Arts and Entertainment

Sky high with kites

Glenda Kleppin and Jerry Graham fly a kite during last weekend
Glenda Kleppin and Jerry Graham fly a kite during last weekend's Kite Festival at Camp Casey. The joined about 4,000 other people who took to the skies with their favorite kites.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland

About 4,000 people from British Columbia to Oregon came to Central Whidbey over the weekend to compete and watch kites of all shapes and sizes soar in the blue over the Camp Casey Conference Center.

Kiters said the weather and winds were simply perfect.

"It's a great day," said Glenda Kleppin of Bonney Lake. "It's like any kite festival. The wind comes, it goes. The kites go up and the kites go down."

Like many at the festival, Kleppin and Jerry Graham are avid kite fliers who travel to festivals all over Washington and Oregon. Kleppin flew her kite with her tiny dog, Susie, strapped to her chest.

"She's the most well-known dog in the Pacific Northwest kite-flying community," Kleppin said.

The two days of the festival included a kite-making school for kids, sport kite-flying lessons and a spectacular mass ascension of kites that stopped lookee-loo traffic on the way to the ferry dock.

There were endless styles of kites at the festival. There were the old Benjamin Franklin-type flat kite, the boxy "cellular kites," the three-dimensional "tri-D" kites and two-handed sport kites. There were beautiful kites shaped like tin soldiers, birds and giant dragons in the sky.

But the main purpose of the festival was a sport or "stunt" kite competition. These type of kites, which are controlled by two lines, can do amazing and precise acrobatics in the hands of a skilled kiter.

"This festival focuses on sport kiting," Graham said. "Us one-liners are allowed to hang around."

The competition included both individual and team competition in several events. There were the ballets, free-flight performances set to music. The music of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle and the classics filled the air.

Then there were the precision events in which flyers perform a series of "compulsory maneuvers," broken up into novice, experienced and masters levels. The mid-sky maneuvers included the ladder down, the two circles within a circle, the T-bone and the tulip.

While the competitions were undoubtedly exciting, most fliers said they love the relaxing, out-of-body feeling of controlling an object as it soars through the air.

"You forget about all your troubles," said Jeremy Perceval, a British Columbia man who was giving kite-flying lessons. "To me, there's nothing I would rather do than fly a kite."

On Whidbey Island, 37 people are members of the island's kite fliers club. In fact, the most popular maker of competition kites is located in Coupeville. Taylor said Richard Barnes of Pizazz Kiteworks makes the kites "one at a time."

Club Vice President Linda Barnes said that the club and association is dedicated to passing on the love of kite flying to the younger generation. They host kite-building workshops in schools and organizations in April and award scholarships to a kite-building event in Port Townsend.

This is the third year the Whidbey Island Kite Festival Association and Whidbey Island Kite Fliers held the Kite Festival and Sport Kite Championships.

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