Heidi Middleton

Heidi Middleton, of Arbutus, holds her kite, decorated with animal pictures and stickers that won her the award for most creative during the first kite flying ompetition at the Charlestown retirement community last year. (File photo by Brian Krista / May 19, 2012)

At the Charlestown Retirement Community on Maiden Choice Lane, the first weeks of spring mean the second annual Catonsville Kite Flying Contest is near.

This year's contest will take place April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon and will test residents' skills in building, and successfully flying, their own kites.

Kites will be judged in three categories — highest flying, most creative and best Baltimore spirit — by Del. James Malone, Charlestown Chief Executive Office Clara Parker and Rotary Club of Catonsville member Rosemary Wright.

Charlestown resident Pat Kasuda came up with the idea for a kite-flying contest while walking through the community's large, grassy entrance field last year.

"There's always a nice breeze blowing there," Kasuda said. "And as I did my morning walks ... I thought 'This is a perfect field to fly a kite.'"

She thought a kite flying contest would be a great way to unite the residents of the retirement community with the younger members of the neighborhoods outside the Maiden Choice Lane campus.

"It brings multi-generations together," Kasuda said. "And that's really important. You don't want to have seniors isolated from the general community."

Last year's competition attracted about 40 entries. This year. there are already been several dozen entry forms submitted, Kasuda said.

Participants can enter one of five age categories for competition: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade, ninth through 12th grade and seniors 55 and older.

Kasuda said there will be a special appearance by the Baltimore Orioles' mascot at the contest.

The contest will take place even if the weather is not conducive for flying kites, and kites will still be judged on most creative and best Baltimore spirit.

Kasuda has been passing out registration forms in area schools and working with teachers to encourage students to build their own kites for the contest.

All entries must be homemade to be considered for judging. The stipulation is to encourage kids to step away from technology and spend some time doing more hands-on activities.

"We wanted to add on not only the fun part of it, but also the construction part of it," Kasuda said.

Kasuda worked with the Rotary Club of Catonsville to fund the event and sponsor teachers at local schools who are getting their students involved.

"If there's a designated teacher in the school working on the project ... they will make a monetary contribution to help them defer some of the costs of the supplies," Kasuda said of the Rotary Club's donation.

Nicky Styer, an art teacher at Lansdowne Elementary School, is teaching the art of kite building and flying to prepare her students for the competition.

"They are very eager to try them out," Styer said of their kites.

"A lot of these kids have never flown a kite so I give them a little Power Point to show them how kites developed over time, and how they're used today for more than just play," she said.

"And they just think it's really cool," Styer said.

Styer commended Kasuda on the idea and said it's a great way to get kids out from "behind a GameCube or a controller" and outside.

"They realize that they can make something that's worthwhile," Styer said.

"They love the idea that they can make a kite that they actually use," she said.

Kim Samele, a French teacher at Catonsville High School, is taking a similar approach with her students. She said she has gotten many emails about community events but this one seemed unique and she wanted to get her kids involved.

"I've seen, at the beach, where they have kite festivals before. But I don't think I've ever been part of a kite contest before," Samele said.

She said the students in the French Honors Society and the French Club are entering a kite as a group.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to put their physics knowledge together and create maybe a French-symbol kite," Samele said.