Go Fly a Kite!


Kites entice the wind/Earth’s breath in fabric dresses/Dancing in the clouds – anonymous

February is still cold in many hometowns, but you might see the wind dance with colorful kites! Diehard fans celebrate Kite Flying Day on February 8 by flying diamonds, boxes, and stylistic shapes of animals and insects.


Wind Catchers

It’s unknown who flew the very first kite. Perhaps it’s true that a farmer tied a string to his cloth hat to keep it from blowing away in the wind. Or it could be that a child found the magic of the wind by holding a piece of fabric high into the air. We do know that kites have been around for thousands of years.

“Kites have not only provided much entertainment through the centuries but also served very practical purposes,” says Kay Day, who together with her husband Larry founded Color the Wind Kite Festival in Clear Lake, Iowa. “During the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.-A.D. 200), kites became military tools. The Chinese would attach bamboo pipes to their kites and fly them over the enemy. The whistling of the pipes incited fear among the enemy. Gen. Han Hsin also flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far he would have to tunnel to get past the defenses. Knowing that distance, the troops reached inside the city walls, surprised their enemy and won the battle.”

Long before Benjamin Franklin conducted his famous kite and key experiment, he had an interest in kites. As a boy, he discovered he could use his paper kite as a sail to pull himself across a lake, “without the least fatigue and with the greatest pleasure imaginable,” his autobiographical writings state.


The Bite of Kites

Day recounts the day when she and Larry were bitten by the kite craze. “We were vacationing in Door County, Wisconsin, and happened onto a little kite shop there. We stopped to buy some small, inexpensive kites for our three youngest grandchildren and Larry also bought one for himself. He immediately had to try it out and enjoyed it so much, he went back for a little larger one for himself. We both were amazed at the variety of shapes and sizes of the kites available – and the prices!” The Days watched videos of stunt kites being flown to music, marveling at the maneuverability of the kites and the skill and precision it takes to fly them.

Big Purple Marble’s logo includes the silhouette of a diamond-shaped kite.  But kites come in a variety of sizes and shapes. “In addition to the Diamond or “Eddy” kite, there are Sode or Kimono kites, Sled kites, Barn Door kites, Rokkakus, Deltas, Roller kites, Dopero, and single line parafoils or flowforms. These all are flown from a single line,” explains Day. “The conditions required to fly them vary according to the size and weight of the kite. In general, one can fly most of these if there is a steady wind of between 8 and 12 mph. For smooth flying of kites of any type or size, a consistent breeze is required free from trees, buildings or any tall objects which obstruct the breeze.”

We found this video of a unique kite being flown in a 2009 kite-flying event in Italy”


Stunt Flyers

The stunt or sport kite, is flown from two or four lines using special handles. A stunt kite is a kite that can be easily navigated in the air. “They are controllable and used for enjoyment, but also capable of generating a powerful amount of pull,” says Day. “Stunt kites have been around since 1941 when a steerable diamond design was first flown. Notwithstanding, they began to become popular and available to the public in the early 70s and onward.”

Day says that most modern 2-line stunters are dependable, quick and capable of tracing out clear-cut patterns in the air. The kite can be made to flip, slip, stall and do other tricks on and off the ground. “It is absolutely fascinating to watch a precision stunt kite team fly their kites in tandem, dancing in the air and choreographed to music,” she says.

Color the Wind Kite Festival features two such teams. “Team Fire ‘n Ice is a three person team flying two line kites. Team 180GO is a five person team flying “Quads” or four line kites. The things they can make these kites do is amazing!” Day says. “A third category is the ‘inflatable kite’. These kites are three dimensional, have no spars and inflate with the wind. These have come to be known as ‘show kites’ because of their complexity and size. There are teddy bears, kitty cats, fish of all kinds, octopi, trilobites, and on and on! The big inflatables cannot be held by hand. They require a strong staking system whether on dry land or on ice. They are very powerful and can be dangerous if not respected and handled correctly.”


The Days’ Color the Wind Kite Festival is held February 17th, 2018 at Clear Lake, Iowa. Find more information here.

Check out this video for ten festivals around the globe.


We’d love to showcase your kite-flying skills. Send us your photos and videos!

Feature photo and other photos courtesy Kay Day.

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