Kite Festival

A 100-foot red squid and a 30-foot scuba diver, chased by a tiny shark, floated 200 feet above the ground.

They are two out of hundreds of kites that will litter the sky at Haulover Park on Sunday as part of the 18th Annual Kite Festival hosted by Skyward Kites.

The free festival is intended to give people a chance to fly their own kites and to teach beginners how to fly a kite.

During a practice run last weekend, Dan Ward, owner of Skyward Kites, and a dozen volunteers for the company let some of their kites waft through the air.

They unfolded a 100-foot spinsock kite. A spinsock is similar to a windsock, except it spins – hence the name.
“It’s just that when you build them up to a couple hundred feet they look spectacular,” Ward said as the team spread the 50 pounds of fabric across the grass before sending it up . “You can almost drive a car through it.”

As the kite gained altitude, its yellow, green and blue stripes twirling in the air, Ward and the volunteers got excited and hopeful for the upcoming festival.

“Let’s just put up a festival, show off what we got and we just want people to come and say ‘Wow, kite flying is fun’,” Ward said.

About 3,000 people have come out to the festival over the past few years. This year he hopes to attract even more.

The scuba man, made by professional kite-maker Martin Lester in Cornwall, England, is the newest addition to the festival.
“People really love to watch him flow,” Ward said.

Peter Lynn of New Zeland, another professional kite-maker, sewed the squid and a 60-foot black- and red-striped caterpillar with green eyes.

The caterpipllar is what is called “wind art” – meaning it stays on the ground, but the wind causes it to expand.

“It serves no real purpose,” Ward said. “It’s one of those things you made it because you can.”

The scuba man, squid and caterpillar are all parafoil kites, or kites build without any sticks. They are easy to fold, put into a box and transport.

Ward made the spinsock as well as a 12-foot cow kite with a sewing machine at his home in Biscayne Park.

Some of the other volunteers at Skyward Kites also make their own kites.

Gary Daniel, a full-time employee at White Rock Quarries, a Miami limerock and crushed-stone production company, builds diamond-shaped kites in his spare time.

His kite, made from flakes of coconut leaves and a Trinidad and Tobago flag, flew just as high as the other kites made from ripstop nylon, the fabric traditionally used to make kites.

“Back home everyone is involved at making kites,” Daniel said, a Trinidad and Tobago native. “It’s a tradition.”

He passed the tradition on to his children Jonathan, 14, and Jessica, 12, who were present at the kite festival practice run.

Kite-flying is also a family tradition for volunteer Lori Ekstein, a full-time mother, who came to haulover Park with her children, Savannah, 4, and Michael, 3.

Savannah and Michael are the third generation of kite fliers in the Ekstein family.

Lori Ekstein flew her first kite when she was 7 years old and by the age of 12 she was serious about her hobby.

“Once you get into it to this level, you are teaching other people, so there’s so much joy to it,” she said, expressing her eagerness to teach kite-flying to beginners at the festival. “If you know the difference between left and right, you are pretty good.”

Other volunteers, like Dave Labatad, a full-time property management specialist for Crown Land & Development Corporation in Davie, do not make kites but just enjoy flying them.

Labatad has about 40 kites. At the practice run he took a ride on his three-wheel kite-powered buggy, which he steers with his feet.

“I am very energy efficient so I am ahead of my time,” he said chuckling. “I am also a motorcycle rider so I like the wind.”

At the festival, which will run from noon to 5 p.m. at 10800 NW Collins Ave., token prizes will be awarded for best homemade, highest flying and prettiest kites, as well as kites with the longest tails.

Ward made smaller kites that will sell for $5. Children can color, decorate and fly them.

Food truck vendors will also be present and a sound system will pump pop and reggae music.

During the practice run on Feb. 13, a moderate ocean breeze and a merciful sun had Ward and the volunteers hoping the weather will be just as good for the festival Sunday.

“On a day like today, when you can go out and just fly the kites and you look at the expression on these kids and people are talking and laughing, could there be anything more fabulous than that?” Ward said.


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