April 25
Weifang China 2005

This was my ninth trip to the huge Weifang International Kites festival and the first that I have taken since 1989 without leading a group. I'd come partly to visit GKPI manufacturers and scope out new ideas. But I had also returned to renew dear friendships.

China is changing at an astounding pace. On my first visit, crowds followed me down the street gawking at my lighter skin and hair. Single story homes stretched across the city, warmed by coal fires and suffering outdoor plumbing.

Now construction cranes are everywhere. Wide boulevards transverse the city. Bricks are salvaged from the old structures to replace them with gleaming apartment buildings. But of course, people still gawk at me...

Stadium

I'd flown out of France on a Saturday morning, spent a brief day at home, and then boarded another international flight Monday morning. By Tuesday evening, I was in Weifang.

With a day free before the formal opening ceremonies, I led the Japanese delegation off to visit a street in the old city where the traditional kitemakers were clustered.

Kite Stores Kite Stores Kite Stores

Pageantry is at the heart of Chinese events and nothing is done in a small way. For the opening ceremonies, each international delegation paraded across the stadium stage to the cheers of thousands of onlookers. ("USA Kite Association" was the very last!)

We then took our seats for a combined showing of music, acrobatics, dancing and speeches which was televised live across the country. If Weifang's festival goal was to promote visibility and awareness of their economic assets, this broadcast alone would remind people that the city was a production and craftsmanship center.

Pageantry Pageantry Pageantry

The following morning, we boarded busses for the short ride to the kite field. Modegi (president of the Japan Kite Association) and I were invited to the stage as welcome speeches were offered. Then the flying and competitions began.

Festival Panorama

In the past, the Weifang field has been overrun with fliers and the sky is a jungle of conflicting lines and falling kites. This year the crowd was thinner. But more noteworthy was the change in flying styles I saw. There were certainly the typical Chinese traditional kites and larger dragons. But spreading across the field were also a variety of interesting fabric shapes and designs.

Weifang Kites Weifang Kites Weifang Kites

Weifang Kites Weifang Kites Weifang Kites Weifang Kites

More significant was the proliferation of sport kites. Typically we haven't seen many in Weifang - which is interesting since most commercial stunters are now made in China. But this year we saw dual and quad kites everywhere -- in the stores, on the field, and even in public parks on the way to the festival. Contests were held for individuals and teams. And part of the reason for my quick trip was to network with new sport kite organizations in China and encourage cooperation with AKA, STACK, and AJSKA in our international rules and competition efforts.

Weifang Kites Weifang Kites Weifang Kites

The huge flying field was not without its challenges. No spaces were reserved which made flying difficult and congested. And with large kites going up into the strong gusty winds, it was not uncommon to see them come down again into the crowd. This included giant Peter Lynns and even a humongous Serpent once listed by Guinness as the largest kite in the world.

Kite Crash Kite Crash Kite Crash Kite Crash Kite Crash

On the day following the festival, we traveled to visit traditional Chinese kitemaking factories. Craftsman split bamboo poles and then shaped the delicate frames over open flames. In a different department, artists attached silk to the bamboo and then colored it with a variety of paints and dyes.

Kite Making Kite Making Kite Making

Kite Making Kite Making Kite Making Kite Making

In the Weifang Kite Museum, I found more kitemakers who painted exquisite designs from Chinese literature onto silk panels and then attached them to hard-wing kites.

Chinese Ladies Chinese Ladies Chinese Ladies Chinese Ladies Chinese Ladies Chinese Ladies

The Museum is an enormous structure which has recenty been refurbished. New exhibits are on display and an IMAX theater showcases Weifang and the festival. In the lobby, lifesize porcelain statues "fly" up into the skylights.

Museum Museum Museum

The formal closing ceremonies were as elaborate and entertaining as any I have ever seen. Contest winners were invited to the stage and received their medals on podiums while the respective national anthem played. (Cash prizes were distributed later.) Between announcements and speeches, models paraded across the stage, holding kites in the air. Costumed characters celebrated the Year of the Chicken.

Pageantry Pageantry Pageantry

The fireworks show that followed filled the stadium with colorful explosions that brought the cheering crowd to their feet. Chinese fireworks are the best - unlike any I have seen elsewhere in the world. And the program seemed to go on forever.

Fireworks Fireworks Fireworks

Weifang had succeeded again in entertaining, exciting, and educating all of us. The city calls itself the Kite Capital of the World and that claim is hard to argue with. Other places may fly more fighters, or more giant kites, or more stunters. But for year round commitment, Weifang stands out.

Sign

And then early the next morning, I headed for the airport.

Following a one-day visit with two of the GKPI manufacturing plants, I boarded the United flight and headed for home. A mere 15 hours later I was in Portland. Susie was there at the gate waiting. She jumped into my arms. "Three whole days at home!" she cried.

Yep -- Friday I'm off to Maryland....

BTW -- you think it is easy to get around China? You figure you can make the plane connections, navigate the taxi system, and get where you want to go??

Let me tell you -- it isn't the big things that mess you up. It is the combination of a series of little things.

Click on the photo for one small example.

Phone

The Peter Lynn Sale!

Ok - Ok... we messed up last week. I meant to post the Octopus and ended up with a Trilobite repeat. I'll make it up to you now.

Each week in April, we promised a National Kite Month discount on one of the Peter Lynn inflatables. But now the month is nearly over. So how about we discount all the small Lynn kites by 20% through May 6.

Choose the Octopus, Bear, Cat, Trilobite, Gecko, Manta Ray, or Penguin. And you get to choose the colors! So don't wait. This offer is definitely limited. For more details, check our Unique Inflatable pages.

Octopus

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