October 4, 2011
AKA - It's All About the People

AKA has never been among our most visual kite events. A tight schedule of workshops, competitions, and meetings allow most attendees little free flying time. Fields are designated for required activities. And most of us are volunteering constantly which leaves little time to actually put a kite in the air at the national kite convention.

Now, that's not to say that we don't have spectacular kites or spellbinding flying. "Grand National" competitions brings out the very, very best. But they go onto the field for short periods and in small clusters which means you need to pay attention if you want to see something special.

AKA Wildwood

So why spend the time and money to go to the convention?? The answer is simple. It's about the people. AKA is the one annual gathering that brings kite devotees from around the country together in one place to share knowledge, experience, and friendships. I can say without hesitation that each year at AKA, I see my very best friends.

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Plenty of business gets transacted too. I don't mean commercial business, but instead the making of rules, policies, insurance, and logistics that allow kiting across the country to move forward each year. You'd think putting a kite in the sky would be a simple thing. But in most locales, three people flying together need a permit and insurance. Having an AKA makes that all possible.

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The Convention also takes an annual opportunity to recognize special people who have worked hard to make having fun easier for the rest of us. This year, the Keystone Kiters were recognized as Kite Club of the Year, Susan Skinner was Volunteer of the Year, and John Gillespie/Will Smoot shared the Regional Director of the year. (I actually established these Presidential Awards during my early term as president.)

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AKA's highest honors are the Edeiken, Ingraham, and Toy Awards.

The Lifetime Achievement Edeiken Award was presented to Meg Albers for her work in kite education, festival organization, and preserving our kite history. The Ingraham Award, named for our Association founder and presented for lifetime service to the AKA, was given to treasurer Cliff Quinn. And the Lee Toy Trophy for contributions to kite art was given to Mikeo Toki.

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The Convention this year was held in Wildwood New Jersey. This was, I think, our third time to Wildwood, which also hosts a huge festival each May. In the 1990's, our visit to Wildwood attracted over 500 registrants. This year, we had barely 200. Such is the state of kiting and the affect of the economy on travel. But I saw plenty of smiles and people enjoying themselves.

I had been warned of poor weather, heavy wind, and rain. Instead we got fair skies and humidity. I brought, of course, all the wrong clothing!

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Unusually high tides and earlier rain decimated the flying space. Wildwood is the only beach I've seen where water pools up on the sand. As a result, our plans to fly the Mega Flag were thwarted. There was simply no room for the kite to launch, and more important, take down without plopping 500 pounds of dry fabric into the water and mud. And that was not an option.

So instead we spread the kite out on the beach and challenged the aerial photographers to get all of it in one shot!

Next year, the convention is scheduled for Enid Oklahoma. I'm not sure how many people will be there. But I definitely will!

Meanwhile, the Lincoln City Fall festival is this weekend. We'll have some new toys to show off and we're looking forward to seeing folks on a beach where the sun sets on the water instead of rising.

If you are interested in such things, I did an interview yesterday at the local radio station and talked about the new stores, the kite shows, and the upcoming festival. Click here and then select "10-03-11 Monday Chamber Chat" to listen in.

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