In late spring, several cities in North Dakota hold kite festivals. One of my Civil Air Patrol colleagues mentioned a kite fest held near Garrison. The Sky Fest Over Ft. Stevenson sounded like a great way to spend a Memorial Day weekend visiting an area of North Dakota I’d never seen. I made plans but as things go, a conflict came up that precluded our visit this year. The Sky Fest is North Dakota’s largest kite festival, so I will have to plan for a future visit. In the process of looking up information about kites and kite festivals, I discovered that Jamestown also has an annual kite festival.
Not only was I in time to catch this year’s event, with Jamestown only about 100 miles (161 km) from Fargo, the drive wouldn’t even be long and we’d have time to explore more of Jamestown. It turned out we had even more time than I expected. As you can see by the image above, the Jamestown Kite Festival is a family affair. What’s better than kids and kites? You’ll also note that the sidewalk in the image is a bit damp. During the day there would be spotty light showers. Just before lunch, a heavier rain started to fall and people headed for cover. Though the fest would resume after the rain stopped, we called it a day and made another stop which will be the focus of a future Travel Tuesday.
As it happened, this year’s festival was the organization’s 25th annual. It’s held at Meidinger Park Field each year with a three day schedule. Friday featured workshops taught by professional kiters. Of course, as you can see in the image above, amateur kiters can have their own way of relaxing while flying their kites.
On the 9th and 10th, Kid’s kite building attracted a large quantity of youngsters who created their own kites and then tried them out. The kite building classes were sponsored jointly by the Wings on Strings Kite Club and the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department.
As you might imagine, for the uninitiated like myself, there is much to learn about the hobby. When we first arrived, I saw a collection of kites, some red, some black, but all in the shape of a “W”. There were eight in total. I would soon learn that they would fly in unison and perform what could only be called by this aviator as “formation flying.” These sophisticated kites have four control lines each. A team of eight professional kiters manage those lines.
These unusual kites are manufactured by Revolution Enterprises. The company also produces skateboards, golf shafts, and other sports products. The team of professional kiters is sponsored by Revolution. During a break between performances, I visited with Mike Kory, captain of the team known as 180 Go!. They travel the country each summer appearing at kite festivals throughout the season. He told me that the Jamestown Kite Festival is one the team never misses. The photo above features the Revolution kites in flight.
Each member of the team has their hands full. The kites require two hands to operate with a two-wire controller in each hand. The team members each wear a small headset and team captain, Mike (far left) has a microphone on his headset. During the show, Mike calls maneuver signals to the team members who then assume the appropriate positions to complete the formation maneuver.
The 180 Go! Team’s website provides information on the schedule of appearances for the 10-member team. This year their performances were featured in festivals in Germany and Canada, though most were in the central United States from Texas to Wisconsin. Their aerial performances are choreographed to music and their precision flying is something to see. Their schedules are available online at their website, though as of this writing, their 2020 schedule has not yet been posted. You can find out more about the team and even watch videos of some of their performances here.
Though I found the flight team an interesting surprise, I was also intrigued by the collection of very large kites. The giant squid kite in the image above was the largest kite we saw in flight that morning. As you can see by judging the size of the people in the photograph, that kite is huge. I can only guess that the tentacles are over 20 feet (6 m) long for sure. A quick Google search for “squid kite” found several companies selling them on Amazon, all over 20 feet long. I submit for your review a gallery of images captured at the Jamestown Kite Festival. Most browsers support a closer look if you select an image in the gallery. From there, scroll left or right to view the entire gallery.