Grace Scheresky, 9, and her 7-year-old brother Samuel were doing their level best to get a homemade kite into the air Saturday afternoon at Skydance Sakakawea, but the wind wasn't cooperating.
The kite, made of a plastic bag colored with markers, rose into the air. Its tail made of used VCR tape fluttered in the gentle breeze. Samuel backed away hopefully, holding the kite's string. Then the kite dropped to the ground like a stone.
The Scheresky kids, both from Garrison, and dozens of other children made the "garbage bag sled kites" during a free kite making class held during the 17th annual kite festival at Fort Stevenson State Park. Actually flying them was difficult without enough wind to lift them, though the kids had a great time trying.
Big kites are among the attractions at Skydance Sakakawea.
A few feet away, Jesse Hawkes, 10, and his sister Darbie Hawkes, 8, both from Carrington, were trying to fly a slightly larger kite as their grandparents, Darwin and Berna Smith from Beulah, watched under a tent a few feet away. The kite soared and then fluttered to the ground, soared and then fluttered to the ground again. The Smiths said it was a beautiful day and they were enjoying watching the little kids with their kites.
Jolene Nechiporenko, from Butte, bought two slightly larger kites at the festival with the hope that her children would have more luck getting them in the air than the tiny paper kites they buy at one of the local stores. Kites that are bigger and slightly more expensive seem to do better, she said.
"I'm surprised that one even got in the air," she commented, as a miniature "Dora the Explorer" kite rose above ground.
Nechiporenko brings Nicholas, 8, and Natalie, 3, to the festival every year, except last year when the weather was bad. Even with the lack of wind, it was a great day for the kids, she said.
"The lake is like glass," said Deb Lenzen, coordinator of Skydance Sakakawea, pointing toward the body of water where barely a ripple disturbed the surface. Lenzen thought area fishermen were probably ecstatic with the mild weather Saturday. Weather forecasters are predicting rain for today, but Lenzen said she thought it would miss Fort Stevenson, so it should be a good day to fly a kite. The festival continues today and Monday, with kite flying from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Special guests at the festival this year are Karveth and Luella Cramer, from Tahos, N.M., and Don and Betsy Murphy, from Omaha, Neb. There are brightly colored kites and streamers on display everywhere on the site. Featured kites include a 23-foot flying fish that will be flown by professional kite fliers. Other big kites are a 150-foot Trilobyte, 90-foot octopus, 45-foot spinsock, and several kites with 150-foot tails.
"We try to put color from the ground up to the sky," said Lenzen, who has been coordinating the festival for 17 years.
Lenzen said it's fun to see new faces and the people who come back to the festival year after year. Regular campers at the park now know to throw a kite in with the camping gear because of the kite festival always held on Memorial Day weekend.
Lenzen said kites last longer if people invest a bit more and purchase fabric kites that are in a Delta triangle shape, are wide but small enough to handle safely, and can fly in a wide range of wind speeds.
"If you spend a little more and and buy a fabric kite, it will last you forever," said Lenzen, and then kite flyers won't always be replacing tiny, inexpensive paper kites. Kites are on sale by kite vendors at the festival for between about $10 and $100.
The perfect wind speed for kite flying is between 5 and 15 mph, said Lenzen, who can't order up the perfect weather for kite fliers. That'll be up to Mother Nature.