Wind and rain did not dampen atmosphere at Windscape Kite Festival

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Cloudy skies and short bursts of rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the roughly 10,000 people who attended the 10th annual Windscape Kite Festival in Swift Current over the weekend.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, residents from Swift Current and the surrounding area showed up in large numbers for live music, food, face painting, and of course, kite flying.

“It’s been a nice run,” Culture Festival’s Co-ordinator Shann Gowan said during a break in the action. “We’ve grown the festival every year and we hope to continue to grow it.”

This year marked the festival’s 10th anniversary, and things are a bit different one decade later.

See ‘KITE FESTIVAL’ on Page A2

Originally based in the northwest end of the city, the festival attracted about 2,000 people in the first few years, before moving to the current spot on Marston St. and 11th Ave. S.W. on Swift Current’s Southside.

“We thought we were doing good back then,” Gowan said when asked about those original years. “10,000 is pretty good to get in the City of Swift Current, and more than half of them are from out of town.”

As part of the 10 year anniversary celebrations, the festival brought back some of their long time celebrity kite flyers to join their newest editions.

Sharon Musto from Airdrie, AB attended eight of the city’s 10 festivals, and said the location was the biggest and most welcome change from the first few years.

“The field is fantastic,” said Musto, who began flying kites back in the mid-1990s. “This place is just a spectacular place to fly. I mean, look at the view and the openness of it. It’s wonderful.”

This year Musto didn’t fly as many of her kites as she would have liked due to an overly strong wind. However, she still considers the weekend a success, since interacting with visitors and other flyers, and seeing their kites, is just as much fun.

“There’s so many different styles of kites and kite flying, (and) the people that come out,” she said. “The people are a huge part of it.”

The wind provided a bit of a rude introduction for celebrity flyers making their first trip to the festival, but the positives far outweighed the negatives.

Craig Wilson, who brought his kite flying and aerial photo expertise to Saskatchewan from the United States, said the turnout and atmosphere was a definite plus.

“The people are super-friendly and they seem to be really into the kites,” the Wisconsin native said during a break. “A lot of times in the United States they (crowds) come out to festivals, but the kites are sort of a secondary thing.”

He even managed to get a few shots off with his Kite Cam, a camera attached to the string of his kite that can take low altitude aerial photographs of the surrounding area.

“I was able to lift my camera in a few choice moments,” he said. “I probably had a camera in the air for about half an hour, two times for about 15 minutes apiece. I choose two great times when it was sunny and the wind wasn’t just howling and got some good shots, so for me it was awesome.”

The festival normally attracts more than a few European celebrity flyers and this year was no exception. Jan and Jolanda van Leeuwen came all the way from the Netherlands for their first trip to Saskatchewan this year, and like Wilson, really enjoyed the atmosphere.

“Friendly people,” said Jan when asked for his initial impressions. “Really friendly people.”

“We could learn something about that in the Netherlands, I think,” Jolanda added with a laugh.

Like most celebrity flyers here, Jan and Jolanda design and build their own kites. It’s a time consuming process, but they say it’s actually the best part.

“For me that’s 80 per cent of the hobby,” Jan said. “Thinking about them, designing it, making it and then once you got it, the next 20 per cent is using it and meeting new people.”

“It’s even more fun making them, almost, then flying them,” Jolanda added.

Unfortunately, the strong Saskatchewan wind wasn’t as kind to the kites and Swift Current’s people were to the van Leeuwen’s. The wind caused a few minor tears to one of their kites, forcing them to take it down, but they easy going Dutch flyers took it all in stride. In fact, they may even be back again.

“That’s nice,” Jan said, when asked about trying other festivals. “But, coming back here, that would be really nice.”

Geographic location: Swift Current, Saskatchewan, United States Airdrie Netherlands Wisconsin

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