Monday, March 30, 2009

'The Spirit of the Wind' - International Kite Festival

Cliffs of Bournemouth, South West Coast of England

‘Across the Ocean on the Spirit of the Wind’

I believe that we should connect with our inner child, especially when the memories are happy.

Recently I read that the Niagara International Kite Festival was coming to town for four days, I was instantly transported back to memories of the home-made kites that we flew as young children.

I was born and raised in London, England, and during the summers the children in our family went to the seaside to stay with our Great Aunts who ran a small hotel located in Bournemouth, on the Southern Coast of England. We were extremely adventurous and I remember running on the cliff tops and down the zig zag paths with our homemade kites constructed of old newspapers, flimsy balls of tied together string and a piece of wood.
Over the years I have always owned a kite, nothing elaborate, even now I have one that is collapsible and can be stored in a small pouch. This is kept in my bedroom top dresser drawer next to my other items of extreme value.

Driving north on the Seaway Trail alongside the Niagara River, I wondered what awaited me. None of my friends had found the idea of a kite festival as interesting as I did. As I rounded the corner, hundreds of multi-colored kites flew in the breeze. I joined the crowds. Here were my people—fellow kite lovers, kindred spirits.

At the festival, children from 4 to 94 turned their heads to the skies watching brightly colored kites that looked like graceful mythical birds soaring above and the sky was alive with magic.

This year’s festival theme was “The Spirit of the Wind.” Every year, kite flyers from around the world converge on the mighty Niagara Falls to reenact the following historical event. In 1845, railroad engineers envisioned a bridge spanning the turbulent gorge. Until that time, the only way to cross was to go downstream and take a choppy ride in a small ferry. 
They chose the narrowest point of the gorge, immediately above the Whirlpool Rapids, as the site to connect the United States and Canada.

Local engineers offered a cash prize to the first boy who could fly his kite to the opposite bank. There was a tremendous turn out for the kite-flying contest which took place in January of 1848. It was designed to secure a line across the Niagara gorge to facilitate the building of the area's first suspension bridge. Despite many obstacles, 10-year-old Homan Walsh successfully flew the first line across the gorge. He won $10, an impressive sum of money at that time.

Eight months later, a somewhat primitive bridge at 762 feet long and 8 feet wide opened to the public. Seven years later, using the bridge span as a scaffold, a railroad suspension bridge across the Niagara River was completed. All because of a ten-year-old boy and his kite! Every year professional kite flyers from around the globe participate in this unique event by creating a kite arch connecting the U.S.A. and Canada.

From its origins in Asia thousands of years ago, the sport of kite-flying has spread all over the world.

The colorful kite festival participants, visiting from many different countries, are true international peace ambassadors for the world.

Whether you are flying your kite while across the ocean on the cliff tops in Bournemouth, England or at the raging water’s edge of Niagara Falls you will be following in a tradition of thousands of years, running alongside other kindred spirits with the Spirit of the Wind. Connecting with your inner child.


I am the author of this article which was printed in the Buffalo News in November 2008.

I would like to invite you to consider attending the Annual International Kite Festival in Niagara Falls, New York. The dates this year are September 23 - 27, 2009.

This is a free event and will provide lots of fun for adults and children alike.

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