Light your kites: Rising Winter Games favorite to light up night sky
File photo by Seth Boyes
Organizers with the University of Okoboji Winter Games said the weekend's kite festival has been a constant topic of conversation each year since its debut in 2019. And this year, the large-scale kites are expected to be an even bigger spectacle, as dozens of visiting fliers launch models fitted with LEDs for display after dark.
"It just keeps growing and changing and evolving," said Kiley Zankowski, director of membership and events at the Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce. "It's something that anyone can enjoy from any age or interest level. It's just a very unique and wonderful thing."
Sioux Falls businessman Steve Boote helps organize the annual kite festival, and he said around 50 fliers from the U.S. as well as other countries are expected to attend this year, more than doubling the number who participated last year. He said the idea for the upcoming night-time show came from the fliers themselves — some of whom are professionals in the field. Organizers hope to have the giant kites in the air during the traditional Burning of the Greens and Fireworks Extravaganza, which is scheduled to begin 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in nearby Preservation Plaza.
"It's just fun for the fliers — everybody likes to show off their newest and greatest," Boote said. "But night-kiting has gained in popularity to where almost every festival is doing that. And when you marry it with pyrotechnics, fireworks, sound, anything you can think of just puts on a better show."
Boote said the night-time display will of course depend on the weather and wind that day.
"Obviously we don't want the fireworks blowing into the kites or vice versa, so we'll have to work that out, but if we have to drop the kites during the fireworks, we certainly can, and then we'll put them right back up," Boote said.
Should mother nature be less than cooperative for the debut night-flight, daytime kite displays are also scheduled Jan. 27-29. Zankowski noted last year's construction along Lake Street in Arnolds Park is now complete, once again providing visitors a convenient access point for kite viewing near the Berkley Bedell State Pier.
"They'll be able to easily walk right down on the ice to be able to see those kites right up close and personal," Zankowski said.
The large-scale kites are often shaped like animals or figures and rely on vents to provide structure as they fly. Fliers first send up a more aerodynamic pilot kite before launching larger forms along the pilot kite's anchored line — a formation Boote called a stack. Boote was unsure whether the addition of LED lights on some models would require any additional techniques of the fliers, but he doubts the small lights will have much of an impact on their ability to stay aloft.
"The size of these kites — I mean, if you get a string of three of them on a windy day, you could lift the back end of a car off the ground, so I think the LEDs are basically like a deck chair on the Queen Mary," Boote said with a laugh.
He went on to say Bruce Flora, founder and CEO of Kiteman Productions in Orlando, Florida, will be on site and likely lend his expertise ahead of the Winter Games display. Flora's resume includes a position with Walt Disney World's Epcot Kite Department in the early 1990s and a partnership at the Shooting Star Kite Show in Montreal Canada.
"I think he's going to teach us a lot," Boote said. "We'll grow the show, and hopefully night-kiting will be here to stay."