October 8, 2008
Niagara Falls -- Good Times at the Gorge

Flying at the Falls

The first message we got at Niagara was pretty succinct: “Don’t tie yourselves into your kites. I don’t care how big or how small they are – no one gets connected to a kite that is near the water!”.

Struck me as pretty good advice too!

We were at the Niagara International Kite Festival. The scenery was spectacular. But we were flying right next to a raging white river. Any kite that went in was going to be swept away and take with it anything connected to the line.

For the first two days, we flew at Terrapin Point between the American and Canadian Falls. Winds were gusty, multi-directional, and very unpredictable. But being there with a kite even temporarily in the air was well worth the effort.

At one point we popped up a Giant Octopus. But as it swirled around, we decided The Point was not the safest place to fly.

Later in the day, a student team from the University at Buffalo lofted a kite from Canada and was able to land it on the US side.

In 1847, 10-year-old Holman Walsh had flown a kite across the Gorge and the line had been used to pass a heavier line, then a rope and finally a cable. The cable was used to start construction of the Rainbow Bridge.

The University team had attempted this same feat at each of the four Niagara Festivals and were finally able to duplicate it.

Flying at the Falls

Friday and Saturday were spent on the huge grass fields of Reservoir Park. The space was divided between art kites, sport kite demos, kids’ programs, and larger show kites. Susie, Al, and Mike worked the big kite field: I worked the microphone.

Big Kites Big Kites Big Kites Big Kites

Winds were light both days and the big kites went up and down. Al reported he launched the Octopus 32 times….

Rumor Control -- Canadian Falls – American Falls – Sparling Falls: Saturday night, on the way to the banquet, Al Sparling took a bad fall in the hotel parking lot. He suffered several serious facial cuts and bruises.

An ambulance was called and paramedics stopped and bandaged the bleeding. We then took Al to the Emergency Room for stitches.

Several other people stumbled in the same area where freshly painted lines masked a small step. The area is now marked with caution tape.

Al is back in Chicago and on the mend. You can email him a get well note at Alan@GombergKites.com.

Kites Kites Kites

The art kite fliers laid kites out on display. Kelvin Woods recruited friends to loft a flock of nineteen delightful butterfly kites. IQuad, WindJammers, and SkyBurner kept the crowds entertained. And on the kids’ field, local volunteers ran Bols for hours on end.

Tourists Tourists Tourists

Between flying commitments, we all took turns visiting the local attractions. That included the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist and JetBoats. Whenever they gave you a raincoat, you knew you were in for a soaking

Niagara enjoys exceptional organization and strong local support. Even in light winds, the crowds came out to enjoy the show. And with major events struggling, it is good to see the city commit funds for the future. This is one of the few remaining truly international events on the North American circuit. Mark your calendars for the last weekend of September, 2009.

Red Mask

New Opera MaskNotice anything new in this week’s Update?

We’re offering a second installment in the Chinese Opera Mask series. These are excellent kites from the Gonzales Brothers of Spain. They measure ten feet wide and thirty feet long with the connected tube tails. Choose the new red model or the original white one. And remember we can do either in different colored backgrounds

List price on any of the Masks is $1250. But order before Halloween and we’ll take off 20%.

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