National Kite Month spurs widespread celebrations

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    By Alecia Burningham

    Take paper, sticks, some string and add a good wind. Jane and Michael Banks knew how much fun it could be flying a kite, and now there is a whole month dedicated to the sport of kite flying.

    April is National Kite Month and this year”s celebration of kiting involves over 300 different events.

    The goal of the national event is to raise awareness in kiting, said Jim Miller, program manager for National Kite Month. The National Kite Organization encourages kiters, schools, libraries and kite clubs to sponsor a local kite event or festival.

    “It is such a wholesome activity that the whole family can enjoy,” Miller said. “We just want to expose more people to kiting and get them involved.”

    Miller has been an avid kite flyer since he was a kid. He first started flying kites in California on the beach and when he moved to Chicago, became involved with the local kite club.

    “There is a whole sub-culture of serious kite fliers who are hard-core,” Miller said.

    Kite flying is typically viewed as a kid”s sport or something to do at a picnic, but Miller said he enjoys it as a relief from the pressure of work.

    “I am able to get out in the fresh air and forget what happened during the day,” he said.

    People from all different walks of life enjoy the sport including doctors, teachers, lawyers, construction workers and mechanics, Miller said.

    “The only universal thing about serious kite fliers is that they like to fly kites,” he said.

    The largest events celebrating National Kite Month are in Ocean City, Maryland, Miami Beach, Florida, and Washington D.C. People from New Zealand, Japan, Australia and England usually come to these festivals which are attended by several thousand people, Miller said.

    Jane Holeman is chairman of the Washington State International Kite Festival and expects about 50,000 people throughout the week-long festival to participate. Activities include a children”s day, fighter kite demonstrations and shows, she said.

    Kites in the competitions are judged on design, workmanship, innovations and appearance in the sky, she said.

    “The focus is towards family because kite flying is a lot of fun, it is inexpensive and you can be right on the Pacific Ocean on a nice clean beach,” Holeman said. “We just try to provide the best time for people we can.”

    Not all of the events of National Kite Month are big festivals. Local libraries, clubs and stores are sponsoring day events to promote kite flying.

    “I”ve always liked building kites since I was a little kid and now they are so much nicer and bigger — it is so fun to fly them,” said Dean Turnblom, owner of a kite store in Idaho Falls. He is sponsoring a local fun-fly kite event April 28.

    When Turnblom found out about National Kite Month, he thought it would be fun to do to help advertise store and get people out there flying kites and having fun, he said.

    “We”ll have a kite making contest for little kids and people can come and fly whatever they want to fly,” he said. “We”re also going to give out 50 kites to the first 50 people and raffle off a kite that looks like an F-16.”

    Turnblom will provide some stunt kites for people to have fun with, and he said if there was a good turnout, he would expand the event next year.

    “I”ve had a lot of people tell me they like to fly kites but haven”t done it since they were kids, and we want people to remember the fun they had as a kid,” he said.

    Even though there are no National Kite Month sponsored events in Utah, BYU students can still enjoy the activity. Flying a kite could be a good date with the right person, said Jessica Erdmann, 22, a junior from Springville, Utah, majoring in humanities.

    “It is rather enjoyable because you can stand and talk with someone but you are still doing something,” she said. “You would find kite flying in a fun date book because it can be relatively cheap.”

    The heyday of kite flying was about 1870 to 1910; new kite designs were developed then. Now with extremely light materials, like nylon, kite fliers are allowed to modify and improve the basic kite designs, Miller said.

    Indoor kite flying has even become popular because of such lightweight materials. Miller said someone can walk backwards indoor and the kite is light enough that the small breeze would be enough to carry the kite.

    “But you can still make a kite out of sticks and newspaper,” he said.

    Turnblom said the bigger a kite is, the better it is to fly.

    “The wind is so powerful that little kites just don”t fly well,” he said. “A good kite should be three feet or bigger.”

    Kites were invented about 3,000 years ago in China, but it was not until the late 1800s that kiting became a competitive sport and a leisure activity. On Nov 7, 1903, Samuel Franklin Cody actually crossed the English Channel on a vessel towed by kites, according to the American Kitefliers Association.

    “Kite flying has been a part of their culture for thousands of years,” Holeman said. “It is almost an honored profession, and they are masters of their art.”

    Here in America, however, the kites are seen as a kid”s toy, she said.

    Turnblom said he has found that since he started selling kites over a year ago, his market is mostly grandfathers who take their grandkids out to fly kites.

    “Young parents seem to be missing out on playing with their own kids.”

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