in their honor with city dignitaries, and local entertainment. A young Chinese dance group who performed with butterfly kites was a lovely touch. They did a wonderful job and we appreciated the opportunity to enjoy it.

We sat at the dinner table with the banjo band members, another group for our entertainment, who said they never knew kites were anything more than a thing on a string. Of course we did our part to educate them! Oh yes, there are kites that fight, and kites with brakes and reverse, kites that pull, kite Art and more. I think it’s always fun to sit with strangers and try to share a little kite enthusiasm. My kite philosophy is “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met,” who should go fly a kite).

The festival starts on Sunday morning. On the kite field, Arnold Stellema is our announcer. He is one of my all time favorite announcers. He keeps the audience informed and entertained throughout the day.

The fliers arrive and set up their territory, the tents go up, music goes up, and breakfast is served. There are some helping hands, but the hard work that Brian, Sharon and Aaron Champie do for this festival is phenomenal. They deserve a HUGE award! Susan Skinner always lends a hand at the bag raffle tent. Items are donated and the public purchases tickets which they drop into a brown paper bag that they will draw for that kite or other article of their choice. This is a great way to gather funds for the festival.

The San Ramon weather did not disappoint. The days brightened, the crowds thickened, and the show was a success. The park was covered top to bottom with tons of moving color, kites, and smiles.

This year San Ramon had brought in two new kitefliers for the show.

Toby Ardnt from Edgewood, WA and Al Washington from the Portland, OR area.

Toby has placed 1st in Indoor Competition at Nationals in 2010. He’d just walked away with first place in a fierce competition in Lincoln City. He was perfect for the no wind / wind combination that San Ramon’s weather typically delivers.

Al Washington’s known in the Northwest as “Dancing Al Washington” and his twinkle toes jive to the music as much as his kite. Al’s credentials include solo, pairs and team titles over the years and he is known for his smooth flying style. He was another great addition to the event.

Some of the Best kite flyers in the WORLD, were there. Teams Mark and Jeannette Lummus part of “Too Much Fun”, “Air Zone” Ron Despojado, oh, and Alex Herzog who dueled up with Toby to fly pairs. These 2 young men are about 17 and 19 years old. Rest assured that the future of kiteflying will be safe in the hands of the likes of these gentlemen. Excellent and entertaining flying!

Jim Strealy, the “Candy Drop Man” enlisted the aid of a few kitefliers to hold back the kids while he launched his kite, spilling candy safely over the ground for the kids to race to~ rather than pelting them on the head. This is always one of the highlights of the kite festival.

Several of the Berkeley Kite Wranglers were there. They managed to put up a few of their big kites. But one octopus in our kite field is about all it can hold. For a size reference I like to tell people, ”You are about as big as the octopus’s eye.” I don’t know how accurate that is, but it gets the idea across that the octopus is humungous. We love seeing the big stuff up in the air. I have to give a shout out to John Kahn and Mike North.

Air Zone flew some great demos as the World Class team that they are, they also flew quads and dual solos. With Aaron Champie, Francisco Navarro, John Gillespe and Darrin Skinner capturing the audience’s attention when they danced in the sky. I often wonder what kind of dancer these kite flyers are that can put on such a show. There were more flyers like Mark Quirmbach, George Halpin and Buggy Champion David Sabalino.

10 yr. old Ben Lummas, and 12 year old Christian, a local young man who showed the crowd what they could do with their kites. We’ll definitely be seeing more of these boys.

Another favorite audience participation experience is the “Running of the Bols”
8 foot “Bols”, bowl shaped kites with a hole in the center that Judith Navro built are harmless until they are harnessed on to a body, or 2, or 3. The people pull them into the wind. Depending on the wind, the resistance when the air fills the bols can make it so difficult that grown men can barely move them. I was busy preparing for the kids skit, but the roars of laughter from the audience were amazing! I tried to get a peek once in a while but it was almost blinding with the bright colored kites and kids all over the green field. This is one event that I think watching it has to be almost as much fun as actually doing it.

I performed my new Peter Pan skit with the kids and had a great time. The kids enjoyed it as much as I did. Now my skit is called “Share Wing” and it’s what happens after the crocodile chases Captain Hook away.

They learned to share! I thought, nice to have a lesson, a gimmick. Ok, maybe it’s a little cheesy. Haha, but during our group pictures after the skit, two little girls were sitting in front. I heard one little girl say to another, “Do you want to share?” “OK” and they traded kites. 🙂 Ahhhhhhhh, My heart just melted.

That’s what the San Ramon Kite Festival can do for you! Thank you again to all our sponsors, Champies, and everyone involved. It was a fabulous kite festival!

Best Breezes,
Penny Lingenfelter
Indoor/Outdoor Kiteflier