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On the Bright Side

September 24, 2012

Kite festival blows through Cherry Valley


“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.”

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