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September 24, 2012

Kite festival blows through Cherry Valley

By Charlie Holmes
The Daily Star

---- — It was windy Saturday morning in Cherry Valley. The perfect weather to fly a kite? Not really, according to Scott Weider, captain of the Rev Riders kite flying team.  On Saturday, Weider’s team was participating in the Cherry Valley Kite Festival organized by Cherry Valley Artworks.

“(For) some kites there might be too much wind today. You might break some kites,” Weider said. “We have the proper kites out here with the proper carbon rods — graphite rods — so we should have good control.”

Weider got hooked on flying kites choreographed to music about 20 years ago.

“I saw a video tape of classical music and a two-line Delta kite flying perfect geographic patterns to the music, and I fell in love with it,” Weider explained. “In the right wind, it’s easy to learn. It just takes a lot of time to master.”

The Cherry Valley Kite Festival started in 2006 and has been taking place every two years since. Weider has been to all the kite festivals in Cherry Valley. He said this year’s festival was the windiest.

“I’m grateful,” Weider admitted. “That’s the beauty of kite flying. If it was perfect wind every day we probably wouldn’t come back. It’s dealing with the wind. Dealing with whatever mother nature gives you and making the best of it.”

The wind was the reason the Cherry Valley Kite Festival started in the first place.

“2006 was kind of the height of the wind turbine controversy,” said Jane Sapinsky, the executive director for Cherry Valley Artworks. “There was a lot of ill will going around between people. We wanted to come up with something that people could come together over and enjoy the wind.”

Approximately 1,000 people from all across North America come to enjoy the event, officials said. Jacques Letourneau came from Canada. He’s an art teacher who became a kite enthusiasts 11 years after retiring.

“I never flew a kite. I never see a kite,” Letourneau said in a thick French accent. “When I retired I met a guy who said, ‘This would be a nice hobby for you.’”

Now Letourneau makes colorful hand-painted kites.

Thom Shanken’s love of kites started as a kid.

“(I) never stopped flying kites,” Shanken said. “Just kept taking it to the next level.”

Shanken is a part of the New York Kite Enthusiasts.

“Even though the name is New York Kite Enthusiasts we’re actually in Canada, a lot of people here are from Massachusetts, from all over New York state, Rhode Island, Vermont, you name it. The name is kind of misleading,” Shanken admitted.

All kite flying used to take place outdoors, but not anymore.

“Nowadays we have carbon graphite bars and very lightweight material that we actually fly indoors,” Shanken explained. “In that case, we don’t want any wind because just by walking we’re creating a breeze.”

Most of the kites that were at the Cherry Valley Kite Festival were built by the people who own them.

“I always tell people that this is the largest collection of men that sew that you’re ever going to see in one place,” Shanken said with a smile. “They prefer not ‘sew.’ They say they’re ‘fabric joiners.’ It’s a macho thing, right?”

NYKE flies year round, but Shanken says during the winter season they have more workshops on kite building.

Shanken’s interests in kites got him on the board at the Fort Ontario Historic Site in Oswego and led him to become the lead historian on the world’s oldest know kite.

“It was found in 1985 in at attic in Lyden. They were literally remodeling an attic, and there was a paper kite,”Shanken said. “It was actually given to a kite store owner there (in the Netherlands). When the shop owner died and the business sold, Peter Lynn bought it and people started saying, ‘We should look into this.’ and so I did.”

Lynn is a very well known kite flier from New Zealand who is one of the pioneers of kite skiing (which takes place on water) and traction kiting (which involves wheels).

He has loaned the kite, which was made in 1773, to the Drachen Foundation in Seattle.

The people remodeling the attic found the kite under the floor boards. Shanken says there are initials written on it that he is trying to identify so he can learn more about the individuals who made the kite.

“I’m doing historical research,” Shaken stated. “You can write, you can draw. [Kiting] is what you make of it.”