COLUMBIA — Thomas the Tank Engine, Elmo, Barbie and Buzz Lightyear all crossed paths Saturday at Douglass Park, amid a group of Columbia residents as diverse as the characters. Dozens packed the outfield of the ballpark at the Columbia Parks & Recreation’s Annual Kite Flying Day throughout the afternoon.
Those who attended the event had a wide variety of previous kite-flying experience.
Surong Wang, a resident of the Nifong area, brought her 3-year-old son, George, for his first time flying a kite after reading about the event in “Leisure Times,” the Parks & Recreation magazine.
Having written a children’s book based on a childhood kite-flying experience, David Aycock came to volunteer after reading an ad requesting help.
Satish Jalisatgi and his 6-year-old daughter, Anushka, flew a Barbie kite as his wife and baby watched from a nearby blanket. Jalisatgi said they typically go to Cosmo Park for kite flying but decided to come to the event after seeing a flyer.
“It’s a nice day out,” Jalisatgi said. “It’s something fun to do after a week of thunderstorms and rain.”
The event drew more serious kite flyers as well.
Deanna Sharpe brought six kites and her two sons, David, 10 years old, and Danny, 7. The three, who live in southwest Columbia, go kite flying about 10 times per year.
“It’s our first time this year,” Sharpe said. “It’s harder since both boys have gotten older and busier with activities, but when they were younger, it was a pretty frequent event.”
Sharpe started flying kites with her sons when they were young just because it seemed like something fun to her . She herself didn’t do much kite flying as a child, having grown up in the Ozarks amid the trees.
“It’s not conducive to kites,” she said. “Charlie Brown would’ve cried a lot.”
Sharpe noted that with the low wind, which frequently changed directions throughout the day, that the kites the city provided children were the most likely to stay in the air.
“In wind as variable as this, the really cheap, one-step-away-from-a-Wal-Mart-bag, those fly the best,” she said.
Still, her sons flew a variety of kites they brought from home, including a few-inches-wide butterfly microkite, a Transformers-clad delta kite and a rainbow-colored parachute kite, while their box kite and fish kite sat on the edge of the field. They ended up being rewarded for their patience. Danny won a kite for flying the event’s smallest kite, while David won two prizes with the parachute kite, one for having the event’s highest flyer and one for having the second largest kite to get off the ground.
Perhaps the event’s most dedicated kite flyer, though, was James Weaver. Weaver attended the event with his church, Cavalry Fellowship of Columbia, whose volunteers passed out water to those in attendance, and flew his stunt kite.
Weaver used to live and work in California’s Bay Area, where kite flying is more popular, and brought his childhood hobby with him when he moved to Columbia. Weaver now flies a kite “whenever the wind’s up,” which translates to several times a year.
“I come into town and find a vacant lot,” Weaver said. “This time of year, I keep it in the car” for easy access.
On Saturday, Weaver’s multi-colored stunt kite, which he said cost between $130 and $140, dazzled event participants as he made it twist and swoop with its two attached strings. The kite, which is “quite different” to fly than a standard kite, can get up to 70 mph, though the wind at Douglass Park was not ideal.
“I’m 51 years old, and I still fly a kite,” said Weaver, who also flies his stunt kite at the beach. “You’re always a kid; you can always play. The toys just change prices.”