Let's Go Fly a Kite
Mar 11, 2015 10:09AM
By Erica Shames
The art of kiting was introduced to Europe in 1295 by Marco Polo. In 1749, a Scottish meteorologist flew a kite equipped with a thermometer to a height of 3,000 feet to measure air temperatures at high altitudes.
Kites have held a prominent place in society throughout history.
Pennsylvania scientist Ben Franklin, aided by his son William, in June of 1752, performed his famous kite and key experiment to prove his theory that lightning is a form of electricity and secured his prominence as an American scientist; Orville and Wilbur Wright used kites to develop the Wright Flyer prototype that flew four times, Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, NC; and, in the 1950s, NASA used kites as a part of space capsule recovery missions.
The thrill of kiting
Kites remain a popular hobby for children and adults throughout the world. Opportunities to enjoy kiting are provided through the many activities sponsored by kite associations state-wide. As for the majority of people, Andrew Gelinas, 70, president of the Pocono Kite Symphony Club, East Stroudsburg, first experienced the thrill of kiting as a child.
“There was a cow pasture near my house where I grew up,” Gelinas said. “About four to five kids and I would go to Koster’s Five & Dime, East Stroudsburg, and buy paper diamond kites and take them to Jay Peters’ cow pasture [now a church, behind his house] to fly. I would get one kite per season. They would tear and we would repair them with Christmas wrap.”
After giving up the sport as he grew into adulthood, Gelina’s interest in kites was reignited while visiting the Atlantic shore. Intrigued by what he saw others doing Gelinas, who owned and operated a furniture repair business until his retirement about seven years ago, took up sport kiting.
Up and flying
In April 1991, Gelinas responded to an advertisement placed by Northampton County Park System, Bangor, PA, which was seeking volunteers to help put on a kite expo. “I got neighbors together and I personally built 10 kites for kids,” recalls Gelinas.
That spring, Gelinas, assisted by eight friends and neighbors, launched the first Kite Day in the Park at Louise Moore Park, Easton. About 100 people attended the event. Fall of the same year, Gelinas recruited “One Sky, One World” kite fliers Paul Keeler and Tony Reiser to form the Lehigh Valley Kite Society. The annual Kite Day in the Park grew to an event that attracted nearly 800 people at its pinnacle, Gelinas said. It wasn’t uncommon for groups from retirement homes and other organizations in the area to arrive in small buses; and to have visitors from throughout the state and even nearby states attend the event.
In 1991, Gelinas and Keeler opened a small kite store, Burlesque Repair Shop. Keeler’s share in the business was sold to Joyce Quinn, now 75. Quinn also became interested in kite-flying after witnessing people doing it at Atlantic beaches.
“Every once in a while, we would see big kite festivals going on and we got curious,” said Quinn. “We went into kite stores and didn't buy any kites, but we did pick up magazines on kiting and started sending away for free stuff.”
It wasn’t long before Quinn was building kites. She discovered the Lehigh Valley club in 1994, and has been involved ever since.
While the brick and mortar store owned by Gelinas and Quinn has since closed, it continues to operate online at kitesonconsignment.com, and specializes in used and new kites and kite-related merchandise.
Getting it done
During its life, the Lehigh Valley kite club built more than 30,000 pocket sled kites in year-round kids’ kite-building workshops. Workshops, which are still popular today, were held for scout troops and at schools, the Lehigh Valley Mall, Franklin Institute and Longwood Gardens, in Philadelphia; at Sky Festival Productions kiting events at Wildwood, Asbury Park and Liberty State Park, N.J.; at the Rockaways, N.Y.; Ocean City, MD; and at grand kite displays throughout the country. In addition, kite building workshops are held 10 a.m., on the second Saturday of each month, at Gelina’s home.
While some build their kites from kits, most buy used or new kites. Kites flown at the festival range in size from 144-square-inch to flowform and parafoil kites of more than 252-square-feet, Gelinas said.
Prior to the Lehigh Valley club’s demise in 2008, Gelinas served as president, vice president, secretary and as president emeritus; and he also served as director of the American Kiteflier Association’s Region II, (Pa., N.J., and downstate N.Y.). That year, the Lehigh Valley Kite Society merged with Pocono Kite Symphony, another kite club, and moved forward with the Pocono name. Quinn also has played a prominent role in its development.
“I've been involved in the kids kite building workshops and about every other aspect of the club from setting up various displays, going to festivals and running workshops on sewing kites,” said Quinn, who serves as the current vice president of Pocono Kite Symphony. “More men are involved in sewing kites than women. The kids’ kite building is the greatest thrill—to see them coloring and building their kites.”
Quinn said kids get the biggest smiles on their faces when they first see their kites take to the air. “Often the children exclaim, ‘Wow! It really flies,’ “like they doubted it from the start,” she said.
If you go
The 25th Kite Day in the Park is scheduled for May 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. At the event, club members will operate three kite building sessions, Quinn explained. The goal is to build 100 kites.
“The members are a great group of people,” Quinn said. “The club is something we do for fun, but it also serves the community. We are trying to rebuild the club and the festival is our one great fundraiser of the year. We really work to get it going.”
For more information on Pocono Kite Symphony and Kite Day in the Park, visit poconokitesymphony.com.
Written by Jeffrey B. Roth