There is no doubt about it; only desperate optimistic madmen will travel into a typhoon and fly kites. Yet over one hundred such madmen – and women – from nineteen countries worldwide did just that. They all decided to ignore the weather warnings and take their chances at the Taipei County International Kite Festival 2001. But little did the participants know their high wind kites would prove useless in a typhoon aftermath; heavy rains and very little wind kept most of their kites grounded.


Some of the early birds used the opportunity to visit the local high school at Shimen the Friday before the festival. Confusion galore as none of them was sure what exactly was expected. Archie Stewart (USA) brought his roving kite-building seminar, and found some dumb Dutchman to carry his stuff. After an elaborate welcome speech from the director of the school it became clear we would have to show our skills of indoor kiting. Fortunately the Kapstens (USA) came prepared, and gave a good show on music. Thirteen-year-old Jesse obtained instant fame – and three marriage proposals from smitten girls.

By Saturday morning the world kite masters – and wannabees – gathered from all corners of the world to see and be seen at the opening ceremony. One hundred participants from nineteen countries prepared to fly kites in typhoon-struck Taiwan! All major kite-flying cultures in Asia gave acte de présence. Superman (Thailand) brought the largest Cobra Kite, as well as an infinite amount of Singha Beer stashed in room six-tree-tree-tree. The contingent from North America, including Ray Bethel (Canada), decided to bring stacks of sport kites for show and tell. A hotchpotch of European kiters arrived from Austria, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. And Peter Lynn represented down-under with a few of his latest designs in the inevitable huge kite bags.

Lunch proved the major culture shock for most of the western kite fliers. Last year an Englishman called it ‘rice with something not quite dead yet on top’, but that’s exaggerated. The lunches were good quality Chinese dishes, with chopsticks on the side, and a real treat after the westernized meals at the hotel. But the lack of western eating utensils was challenging for some, and crash courses on how to operate chopsticks were offered by sweet personal assistants.

As with many kite festivals, the weather refused to cooperate as soon as the kites were unpacked and sent increasing amounts of precipitation and very little wind on Saturday. Most kite fliers decided to unpack their kites in the hope of improving weather. Did I already mention we were desperate optimists? The Dutch unpacked a playsail and tried to work it for several minutes, but quickly discovered the undercurrent was no match after it dipped in the sea. Lung Ta (France) made several attempts to fly their kites, but in the end entertained the public by dancing ‘a la cerf-volant’. Only after we finally gave up and went back to the hotel for steaming showers, the weather cleared and hopes rose for the next day.

Unfamiliar with the persistence of hard-core kite fliers, the organization cancelled the night flying at the beach and provided alternative entertainment in the hotel. There, during an excellent standing buffet, many participants ended up the stage for a live show of song and statements (one people, one country, one Singapore). Other participants provided entertainment by creating floating missiles from coffee cups and helium balloons. Riding the conditioned air currents, these would crash-land on unsuspecting victims over and over again. In the mean time, the organization entertained the crowds at the beach with fireworks and local pop musicians.

Sunday started of as wet as the day before, with a strong seaward breeze. Time and again downed kites had to be rescued from the sea’s undercurrents, but very few came away without any broken limbs. Yet, after another chopstick lunch, the rain stopped and soon after the sky was filled with kites. Peter Lynn (New-Zealand) quickly dominated the flying field with some huge animal-shaped line decorations. Martin Lester (United Kingdom) showed of his legs in different fashions (did you know he likes to wear women garter belts?). The Texas Stunt Kite Team (USA) performed their sport kite routines. A Dutch four-line bat ended up between the spectators, attacking every covered head until the rains started again.

And with the arrival of new rain the realization came that it marked the end of a good time in Taiwan. Far too soon the farewell party was fact, but the excellent food couldn’t disguise the onset of leave-taking. Good-byes were said to the assistants, who left as the farewell party was just starting. Farewells to the organizers came hard, little noticed but much appreciated as they worked hard to keep everybody content. Many thanks to the sponsors were necessary, for making this festival possible. And steadily the group of mad(wo)men diminished as the various participants took their leave. Soon the pictures and movies, online and hardcopy, were the only witnesses of a grand wet kite festival.

Taipei County International Kite Festival 2001 was the second international kite festival held in Taiwan. The next festival, Taipei County International Kite Festival 2002, is planned for the month of July. For more information, please contact Target PR Consultant Studio at target1@ms19.hinet.net.

2002

This article was also published in KiteLife.

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