It was a sunny, hot, day in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the kind of day where it’s too hot to spend too much time at the beach unless you stayed under a tent or in the water. But in the town of Kitty Hawk, a place known as the birthplace of aviation, what better thing to do as an alternative than to go fly a kite?
Hill of History
Driving to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, part of the National Park Service, we were going to see a part of history. But as a precursor to all the cool things we were to see and learn, (and for the gaggle of kids with us who were complaining this was their summer vacation, not a history class) we explained they would have a chance to be involved with some of the activities designed especially for kids—starting with “Kite Flight”—a kite building demonstration followed by the flying of hand-made kites.
And what better place to be inspired to fly something, anything, than at the place where Orville and his brother Wilbur were themselves inspired and went on to make the first successful airplane flight back in 1903? It was no wonder. While the streets outside of the park were hot and steamy, in this spot, the wind was whipping up at full pitch—making for the perfect kite-flying climate.
No Garbage Here
At the park site, we wandered out past the “First Flight Centennial Pavilion,” and onto a massive field that faced up a hill where a tall memorial stood on one end, and a museum stood on the other. In front of us were a number of park rangers, and in front of them, stood garbage cans, filled with what appeared to be large, black garbage bags. But as they began pulling those garbage bags out of the cans, it became apparent that these were not your run-of-the-mill bags-no—they’d been transformed into kites.
The Scott Sled Kite
We’d be flying a type of kite called the Scott Sled Kite. Developed in the 1960’s, it was evidently known for its ease of construction.The rangers did a brief demonstration of how they’d put them together, handed out directions to the kids, and then handed out the kites to anyone who wanted to get flying. After just a few minutes, the field was filled with approximately 150 large, black kites. Who knew that garbage bags filled with air could be so beautiful when flown together?
The Stunt Kites
Depending on the particular kite, some worked more effectively than others, but most everyone who came out that day flew with success. Sudden dips, sharp turns and upward zooms were de rigueur with the youngest of kite flyers. Sure, there were times when small children (some of ours as a matter of fact) ran right into the flight patterns of others, cutting lines or getting kites twisted together. But if and when that happened, the rangers were prepared with extra kites, scissors, and string.
We were soon to learn this was the first step in the Junior Flight Ranger program at the park. (More on that to come in a separate post)
Following our successful kiting, and feeling like regular Mary Poppins, we headed back to the beach. As we drove, not only did we notice many beautiful kites flying from stores and houses, but we also passed Kitty Hawk Kites-one of a number of locations selling both kites and lessons associated with kites. In the event we wanted to upgrade from our garbage bag kites, for 35-dollars or less, we’d have the option of purchasing colorful stunt kites, glider kites and spinners.
The park rangers had said this was a place in which “wind, sand and a dream,” led to successful flight. That’s still true today.