March 28
A Capitol Time at the Smithsonian!

Big Green Octo

I haven't been at the Smithsonian for a few years, and I have to say that I have missed it. This is a grand event, 35 years old, and takes place right smack in the middle of the National Mall in Washington.

Usually the festival conflicts with Berck, and faced with a choice between paying my own way to DC or a free trip to France, well you know. But this year, the dates were a bit different. And when Susie told me her Brother's family was coming to visit, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get re-acquainted with classic event and all the friends that go each March.

We had been warned of rain, cold and possibly even snow. But Saturday morning dawned clear and crisp and dry. I arrived on the Mall at seven to make sure I got a parking spot.

By 10, hundreds of banners lined the edge of the field. The local tradition is that you come early, set everything up, and then the organizers tell you to move back 50 feet.

This year that didn't happen. In fact, I have to say that I found the festival hosts to be gracious, helpful, and well organized.

Banner Forest

Competitors lined up and went before the judges on at a time for one of the moist intense kitemaking competitions in the country. Categories included children and novices as well as the experts who may have started here themselves several years earlier.

Corey and Margo

Smithsonian also boasted one of the largest gatherings of past AKA presidents of any event outside the National Convention. Margo and Bevan Brown, Bob Price, Corey Jensen, Adam Grow and I all took turns on the stage.

I was also asked to moderate the rokkaku challenge. However, I suspect this "honor" was intended to keep me out of the fight...

The winds continued to build all day and by afternoon, we gusting into the twenties. Worse yet, they continued to shift from side to side and even changed direction periodically.

I'd brought a large Octopus to fly but the metal stakes around the demo field made me nervous. There is nothing like a swirling wind shift to dump a big kite in the wrong place and I was in no mood to go home with a kite full of holes.

Fortunately another giant Octopus had been sent to the festival with a request that it be flown. And rather than risk my own, I was more than happy to put the big green one up! I recruited Phil Broder and Mike VanMeers to act as moving anchors, split the bridle for maximum stability, and popped the monster into the strong winds. The murmur of approval from the crowd was all the encouragement we needed to fly throughout the rest of the day. And the good news is that we suffered no damage a t all!

Monument and Banner

Following the presentation of awards, we cleaned ourselves up and headed for a volunteer appreciation party and the main Smithsonian Museum. The instructions were to find the small "mushroom shaped building" and go down three floors. And the odd part is that I was able to do just that!

I talked my way past three different sets of security guards and found myself in a huge underground facility. The food was the best I seen at a kite event in a long time, and the drinks were free -- courtesy of the folks at JacKite.

It was a grand day at a grand event. My only regret is that there is never enough time to talk with everyone.

I took a day to relax and go sightseeing Sunday and then rushed home Monday, arriving late in the evening. Tuesday was a whirlwind of phone calls and orders, and now it is Wednesday and I've received three different complaints asking where the Update is. So here I am at midnight, finishing it off for you! At 6 am, I leave for the airport and France...

It is a charmed life.

National Kite Month

The Smithsonian is the kick-off event of the 2001 National Kite Month. This year, over 280 events are scheduled around the USA in this national celebration of the joys of kiting.

Check out the NKM web pages at www.aka.kite.org. And when you have a minute, visit the GKPI postcard page . If you follow the links to "Create a Card" and then click on "Specials", you will find several Kite Month greetings that you can pass on to friends. Do kiting a favor and send out a few. Spread the word! And remember to have fun!!

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