kites

A whale of a kite flies over the head of a passerby. 

Coronavirus has canceled any number of summer standbys, but the annual kite festival at Tobacco Gardens is not one of them. The fun is set to begin Friday and lasts through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to dusk all three days, weather permitting of course.

Curt Giebler has been putting on the annual show at Tobacco Gardens for four years now, after an individual who works at the marina happened to see him flying kites in Arizona.

At the time, his schedule was already too full, but within a couple of years he managed to work the location in, and found, to his surprise, that he had stumbled onto a perfect location for kite flying.

“If the wind is blowing out of the northwest coming across the lake, it’s really similar to coastal winds,” he said.

Coastal wind is ideal for kites, and generally means people don’t have to be 50 or more feet apart to avoid getting tangled up with each other.

“Now that we’ve started coming here, I couldn’t ever imagine not coming,” Giebler said. “We get almost perfect wind here at Tobacco Garden.”

Kite flying, Giebler added, is a perfect activity for the time, because participants can remain socially distant from those who are not in their family groups.

“(The pandemic) hasn’t affected us, in fact, it’s increased our business,” Giebler said. “We do a show every weekend, and the response has been phenomenal. People have been penned up, and need something to do that seems safe, or at least safer.”

There will be candy drops during the kite festival, or candy cannons if there’s not enough wind. There will also be parachute races for the kids whether there is wind or not, and Giebler is working on an idea for a booth for kids to make paper rockets. Their flights will be air-assisted.

Giebler has been putting on traveling kite festivals for the last 22 years now. At first, his friends and neighbors laughed and told him that it was a crazy idea.

“They aren’t laughing now,” Giebler said, laughing a bit himself. “They are envious. I get paid to fly kites. How much better could that be?”

Giebler will bring with him a wide assortment of kites in all sizes and shapes, and in all price ranges, from the more normal $6 on up to $2,500.

“In the kiting world, there’s stuff you wouldn’t believe until you see it,” Giebler said. “I’ve got kites as big as a semi truck and hot air balloons — that’s not what normal people purchase, of course, but people like to come out and see them.”

His personal favorite are trick kites, which have multiple lines. These are steerable kites, which allows an experienced operator the chance to pull off some pretty fancy tricks. His granddaughter is fairly adept with these, he added, and will be with him on the trip.

Giebler said his travel schedule has allowed him to simply move around so that he can dodge coronavirus. When the pandemic started, he was in Arizona, where there weren’t many cases. Then, about the time when case counts there began to increase, he headed to Kansas, which was reopening about the same time he arrived.

“We will have hand sanitizer at the checkout and things of that nature,” Giebler said. “People can also stand 6 feet apart if they want to and maintain social distancing. We are an outdoor trailer with all of our contents and a display outside.”

Transactions are relatively quick, Giebler added, which also helps keep people spread out.

“Seeing the comments from people who are so excited we are back, and sharing the page with everyone else, it is kind of phenomenal and it makes me feel good that people are that interested,” Giebler said.

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