Yeehaw, one more big push… Coffee, good… Pants, good… Wander over to the window and it’s raining a little, bad… Cold too! The first couple days here were in the upper 70s to mid 80s but it looked like this day might be wet and cold – but not to be denied, we bundled up and jumped in the car.
Fortunately our day started off inside the convention center with the annual Sport Kite Symposium where anyone who is participating or interested in sport kite competition can listen, learn and discuss any related topic from the current state of competition to how a certain rule should be interpreted.
17 of our 19 (updated number) competitors attended the symposium, three of whom are AKA Sport Kite Committee members (including the Chair – Ann Vondriska), as well as two members of AKA Board of Directors (one regional director and the president elect)… I’ve been to a lot of these symposiums over the years, even led a couple as Chair and in many of those, the discussions often centered (or circular) around the definition and redefinition of rules and processes or in recent years, the dire state of sport kite competition in North America – whereas the focus this year seemed to be honest introspective and commitment to effectively doing something about it.
Yes, we have essentially no new blood coming into sport kite competition – instead of moving components (rules, AKAGN invitation process, etc) around trying to attract folks, I think there was an unusually frank exploration of the fact that our current competition format, combined with the extremely low number of participants (who also serve as judges, field director, scoring, etc) is creating an environment where the competitions are taking an extremely long time – in short, many (except the hopelessly dedicated) might argue that the labor outweighs the fun by 70/30.
This begs the question, if WE (as current participants) aren’t thoroughly enjoying existing competition format, how can we begin to attract and retain new blood?
Everyone in the room seemed to be ready for some change, some refinement that might allow them to get more out of competition while also enjoying a little more free time and instructional programs (flight and judging workshops, etc)… We’ll be seeing an infusion of new blood and excitement into the Sport Kite Committee this year and a clear direction toward redefining the existing processes so that we can get closer to a 70/30 fun ratio.
Other workshops this morning included Harmonic String Theory by Simon Crafts (2011 AKA Grand Champion), KAP – The Fun, The Risks, and the Safety Factors by Jim Powers, as well as the Festival Organizers Roundtable… One of the unfortunate things about any mixed genre convention is the fact you can’t possibly get to every single workshop, but with such a wide range of topics and real experts presenting – it’s almost impossible not to get your money’s worth and have plenty of new stuff to work on until the next convention.
This was also the last morning for both the bag raffle (lots of folks buying some last minute tickets) and the Fly Mart.
Out on the field, we saw a few very light sprinkles around noon but that quickly went away and we were just left with the cold… Starting before I arrived, Troy Gunn and his teammates from Team TKO were instructing a few very chilly fliers on various aspects of dual line flying, covering both individual skills and basic team maneuvers.
Initially there weren’t a lot kites in the air and you could see pockets of fliers huddling in the tent or around their cars, but when Phil Broder made the opening PA announcements and the Magical Mystery Ballet fliers gathered for their event, the field slowly started to come alive.
Despite the cold, I think it’s safe to say we saw more single line kites in the sky today than at any other time in the week… TK was a bit under the weather and I was flying in the Mystery Ballet so we weren’t able to get many good outdoor photos but I’m also painfully aware of the fact that my single line coverage has been weaker than I’d like and with my presidential duties taking priority for our Seaside convention next year, I’d like to recruit someone on the single line side of things who might be able to post their perspectives and more empathic coverage from that side of our airborne collective – if you’re interested, please drop me a line.
Over on the sport kite field, we kicked off the Mystery Ballet event and man oh man, was it hilarious… As the first flier (Jerry Hershey – returning after a long hiatus from kiting) was staging in, his teammate Troy Gunn jumped on the mic and tried to change the (already informal) rules so that folks could playfully harass, follow and otherwise heckle any of the fliers, adding the additional challenge of keeping focus, listening to the music and dodging fellow fliers on the ground.
