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Color the Wind on a tank of gas


Clear Lake’s 13th annual Color The Wind Kite Festival takes place about 90 minutes north of Des Moines, on Interstate 35, on the lake on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and is free.

Clear Lake’s 13th annual Color The Wind Kite Festival takes place about 90 minutes north of Des Moines, on Interstate 35, on the lake on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and is free.

Larry and Kay Day created Color the Wind Kite Festival after Larry fell in love with flying.

“Larry started flying kites about 14 years ago and basically became addicted!” Kay said. “We attended a winter kite festival in Madison, Wis., and realized we could put on a similar festival here (Clear Lake) using the frozen lake for the flying field.”

It didn’t take long before the two became acquainted with many other avid kite flyers through their attendance at other festivals. These friends and enthusiasts became their core group of “pros” at Color the Wind, which has grown to include about 30–35 this year.

But come on, professional kite flying? There’s a fine line between hobby and sport, but when hours of training and national competitions arise, it becomes clear that even kite flying can become a professional competition, and it’s easy to distinguish the athletes from the hobbyists. Kite flying takes skill, know-how and practice, just like any sport.


We’re not talking about the 99-cent diamond-shaped Disney kites left in Easter baskets in childhood. A sport kite, or a stunt kite, is one that can be maneuvered in the air by two or four lines and be controlled by the flyer by moving the handles.

Kite competitions involve judges who base scores on performance in compulsory figures as well as a “ballet,” much like in figure skating, which involves artistic interpretation of music. Performances are done as individuals, a pair of pilots or as a team.

“We have two stunt kite teams who will be performing at Color the Wind. The first is Fire and Ice, Paul Koepke and Kathy Brinnehl. They use two-line kites,” Kay explained. “The second team is made up of five members using four-line kites (quads). Both teams perform kite ballet choreographed to music. They both will perform periodically throughout the day beginning at about 11 a.m. Their performances are a real highlight of the festival.

“At Color the Wind, the stunt kite teams will be flying purely for the entertainment of the crowd; no competition. You may also see kite skiiers out on the ice, speeding across the lake powered by the wind in their big sport kites.”

While there may not be an official competition, each kiter can’t help but show off a bit, as these sport kites come to life in their flyer’s hands.

“I do get a big kick out of it when one of the stunt kite fliers brings his kite down slowly behind an observer and gently taps him on the shoulder with the kite,” Kay chuckled. “We invite the public to join us on the ice to fly their kites.”

In addition to the sport kites, there will also be huge — up to 60 feet — inflatable kites and custom kites featuring a teddy bear, blue whale, horses, octopi, trilobites, fish, parrots, flying guitars and more.                

Locker Room note: Prefer to spend your time inside in the warmth? Why not consider making it out to the 29th Annual Skywalk Golf Classic in downtown Des Moines, a mid-winter, family-friendly event that has taken over the downtown skywalk system since the early 1980s. Tee times are still available in the afternoon of Feb. 15, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Register at CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

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