Participants and volunteers excited about this weekend's Windscape Kite Festival and Long Day's Night Music Festival are hoping that Mother Nature cooperates and provides good weather for the annual kick off to summer in Swift Current.
After enduring close to 20 centimeters of precipitation over the past eight weeks, anyone with a lucky charm is wishing for blue skies and a steady breeze this weekend. Environment Canada reported 94.1 millimeters of precipitation in Swift Current during the first 18 days of June and 94.5 millimeters of precipitation in May.
Undeterred by the recent weather, event organizer Shann Gowan is hoping to attract record crowds in response to the line-up of kite flyers and performers who are converging on Swift Current for the June 23 and 24 Windscape.
"We're hoping for 8,000 people this year. We've got more kite flyers than we've ever had before so it's really good," Gowan said from the festival site at Marston St. and 11th Ave. S.W. on Swift Current's southside.
"I hope that we get more people from Swift Current coming this year. Last year we had 6,000 people, and just over half were from Swift Current and the rest were from out of town, so I'm hoping for even more this year. We've got great support in Swift Current, you see kites in everybody's windows. I think that's amazing. So I'm glad everybody's buying into it.
"Everybody that I ever talk to that says they haven't been, they just haven't made it a priority. They know about it, they're just not sure that it's really for them yet. I just need them to all come up because they'll then know that it is for them."
Gowan noted that a kite festival, where people turn their eyes skyward to enjoy a blue sky full of colourful kites, is an ideal event for Swift Current.
"I think it's really unique - no one else has a kite festival around us anywhere. We're getting as big as any kite festival in Canada," she said. "I think it kind of suits us. We've got wind. We've got big, open skies. We're real nice people. I think it is a nice fit for Swift Current."
The celebrity kite flyers are truly the stars of Windscape, with an international line-up of participants.
Team Chaoskiter from Germany will be here with their large character kites. In demand as participants at 15 to 20 kite festivals across Europe, they specialize in large, inflatable kites all shapes and sizes. Their character kites include Maya the Bee, Bob The Builder, plus Asterix and Obelix.
Gowan is also excited by a long anticipated appearance by 85-year-old Ray Bethell, who holds the world record for the most kites in the air by one person at one time. His record is 39 kites, with 13 on his leg, and 13 in each hand. He also boasts the record for flying a stack of dual line kites for the longest at just shy of 13 hours.
"He flies non stop. That's what he absolutely loves to do."
Bethell, who hails from Vancouver, has appeared at kite festivals for over three decades and is an innovator in flying multiple kites, and is a member of the World Kite Museum Hall of Fame for his innovation and dedication. In 2009 alone he was a guest at kite festivals in France, Italy, Sicily and across the Northern United States. She has been talking to Bethell for a number of years in hopes of attracting him to come to Windscape.
Other celebrity fliers include: Debbie Conlon and Bob Lane from Lethbridge; Aime and Olive Barsalou from Winnipeg; Edmonton's Bev Dockrill; Canada's "Kite Guy" Bud Taylor of Airdrie; former Australian resident Dave Taylor; Deb Lenzen of Bismarck, North Dakota; the Winnipeg duo of Don and Alice Guick; California's Don King; Donna and Fred Taylor of Port Colborne, Ont.; Dr. Raj and Susan Hathiramani; Egan Davis from Vancouver; kiteboarder Neil Kirby; the stunt kite team Team Too Much Fun; plus local fliers Ray Gowan, Bart Busse and David Tuttle. A full list of celebrity fliers and other Windscape details are available from their website www.windscapekitefestival.ca.
"We've got a real variety again this year," Gowan said of their Windscape line-up, adding that visitors are invited to speak with all the participants about their kite flying passion.
"I actually encourage that. I don't think the celebrity flyers should be stand-off people. And actually they've found that to be one of the best things about our festival is they get to meet everybody and they get to find out what Swift Current's really like. And that makes it special."
She also reminds visitors that Windscape is a hands on Festival, providing fun for a youngster wanting to fly a kite for a first time, or for a dad who hasn't flown a kite for 30 years.
"They can make a kite. They can buy one. They can learn how to fly it. It's just lots of fun. Or you can just come and sit and watch."
Three-time Canadian Juggling Champion Robin Chestnut is also providing entertainment to visitors with performances at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during both days of Windscape.
"We always try to increase something, build something up, we've got some good ideas coming for this year."
The Long Day's Night Music Festival has expanded to four days this year, and the 2012 line-up provides an eclectic mix of performers for music lovers, and Gowan is hoping to have full houses for all four evenings.
"It would be a lot easier if we just put on a Kite Festival. And it would be a lot easier if we just put on a Music Festival. But it always bugged me that we would put up a great big tent, and get everything ready, and leave it empty all day waiting for the concert at night.
"Mixing the two makes it harder but it's a nice event."
Long Day's Night kicks off tonight with a performance by Yukon Blonde, with opening act Shuyler Janzen and Foam Lake.
Yukon Blonde recently earned a spot on the 2012 Polaris Music Prize Long List, and their single Stairway is included in a 39 song CD release of all the long list nominees. This alt pop band from Vancouver released their third full length recording, Tiger Talk, earlier this year. At the end of the month they will be leaving Canada for shows in Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany plus a performance in London.
Friday's concert features Delhi 2 Dublin, a mixture of East Indian music and Celtic music which combines into an amazing live show. Indigo Joseph, a high-energy blues-rock/folk-funk band from Regina will be the opening act.
Saturday features a return performance from powerhouse guitarist Jordan Cook, who last appeared at the Long Day's Night Music Festival in 2003. He has since expanded his reputation as one of the best guitarists in North America. The Saskatoon duo Castle River will be the warm-up act.
The final night of the Festival boasts Elliott Brood, who Gowan describes as one of Canada's best touring acts and a group who will deliver an amazing live show.