Kite Festival, Kite Flying, Kiting, showkites

The Unwritten Rules of Festival Kite Flying

Whether you’re a novice or an expert kiter, new to the festival scene or a veteran of local, regional, national, or even international kiting events, there are some rules to live by when invited to fly.

Stuffing away an oversized Peter Lynn Octopus can take a village.

As more communities knock the wind back into big kiting, there’s a big difference between participating in a club fun fly or social hour and working together to ensure festival goers get the awesome experience they came for. Whatever you call it – the mindset of highly practiced festival fliers, a healthy set of tips for putting on a quality display, or just plain common sense – here it is… unfiltered guidance from some real festival pros. Together, they break down everything from flier best practices to field etiquette. It’s your ticket to ensuring you contribute to a successful event – one that has the hosting organization, fellow kiters, and public welcoming you back in the future:

It’s all About the Show

Rod Thrall
American Kitefliers Association award-winning master kite builder, and 30-yr. veteran showkiter

Rod Thrall: The organizer has brought us in to put on the best show possible, and that’s what we’re there to do. Start your day by getting to know the other fliers and finding out what kites they have and getting a feel for how they approach things. It could be that you have something in your bag that would complement what they plan to fly, and you can work together to present a great show. Cooperation on the field is key to getting the job done. It’s about putting on the best show we can for the organizer, and if that means keeping most of my kites in the bag for the day, that’s okay. I can help out with everybody else’s kites.

Andrew Beattie
fulltime showkiter, licensed dealer of Peter Lynn Kites, and owner of tug.com

Andrew Beattie: Hosts and sponsors invest a huge amount of time and effort to develop events, including charming sponsors, organizing transport, toilets, security, catering, and a thousand other expensive details. The thing that they ask of fliers is first and foremost to fly kites! With this in mind, focus on providing a good display all through the event. It can be hard work to keep going, taking advantage of every little puff of wind that comes through the site on windless days, but the sponsor needs you to keep trying, even in the blistering heat on a windless Sunday afternoon. The best fliers are the ones who work together to put on a good display. The top fliers of big soft kites have all learned to work together, to share lines, anchors and kites to find the best display for the conditions. If I see an anchor which is being under-utilized, I have no hesitation in pulling a kite out of my bag and inserting it into someone else’s stack.

Phil and Barb Burks
20+ yr. veteran showkiter flying from coast to coast and internationally

Phil Burks: The more you can pack into a given space the better the show looks to the public and usually the happier result for the folks who put on the event. The majority of the time it’s not about you as an individual flier but about the beauty of “the show” you create both in the sky and on the ground. Try to chat with the festival folks about the space and expectations of what they want to see. Realize the kites you bring may not always be the kites you fly. Recently at the Lincoln City festival, space was very limited and the list of invited flyers was long, so we worked hard to get everyone in the air with something collectively. For some it was their pilot at the top of the stack, for others they dropped off their kite at an anchor to be added to a stack in progress. We put our egos aside, worked as a group to create an awesome experience that will stay with us forever, and the show benefited.

Bring the Good Without the Grief

Jeff Kuhns
25 yr. Veteran Showkiter, Member, WI Kiters Club

Jeff Kuhns: The most useful tool in the kite flying arsenal: when on the field, be polite. Find a way to work with everyone. Realize that everyone wants to fly. If the field is filling up, make space for others by flying off of one instead of multiple anchor points. Bring an assortment of kites for a variety of conditions and be prepared to change or choose something different in your collection when conditions warrant. If someone needs help, help them.

Rodd Thrall: Get there early. Don’t be that guy that shows up an hour or two late and then complains all day when there’s no room to fly. Fly big flowforms or other kites with long tails at the downwind end of the field or high above everything else. Nothing fouls a field faster than a kite on 100ft of line with long tails on the upwind end of the field. Also, don’t fly anything if you’re just going to wander off and leave everyone else to deal with your kite. If you need to take a break let the other fliers know, do your business, and get back out there. Additionally, get used to the idea that you are going to get tangled up. It’s going to happen, and your attitude will go a long way to making it a successful day. Rather than throw fits and make everybody miserable, I capitalize on the opportunity to make new friends or renew old acquaintances – advice I received years ago from a veteran flier.

Teamwork is at the heart of every great festival.

Phil Burks: Anchor extra well at events and have a safety chat before you launch or take down that big kite. If your kite is misbehaving and wreaking havoc then fix or replace it. Keep an eye on the weather changes. Have a scramble bag for those times when packing up quick is a must. Keep your energy up and hydrate. You’ll need your energy to last the duration, as the hard part is taking down after a long day on the field. And if someone is struggling, lend a hand. After all, they’re kite family.

Andrew Beattie: Keep in mind, the precious space in the field is for kites, not tents or cars. In order to maximize the flying area, anchor all the way out to the edge of the field on the windward side. Anchoring 10 or 20 meters inside the field, as many sometimes do, is counterproductive.

Network and Learn from Others

A four-man team works to recover their Peter Lynn stack at Kites Over Lake Michigan.

Jeff Kuhns: Although some fliers have known each other for many, many years, never let that stop you from introducing yourself. And if it’s your first year at a fly, take your time. You may need to give in to veterans and possibly learn that first time by observing. All events / fields have their quirks, and sometimes it’s best to watch and learn from more experienced fliers. Many fliers, once they get to know each other and have flown with each other many times, will decide to fly together. They know what kites and gear each other has, understand the winds of the day, and are trying to do the best with what they have. It takes time to get to know everyone and how one may be able to contribute to what a group of fliers may be trying to accomplish. It’s also acceptable to politely decline an invite to fly with a group, especially when there’s room on the field for everyone.

Be an Ambassador

Jeff Kuhns: Be friendly, but firm when necessary. At the end of the day, we’re there for the public.

Showkiter Mike Gee takes the hand of a young spectator as he welcomes an entire family to get an up-close view of his display at the Prairie Wind Kite Fly in Jackson, MN.

Phil Burks: We can change attitudes and lives with what we do. A “magical experience” with youth could plant the seed for a future flyer. Many folks have come up to me especially when I’m free flying and tell me how they were having a bad time in their life and seeing the kites helped them in a big way. At events, having folks get up as close in the safest way possible enhances their experience and gives them a chance to learn more about our passion. They’re why we are flying at events in the first place and, after all, we are there to put smiles on faces.

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1 thought on “The Unwritten Rules of Festival Kite Flying”

  1. With large kites this is not possible.

    However with the smaller kites we fly I often try and get children (off all ages) to have a go. At a recent festival I spent an hour with kids queuing up to fly a delta serpent. Lots of smiles and even more photos. One of those kids might get into flying a a result.

    Liked by 1 person

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