March 7, 2007
Zilker: As Old as Ray Bethell

I’m privileged to attend a lot of kite festivals. And with the possible exception of Smithsonian, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen as many kites in the air at a US event, as at Zilker Park last Sunday.

Zilker Panorama

For anyone not familiar with this Austin Texas tradition, kiters have been gathering in a riverside park for 79 straight years now. (That reminds me -- Ray Bethell had a birthday last week!) Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Exchange Club, “Zilker” is the longest running kite festival in the country.

Zilker Contests Zilker Contests Zilker Contests

And for each of those 79 years, the same set of contests has been run each March. They have Steadiest Kite, Highest Angle, Strongest Pulling, Smallest, Largest, and Most Unusual. I enjoy watching families come out, knowing that many of these parents may have themselves come to the festival years before as children.

Fast-Kite

In the main area, sport kiters and buggiers performed demonstrations for the crowd. But by far, the main attraction of the event was simply bringing the family out to the park and putting a string in the sky.

Three different kite-buying stations were spread around the field, each offering a “fast-kite” menu and easy selections that were as efficient as any Taco Bell drive-through in the city.

Buyers lined up, checked reader-boards to place orders, and had their bag waiting at the pick-up table right after paying.

A relatively new addition has been the Large Kite Field. We’ve visited Austin for each of the past seven years. Large kites have become a mainstay, anchoring the far end of the flying zone and making the event visible from miles away. This year, field ‘integrity’ was the best ever, with volunteers keeping onlookers, kids, and smaller kites out of the display area.

Big Kite Field Big Kite Field Big Kite Field

We enjoyed the company of a number of kiters including Charlie Cullen, Daniel Rojas, Rick Hawkins, Richard Wells, Rob Cembalest and Gary Powell. Barry Ogletree and his family unveiled a new giant Squid which proved to be the best flier and probably the best show of the festival as well.

Big Kite Field Big Kite Field Big Kite Field

Winds were predicted at 6 m.p.h. for the day and that was pretty accurate. After all, when you get some nothing, some three, some twelve, and a bit of eighteen and twenty-four, the average is six…

At one point, a hard-blowing dust devil moved across the field making the kites look like they had all been tossed into a giant blender.

Carriage House Inn

At the end of the day, we retired to the Shady Grove for some well earned Tex-Mex and a bucket of Margaritas. Zilker hospitality is the best! And if Austin is indeed as weird as they say, well, we kiters fit right in.

We want to send a very special thank you to Dorsey and Bunnie Twidwell of the Exchange Club who have brought this great event to new levels, and to our host in Austin, the wonderful Carriage House Inn. I hope 'y'all' will consider a trip to Zilker when they celebrate their 80th anniversary next March.

Check out the news reports and some festival video at Channel 8. Just type “Zilker Kite” in the search engine and see what pops up.

Dog Kites

Dog Days! We pulled a new kite out of the bag in Austin. It was a golden mid-sized pupple from Peter Lynn. This one was actually made in New Zealand and we won’t be planning to produce a licensed version ourselves for at least a year. But you can have this one for a special price - $1500. That’s a $250 savings.

We’ll also offer the full 40 foot Giant Dog for a discount as well -- $3700. That’s down from the list price of $4200. This offer is good while our samples last. Call first and you’ll get the original model in North America.

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