Send it Soaring at the Whidbey Island Kite Festival

Posted in Feature, Festivals, More Stories, Spotlight, Visual Art

BY LARA DUNNING
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
September 16, 2015

I’m standing at one of the primo kite flying spots on Whidbey Island―Fort Casey Historical Park. There’s a northwesterly wind cutting across the lawn, and the Whidbey Rev Flyers show off their skills in preparation for the upcoming Whidbey Island Kite Festival on Sept. 19 and 20.

Lisa Root, event organizer and 15-year competition flyer, calls out commands: “One eighty go! Flank right! Break to thread! Face your edges! Do-si-do!” Under her lead, hands move with precision, and the Revolution kites—which resemble two connected upside-down triangles—create dynamic patterns in mid-air.

Fort Casey Historical Park is one of the favorite kiting spots on Whidbey Island.

Fort Casey Historical Park is one of the favorite kiting spots on Whidbey Island (photo by David Welton)

This aerial ballet will be one of dozens at the Festival.  The Olympic Mountains and Admiralty Inlet will provide the backdrop to the spectacular sight of hundreds of airborne kites.

An array of kite activities will take place throughout the weekend. The highlight of the event—sport kite championships—will include teams, pairs and individuals flying in dual and multi-line events. Winners will be acknowledged at a Saturday awards dinner and again on Sunday afternoon.

Those wishing to pre-order festival gear, sign up to compete, or purchase lunches and dinners may do so on the Whidbey Island Kite Festival website. At the event, hungry bellies can fuel up with hot dogs and sodas from Central Whidbey Lions Club and warm cups of coffee and snacks from The Kaffee Haus.

At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, dozens of delta and box kites will take to the skies in a mass ascension. At the same time on Sunday, flat and soft kites will rise. Anyone may join in for these flies, and no registration is necessary. For children 10 and under, teddy bears will don parachutes for the popular Teddy Bear Drop each day at 1:00 p.m.

Kite flying lessons, single-line challenges, free fly areas, and kite making classes will be offered. Kite games (think of the “running of the bulls,”) will be held in which children tie a kite around their waists and run like the wind. The mystery ballet event challenges flyers to create an impromptu routine to music they’ve never heard.

On Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m., the indoor kite fly takes place at the Coupeville High School gym. “It’s amazing. There is no wind except what is created by the flyer,” Root said. “We encourage folks to come and watch and come and try.”

The admired Whidbey Rev Flyers, joined by Island Quad from B.C., will entertain visitors with a choreographed performance to music with their four-line Revolution kites. If the practice session I’ve witnessed is any indication of what to expect, it’s going to be quite a show.

Whidbey Rev Flyers practice for their upcoming performance at the kite festival.

Whidbey Rev Flyers practice for their upcoming performance at the kite festival (photo by David Welton)

“You can’t just have one kite,” Root claims. “You must have a series of them.” She whips out her phone to show me a picture of her kites―there are dozens. The festival feeds this passion for multiple kites by hosting a Used Kite Loft where folks can buy and sell kites. A drawing for a raffle of 500 kite related items will be held on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. (You needn’t be present to win; all proceeds fund the festival.)

At Fort Casey, the wind continues to blow steadily over the grounds, and a handful of children excitedly fly their own single-line kites. As I observe the Whidbey Rev Flyers team practice, I notice that each face is a mixture of meditation and concentration. Bodies brace against the wind. Positions are called out. Hands move in sync. And the best part—geometric kites dance against a turquoise sky.

Hundreds of colorful kites take to the skies at the Whidbey Island Kite Festival.

Hundreds of colorful kites take to the skies at the Whidbey Island Kite Festival (photo by David Welton)

To join Whidbey Island Kite Fliers, visit http://www.whidbeykiteclub.org/.  Every third Saturday of the month the Fliers combine a “fun fly” at Fort Casey Historical Park with a cookout. Members also meet on-island and off-island at various kiting locations. For more information about the Whidbey Island Kite Festival visit http://www.whidbeykites.org/.

Lara Dunning is a freelance writer. She has been published in The Crossing Guide, Anacortes Scene and Waggoner’s Pacific Northwest Boating. Her interests include young adult novels, history, travel and locavore inspired food.

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