October 18
Lunen, Germany

From AKA, Susie and I drove back to Chicago and then flew direct to Dusseldorf for the nearby festival in Lunen, Germany.

Lunen is the last big kite event of the European season. This year was the tenth anniversary and it was a huge one. Organized by our dear friends, Christian and Suzie Treppner-Schultes, the gathering drew over 800 kiters and 100,000 spectators to a large glider field on the edge of town. Featured events included a nightfly competition, rok battles, big kites, fireworks, and the world's largest kite-pin challenge. So you can see right away why we like Lunen...

Ten Years of Lunen

Most of the fliers arrive in camping trailers and set up on the edge of the field.

Imagine for a moment, twice the number of people that register for the AKA Convention. The site is amazing, with flags, tents and ground displays spread out over half-a-mile. For meals, we gather in the airport hanger for traditional food, traditional beer, music and camaraderie that lasts most of the night. The cooling tower of a coal-fired power plant dominates the skyline downwind.

Click on the photo below for an awesome view of how the Germans come together for a kite fest...

Flying Field

One of the first events of the festival is the pin competition. A separate tent is designated for the displays and security is constantly on duty. Good thing too! With over 35,000 kite pins on display, the tent contains roughly a quarter million dollars worth of pins.

Three competitions are held -- largest, best display, and the "Know Your Collection" event. In this last contest, a series pins are described ("a rokkaku with a red dot") and participants scramble to be the first to point out that specific pin on their table.

Vic Eshpeter had the largest collection with about 3200 pieces. I was second and Christian was third. Josep Nieto of Barcelona was fourth.

For the display contest, the public was invited to vote throughout the weekend. Two years ago, I finished fourth in this event with a small sign that said " Vote for me and I'll give you this pin"...

Little Vic with his Big Collection Gomberg Pins Josep's Collection

European kites are always interesting and dramatically different. Here are a few examples.

On the left is my good friend Karl Dambeck. He and his wife Hanna and poodle Lona give me a beer every time they see me -- no matter what the time of day. His cellular kites are magnificent. In the center is a figure kite by Josep and Anna Nieto of Barcelona. "Charlie" stands over 20 feet tall. The Nieto's are accomplished appliqué artists (and darned nice people) who have a large collection of Disney oriented kites. Here on the right are two of their banners. That's Josep and Anna in the shadow.

Dambeck Cellular Big Charlie Barcelona Banners

The enormous and enthusiastic rokkaku battles are started in a way we would never imagine here in the States. The announcer toasts the competitors with a glass of the sponsor's beer.

Over 90 kites participated in the individual fight. They broke them into qualifying heats and then advanced winners to a three-round final. (A freak accident prevented me from qualifying...) The winner received the coveted "Oppa Cup", named for Christian's late brother who loved to watch the melee.

In the team battle, officials reduce the size of the field as the event progresses in an entertaining but annoying effort to keep participants "engaged". Unfortunately, it is difficult to maneuver when you are forced literally face-to-face with your opponent. Nine-the-less, Ron Miller, Vic Eshpeter, and myself won the team event.

A toast to start Roks ready to launch

Crowds are enormous in Lunen. They come early for the kite show and stay late for the night fly and fireworks. Here's a picture of Susie with our young friend, David Rommerskirchen.

Susie and David Lunen Masses

A highlight of the schedule is the annual Night Fly Competition. The Germans take this event quite seriously, with cash prizes, a big trophy, and lots of "bragging rights" at stake.

The competition is divided into kites with a reflective surface, and the open category that incorporates lights, multiple kites, props, people, and even pyrotechnics. A panel of judges evaluates the originality of the idea, the application of the idea, appearance, and how well the "thing" flies. members of the public are recruited to add a popularity score for each entry as well. The work is cold but we judges are served plenty of warm wine to keep us enthused.

Here are two examples from the afternoon "night fly preview". On the left is a stunning rotor made of reflective mylar and prizmatec diamonds. Unfortunately, winds were too light to loft it that night. On the right is a rok with hundreds of LED's inserted in the fabric. In the night sky, the star design pulsated like fireworks. The Star Rok finished in first place.

Reflective Rotor Kite Star Rok

This was my third trip to Lunen and Susie's first. I know she'll want to go back. Unfortunately, the timing of the event frequently conflicts with the AKA convention.

We packed up Monday morning and headed for the airport. Twenty two tedious hours later, we were home.

No trips scheduled for at least a few weeks. But check back next Tuesday for updates on all our new products. And in November, stop in for photos from my site visit to the International Sport Kite Championships in Malaysia.

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