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October 22
Lunen war Sehr Kalt!

I was prepared for Lunen. I brought my Kites On Ice boots, my heavy gloves, and my long underwear. But half way through the night fly, the cold began to penetrate.

The Germans call this "Ash Kalt". Trust me, "ash" has nothing to do with fireplace leftovers. Loosely translated, it refers to the tightening of your lower posterior muscles in an effort to squeeze the cold away...

Ash Kalt!

For the first hour of the night program, I watched the kites and thought about the cold. For the second hour, I watched the kites and thought about the hot wine they were pouring in large quantities for all us judges. And for the third hour, I watched the kites and wondered when I would finally get to use the toilet...

Still, the show was spectacular.

Festival Entrance

Lunen is the final event of the German festival season. It draws a large contingent of fliers from around Western Europe including busloads from England and France.

The gathering is held on a glider field with a huge, coal-fired electricity plant dominating the distant skyline. The fall air is usually crisp and clear.

Each night, fliers gather for meals and camaraderie in the glider hangar. Oh, and there is good beer too.

About 50,000 people attend the weekend festival. For 2003, a pair of Peter Lynn "style" Bears greeted the crowds at the field entrance. These are flyable kites, set-up as a ground display, with a fan inflating them through the ... ash.

Intricate and artistic kites move in and out of the main show arena. Here are a series of three meter (10 foot) DellaPorta featuring Chinese style papercut figures.

Paper Cut Edo Paper Cut Edo Paper Cut Edo Paper Cut Edo

Another kite I really enjoyed was the Zimmerman Owl. He inflated easily and maintained a constant wing-flap in the air that gave the kite a charming sense of animation. We're experimenting with the possibility of bringing this new inflatable to the US market.

Owl Owl Owl

As I said before, a highlight of the Lunen Festival is the night fly competition. The most creative and artistic kites -- all designed to be flown in the dark - are assembled for the judges and a crowd of 10,000. Some are illuminated by internal lights and others supported with reflective material. Entire programs are choreographed to music by flying teams in costumes and with pyrotechnics. This year there were eighteen entries and I was privileged again to be part of the international judging panel.

Night Fly Preview Night Fly Preview Night Fly preview

We begin by previewing each kite in the afternoon, indoors, and listening to a briefing by each team leader. Then, after dinner, we assemble with clipboards to watch the show.

Two remarkable kites deserve special attention. The first featured a plastic screen which moved across the face of the kite in an endless loop, powered by four turbines. This kite was about ten feet tall.

Moving Screen

The screen was backlit with a fluorescent fixture, and because both sides of the transparent film were visible, the image constantly changed.

The second kite, covered in reflective tape, contained seven huge pinwheels. When the spotlights found it in the sky, the result was dizzying.

Fortunately, I was able to get photos of both kites in the afternoon sun.

Pinwheel Rok

Another highlight of the weekend was an organized effort to fly more than 100 sport kites in a single "Mega Team" performance.

Mega Team

Anyone who has flown or watched such programs, knows that the lead kite can't complete basic 'infinity' maneuvers before running into the last ones in the formation.

Lunen pilots resolved this problem by dividing the performance into five sections and flying the kites in groups of ten to twenty.

All the kites would launch on a single command, complete loops or figure-eights, and then move into mega-flanks or dives. Usually a third of the fliers would be tangled after a few minutes, but they got better as the day went on. And it was an impressive sight to see.

The Germany trip was a quick one for me. In on Friday and out on Monday. That means I was jet-lagged and dragging all weekend, never really adjusting to the time change or sleeping off the flight from Oregon. But there were good friends, good kites, and good German beer to make the weekend a good one.

Lunen is one of the great European festivals with plenty to offer every kind of flier. And the nice thing about leaving is knowing that we'll see all of those flying friends at the next big festival.

Auf Wiedersehen bis folgendes Mal, Lunen!

Lunen Sunset

We carried a bag of Frank Schweimann's Pyro or Ghost Deltas home from Germany. These are the big 11 foot deltas with long flowing tails dominate the sky.

We've got the classic all-white, and we have a red one with a black keel. These kites are hard-to-get and the standard price is $400. But remember that AKA members get 10% off.

The G-KITE 7 foot Pyro is expected in Mid-December.

Pyro Delta

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