August 1
Runaway Berkeley Bear

Big Kite Stack

There is a reason I refer to Berkeley as a "kite family reunion".

The core of the event is a tight-knit group of volunteers who gather year-after-year to produce one of the leading festivals of the west coast. You come and watch friends grow gray and their children grow up. We're in our 17th year now. Over time, the second generation of volunteers has begun to step in for their parents.

This event had its origins as the West Coast Sport Kite Championships. It remains one of the largest competitions along the Pacific. But like Wildwood, the festival has also evolved into a significant single-line show. In fact, I would say that it is the largest gathering of large inflatables on either coast.

At one time or another, there were 20 different giant Peter Lynns in the air. Fliers like Al Sparling, Mike North, Joe Tait, Dan Whitney, Rod and Cindy Thrall, and Dave Hoggan kept pulling pieces out of their bags and challenging the 20 m.p.h. gusty winds. Fortunately there was only one disaster. But it was a good one...

Earlier this year, Dave and Karleen Hoggan purchased our faded green bear. The kite had plenty of air time left -- especially since the fabric used was ounce-and-a-half rather than the usual three-quarter ounce stuff. But the fluorescent green color had faded to a pale, almost-white yellow.

The Hoggans spent the spring dying the huge kite back to a vibrant yellow color, and unveiled it for the first new flight on Saturday. Dave then asked me how much life I thought the kite might have left in it. "Big kites don't expire from old age", I told him. "They die of trauma -- like falling onto a fence or tree." Sure wish I hadn't told him that....

Mid-afternoon, the Berkeley winds gusted into the mid-twenties. We should have brought everything down, but there were 10,000 people there enjoying the show. Suddenly the line holding the giant bear gave way at the knot and he broke loose, tumbling downfield. The good news is that no one was hurt. The bad news is that he caught both a fence and a small bush, bursting an arm and shredding a leg from the groin to the toe-pads.

Good Bear - flying well and looking great Bad Bear - examining the damage Extra Leg - shredded but still proud

At this point I have to add that Dave and Karleen must have a wonderful marriage. A spring project and a lot of money goes flying and they are not only still talking, but managing a bit of a smile too. Good story, good learning experience, and a couple of great examples on how to set priorities in life.

I emailed Peter in New Zealand that night and we are already at work on a replacement arm and leg. We'll dye the parts up, sew them on, and probably add a few bandages to commemorate the mishap. I'm quite sure the yellow bear will be back!

There was plenty of other excitement at Berkeley. We had great ballet, hot tricks, a fine group of new competitive fliers, Ray Bethell straining with three kites all day, banners, kitemaking with JR Tolman, and plenty of big kites and line laundry. We even had Mix McGraw return to the field to try and beat his record of 150 stunt kites flown at once. But nothing all weekend matched the drama of the Runaway Berkeley Bear.

159 Hyperkites flown by Mix McGraw

Traditionally we close the festival with a sunset dinner cruise on San Francisco Bay. It was a fine weekend. Count on us to be back for number eighteen.

Susie and are back home for just one day and then off to Rehoboth Delaware for a weekend of fun flying. See you out there somewhere!

Don't forget we're marking down our larger Pilot Parafoils. You won't find a better and more stable lifter.

The normal price on this Peter Lynn design is $325. But from now until August 10, we'll take 10% off ($292.50), and if you order one we already have in-stock (red/white/blue - red/white/black - purple/white/black - yellow/white/black - rainbow) and we'll bump the discount to 20% ($260).

Pilot Sale

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