• Flying competition turned festival
• The sport and art of kite flying
• Pseudo-schedule to accommodate the wind
It’s a bird, it’s a plane….no, it’s a kite! The 29th Annual Great Lakes Kite Festival was held in Grand Haven, MI this past May. Hundreds of kite builders, flyers, and enthusiasts flocked to the shores of Lake Michigan at Grand Haven State Park beach.
This free event marks the beginning of summer each year, for individuals from the area, the weekend before Memorial Weekend.
Another category was called ‘Individual Innovative,’ while still competitive, it allowed fliers to artistically express themselves with new techniques not yet standard to other categories. This freedom, got the organizer thinking. “Our event evolved from a competition to a festival around the year 2000 when its organizer, Steve Negen, realized it is much more enjoyable for both the fliers and the crowds when fliers are free to express themselves without the pressure of being scored while flying,” expressed Veihl. This change also allows routines to fly back-to-back now, without the delay of tallying scores, making the event even more popular.
The hardest part of planning this event is the lack of control over the weather. Kite ballets are scheduled over Saturday and Sunday, with teams and individuals scheduled depending on whose kites can fly in the current wind conditions. This means a printed schedule or final schedule is never in order. “We have an announcer on a loudspeaker who announces the next two to three performers coming up, as well as sharing tidbits about the next team in between performances since it takes a few moments for one team to clear the field while the next team sets up,” said Veihl, “For the kite flyers, during a performance, the announcer confers with team captains to see who is ready to fly soon and lets them know who they’ll be after.” The announcer also periodically announces the kites currently in the air and other activities taking place, while also reminding spectators to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
The beach is partitioned off with areas for giant kites, the main performance field, Kite Club Row, the MACkite Retail tent, restrooms, and an open flying field. Attendees are encouraged to fly their own kites during the weekend or to just sit back and enjoy the air show.
If the wind if strong enough, a special appearance of giant kites (some up to 90 ft long and 40 ft wide) will take place, with a candy drop for the kids of all ages. And for a sportier aspect, strong winds bring local kiteboarders to the water for demonstrations.
When the wind is high, go fly a kite. It can be as exciting or as relaxing as you choose to make it.