Jerry definitely got the worst of it (I’m sure he properly thanked Troy later), but as each flier went in turn after that, they stayed on the field as part of a growing peanut gallery that would just verbally (but VERY playfully) heckle whomever was up to bat for the ballet and I gotta tell you, I have heard some really funny things over the years but the stuff they were coming up with while I was on the field had me in stitches – “you call that a landing??” – “pointy end up!” – “OUT!” (this one actually messed with me) – “just TWO lines, are you sure???” and so on, and so on… I actually can’t remember the really good stuff but even now, the memory of it makes me chuckle out loud – the camaraderie was amazing.
All during the Mystery Ballet, fliers were participating in the Delta Kites mass ascension, Animal Kites and/or Animal Kite Laundry, Arches and Trains, Award-winning Kites from Previous Conventions, as well as Red, White, and Blue Kites with Matching Line Laundry… The sky was busy with colorful shapes, fliers were still bundled up but generally having a really good time with grins and a lot of interaction with one another.
Closing out the day on the sport kite field, Darrin Skinner led a pick-up mega team of dual line fliers including Aaron Champie, Kathy Brinnehl, Elizabeth Gordon, Troy Gunn, John Clonts, Jerry Hershey, Paul Koepke and John Gillespie (9 pilots total)… Some of these folks had their own set of convention duties (workshops, judging, administrative, etc) and after a long week of competition on top of that, they still wanted to fly more and for roughly a full hour, they put on a really great show for the few hardcore Enid spectators who came out to watch on our final day.
Packing it in around 4:30pm, TK and I dashed back to the hotel for a quick clean up before the cocktail reception started… Arriving in time for the 6pm start, we picked up some refreshments and walked around checking out the various entries for this years People’s Choice awards (Best Kite, KAP and Best Kite Accessory) and chatting with a lot of folks along the way… For having braved a cold day, you could tell folks were in really good spirits and had a great time regardless.
Outgoing president Barbara Meyer gave the AKA Year in Review, a general overview of the state of the organization – the final count for attendees in Enid was 160, and attending members graciously spent/donated $13,900 through both the great kite auction and bag raffle… This income is way down from the $20,000 generated in Wildwood last year and the AKA will be tightening it’s belt in preparation for what should be a well-attended convention in Seaside next year – good attendance = good revenue = a stable organization.
RD of the Year Award
Ed Grys – Region 6
Volunteer of the Year Award
BOD Support Staff
(their significant others)
Lee Toy Circle Award
Bob Ingraham Award
Steve Edeiken Award
Richard and Marti Dermer
Best KAP Photo
2012 AKA Grand Champion (kite making)
That brings us to the end of our daily reports from the 2012 AKA Grand Nationals and Annual Convention in Enid, OK!
Sorry for the slightly hodge-podge arrangement of results above, as I’m literally putting this together with only a few hours left to complete our drive back to Wichita, gas up and return the rental car, etc… But before I go, some thoughts.
To me, this was one heck of a convention – a small group (160), but I didn’t hear any politics, I met TONS of new people I might not normally have a chance to interact with, I learned lots and shared my experience in turn, as did lots of other folks through the highly educational workshops and general interaction… We had very flyable wind and decent weather for more than half the week, and the general response that I overheard and gathered from our attendees is that they found Enid would be a very acceptable Midwest option in the future.
The “buzz in the room” says new winds are blowing in the coming year and it’s a good time to consider where we want to be as individuals, groups, clubs, teams and as an organization – in a positive light, working together for the best year ever, or stay on the sidelines and lament the many intangibles which we cannot directly influence (like the economy)… Myself, I’ll be looking at how I can contribute my skills in more areas than ever, teaming up with the many knowledgeable kite enthusiasts out there to identify small, specific and task-oriented things we can do to more effectively share and grow this community – I hope to see you on the front line too, in your own way, adding your expertise to the movement.
In addition to the activity coming out of Kitelife, I strongly encourage you tune into the AKA channels as well (member emails, website, Kiting magazine, etc) as there will be a whole different and equally important kind of activity there… We need you – as an active kite enthusiast or as a volunteer – either way, it’s all about the contributed energy.
So sorry but I’ve got a plane to catch, gotta try and make it without a speeding ticket…
To all, sincerely – good winds – I wish you a wonderful holiday season and coming year!