Flying kites has been a hobby of Don Stark for more than 20 years.
The Wings Over Washington Kite Club member flew kites as a child and started again when his daughters wanted to learn.
Now, Stark flies everything from “next-to-no-wind kites to some pretty big ones,” he said. “If the wind picks up, I might even bring out my panda bear to fly. He’s 12-feet tall.”
But with the near-still air, it might not be the right flying conditions for the panda bear.
“He takes a bit of wind to fly,” Stark said.
Stark was one of several WOW members to attend this year’s kite festival. About 25 to 30 members comprise the club, in addition to family members who fly with them.
Stark has competed several times in some of the festival’s competitions, most notably when it was still known as the Smithsonian Kite Festival, when he won twice.
This year, Stark was toting around a few smaller diamond kites, which he made out of ripstop nylon, micro carbon string and super glue and decorated with Sharpie. The nylon weighs about a half ounce per square yard and can be flown inside.
“In my bag, the smallest kite is about this tall — an inch and a half tall,” said Stark, stretching his thumb and index finger apart to show the length. His largest kite, he said, is a delta kite that’s about 19 feet tip-to-tip.
People who are curious in learning to fly should talk to members of any of the clubs present at the festival, Stark said.
“We want you to come and fly our kites for a bit before you spend a lot of money,” he said. “Find out what you like to fly because there are a lot of different styles.”
The multi-stringed kites, for example, are much more difficult to learn to master than simple single-stringed kites, Stark said.
Interested in flying in a competition? Just go for it, Stark said. “Have fun. And if you want to learn about kites, talk to someone in one of the clubs. We all love to talk about kites.”
Mr. Stark mentioned his interest in aerial kite photography. Basically, he rigs a small point-and-shoot camera to a kite and shoots photos from above to get a new perspective on various landscapes. Check out some neat examples from award-winning photographer Scott Haefner.