COLUMBIA — Citizens from across Columbia were drawn to Cosmo-Bethel Park Sunday after seeing an assortment of brightly colored kites in all shapes and sizes flying high.
Groups of kite fliers gathered at the park to celebrate the third annual One Sky One World. Every year, flying clubs across the country put their rigs into the sky to promote world peace.
When the time came for kite clubs in Missouri to plan this year’s event, Columbia was a nice middle ground for people coming in from either Kansas City or St. Louis.
According to the organization’s Web site, “The mission of OSOW is to focus individuals and communities around the world on the needs for friendship and peace between all people and to protect the environment.”
For Columbia at least, it seems that the mission was a complete success. Car after car pulled into the Cosmo-Bethel parking lot as families tried to get a better view of the kites in the sky. One of the kite groups at the event even got the kids watching from the sides to head into the field and play with the kites.
Sean Beaver, the president of the Kansas City Kite Club, encouraged kids to race two small parachute-shaped bol kites from one end of the park to the other. His group also ran a candy drop for the kids on the field. After running a bag of candy to the top of one of the kite’s lines, Beaver pulled a cord and dropped candy from the sky for the kids to pick up.
Beaver’s been flying kites for about eight years and travels the country with his club to entertain crowds at festivals and fairs. After seeing a sport kite in action a few years back, he knew it was a hobby he wanted to get into. Now, after years of collecting, he has kites so massive that they need to be anchored to tree trunks.
Another member of the KC Kite Club, Steve Batliner, spent the day showcasing a variety of tricks with his collection of sport kites. Because sport kites are tethered to multiple lines, they’re capable of more dynamic movements. Batliner said he flies sport kites because “they look more spectacular.”
As for how many kites he owns, Batliner shrugs and guesses about 50 or 60.
“But that’s nothing,” he said.
It wasn’t all about impressive tricks and loops at the park, however. Other kite fliers opted for interesting shapes rather than increased maneuverability.
Roy White and his longtime kite-flying companion, Acil McGee, traveled from St. Louis with their group, the Gateway Kite Club. Unlike Beaver, who considers himself a “buy it and fly it” kind of guy, White and McGee make most of their kites on their own. Despite the difficulty involved in kite manufacturing, both men enjoy spending their retirement making new kites.
One of the main attractions throughout the day was a large patriotically themed kite constructed by White. After seeing a similar design in a magazine, he decided he wanted one for himself and set to work. In a little over a year, White had finished his project.
In the end, the kite was nearly 15 feet wide and weighed almost 7 pounds. White said the hardest part of its construction was the four and a half months of sewing required to complete the 491 feet of edging needed.
“I’ve been (building kites) since I was a wee tot,” the 75-year-old said. “But back then we used to make them out of newspaper, flour and water.”