Wrights and Wrongs in Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk was supposed to be something special. And it was.

After all, we were right there where the Wright Brothers flew. It was a special place, a special group of fliers, and a special anniversary -- 100 years after the very first powered flight.

We launched a kite arch up and over the Wright Memorial. Hundreds of kids made kites in the pavilion. Some of our larger showpieces were actually longer than the first Wright Flight. We offered displays of indoor flying, historical kites, miniature kites, and even kite stamps. Park rangers told us that attendance at the site had doubled during the festival.

The "Wright Brothers" even came to tell us about their adventure. And 91 year-old Frances Rogollo, another giant of aviation history, joined us on the field.

Oroville, Wilbur and David

Of course, on the other hand, it was Friday the 13th and a full moon. So you had to figure something was going to go wrong….

I'd arranged for nine guest performers to fly into Norfolk, all arriving within half an hour on Thursday night. I thought I'd organized things pretty well.

Al Sparling

Al Sparling touched down first. Mechanical delays had kept him on the ground in Chicago and he arrived 45 minutes late.

Al was amused that everyone else was even more behind schedule. The German's flight had been completely canceled and we had no way to call them at Dulles. We grabbed Al's baggage, tossed it in the van, and went looking for food.

Gerard Clement from Paris had landed in Philadelphia. Security wouldn't let him clear customs because he couldn't tell them the name of his hotel in Nags Head. None of us yet knew where we were sleeping!!

Finally the Immigration Service released him and Gerard ran through the airport for his connecting flight. His bags never made the plane.

Gerard Clement

Pete Dolphin

Pete Dolphin was waiting impatiently for Gerard at the flight from Philly to Norfolk. They were the last to board the plane. Pete and Gerard taxied out onto the runway. Then weather delays set in.

Thunder closed the airport so Pete and Gerard sat for three hours in the plane waiting for a 40 minute flight. They called us in Norfolk every half hour to report the lack of news.

Dealing with the same storm, Christian and Susie Treppner of Lunen Germany were still in Dulles. They'd arrived in Washington DC, only to be told their flight was canceled and they couldn't fly out until the following morning. They didn't know our cell numbers and had no way to call us.

We discovered the flight was scrubbed and tried paging Christian in Dulles. Miraculously he'd heard the page and called us back. He'd rented a car and was planning to drive through the night across Virginia to Norfolk.

Christian and Susi

Pete and Gerard landed at 11 p.m. sans baggage. Unable to communicate with Christian and Susi, we decide to get the group into cars and begin the two hour drive to Kitty Hawk and bed. Coordinator Meg Albers met us at 2:30 a.m. with cottage assignments, directions and keys. This would be the first of three houses we slept in over four nights. We found our lodging, chose bedrooms and got undressed. Just then my cell phone rang. Christian and Susi had arrived in Norfolk and need to be picked up…..

Mike Agner Jose Sainz Allan Robb Jim and Katherine Martin

The following day, Jose Sainz also arrived late and without kites. Mike Agner drove in and brought anchors for all the big kite fliers. Allan Robb came with a smile and his good humor. Jim Martin drove up from Charlotte with the family and a broken air conditioner. They all had no idea what they were getting into.

Light Winds

Light Winds

By Friday, we had a modicum of sleep, flying gear from the airport, and a good breakfast delivered to the park. We were ready to do what we came for – fly at the Wright Memorial. Opening ceremonies started the day with speeches, flags, and dignitaries. That's when the wind evaporated.

The heat and humidity made it difficult to breath on the field.

Light, swirling breezes dropped over the trees, lifting and then dumping everything we tried to loft. We spread out and struggled. It was hard, dusty, sweaty flying.

Inside the pavilions, other volunteers worked with hoards of kids to make kites. Their contributions are invaluable. After all, I don't want to have to work with children! But on the other hand, inside the building, there is air conditioning and cold water….

It was an honor to see Francis Rogollo again.

"Rog" was presented with a plaque which reads, "From the invention of the first flexible kite, to the first delta kite to one of the first dual-control kites and probably the first stunt kite team, your wing has given birth to the joy of kiting and flight for enthusiasts around the world and the sports of hang gliding, para gliding, power kiting, kite boarding and snow kiting. Thank you."

Mr. Rogollo

Corey Lama

Guest announcer Corey Jensen spent some time explaining to Federal Rangers the relationship of kites to powered aircraft, the history of the national park system, fashion tips, sand dune geology and his general philosophy of life.

It was good to see Corey in the company of a man in uniform without wearing handcuffs.... ;)

Saturday we were able to ease a few larger pieces skyward. The winds were gusty and we were boxed in with trees on one side, and the sidewalk filled with spectators on the other. Pilot kites dropped into the stunt kite fields. But everyone soldiered on.

Clement Kite Treppner Kite Dolphin Kite

Other guest fliers like Jerry Houck, Paul Fieber, and Karen and Tim Waters worked the crowds. Vaino Raun and Richard Dutton handled the large arch made in local schools. New Tech, go fly, Revolution and Premier gave flying lessons.

Besides kites and good company, we found something else out on the fields. Cactus! They poke at our shoes, stick in our bags, and grab at our kites. As we walked across the grass, spikey clumps are kicked up by one foot to stick in the back of your other leg. It is …. bloody….

Agner kept his dog in the car where it was safe. That is a good thing since the dog is able to avoid the ticks, chiggers and spider bites the rest of us discover. Ugh!

Cactus Clumps

Wet Gombergs

And then on Sunday, just when we'd thought the worst was behind us, the rain arrived.

In an hour, we got an inch. Everyone was drenched as we scrambled to cover the kites. After all, we were returning to the airport and bags that weighed fifty pounds with dry contents were going to be way overweight when wet.

Was it a bad weekend? Absolutely not!! We enjoyed good friends. Kitty Hawk Kites treated us well and Meg Albers worked hard to keep everything organized and flowing. Parties were scheduled every night and I even got a birthday surprise. On Monday, we visited historical Roanoke, the "lost" colony and enjoyed the outdoor theater there. And most important, we have flown with the Wrights.

But I really didn't need the cactus….

Weekly Update Sale!

Check the Update regularly for news of specials, mark-down, and Update-Only sales.

This week, we're offering 20% off on six and three ball Bubble Tubes. Each piece has an opening diameter of 12 inches and the bubbles stretch to two feet. We make a 17 foot three-ball model, and a huge 30 foot six-ball version. Click on the photo to see the rainbow version.

The standard price is $70 and $120 respectively. But through June 30, you can order any colors you want and get them for $56 or $96.

Bubble Tubes with Pilot 75

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