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Bel Air celebrates 'liberating' kite flying at annual festival

Hundreds of people came out Saturday for what one visitor called "good old-fashioned family fun" during the ninth annual Kite Day Festival in Bel Air's Rockfield Park.

"Good old-fashioned family fun," April Southard of Bel Air, who came with her 2-year-old son, Reed, said. "I didn't see anyone Tweeting or Facebooking; people weren't on their iPads, they were just focused on having fun with their families."

The kite festival is sponsored by the Town of Bel Air and APG Federal Credit Union.

"This has definitely become a signature event of spring," Mayor Robert Reier, who attended the festivities with his dog, said. "Between that and the farmers' market [opening] today, it's definitely ringing in spring in Bel Air, and it's great to see."

Colorful kites filled the partly cloudy skies above the park, although the kite-fliers, who were a mix of competitive fliers from throughout the state, and amateur fliers from Harford County and the greater Baltimore area, struggled to get their kites to soar in Saturday's weak wind.

"The last two months we had a hurricane, and the week we have the kite festival we have no wind," Ray Franz of Bel Air said.

Franz worked with a kite he attached to a fishing line and controlled with a fishing pole. He said he made it for his granddaughter, who was off chasing bubbles.

"She could handle this, but there's just not enough wind to keep it up today," he said.

The lack of wind did not stop adults and children from enjoying the early spring day, however.

"Take in the weather and have a great time here at Rockfield Park," Jeff King, an officer with the Wings Over Washington Kite Club, told the crowd.

Wings Over Washington is a volunteer group that promotes kite flying in the Washington, D.C., region. The club provided the public address service and music to go along with it.

King called for a moment of silence for the late Paul Hines, a co-founder of the festival who died in 2007.

Food could also be purchased from Domino's Pizza, the only vendor there Saturday.

"This is strictly a no-vendor event, except for the fact that we want something for the kids to eat," lead festival organizer Allen Ault said.

Ault is a Bel Air resident who voluntarily organizes the kite festival for the town with his companion, Evelyn Rossbach.

Ault said all 400 of the kites that were available to be given away to participants were gone within about 30 minutes of the opening.

The kites are purchased through a distributor, Ault said.

People could also bring their own kites and learn techniques from competitive kite-fliers.

Ault said attendance turns over as people enter and exit during the six-hour festival, and the typical estimated attendance is 1,000 to 1,500 people.

"Lots of people here, enjoying the blue sky, the little bit of wind that's going on, lots of smiles," he said.

Ault noted Monday that admission is free, so it is difficult to get a crowd count, and organizers typically "guess" regarding crowd numbers.

During the festival, people could visit a table staffed by representatives of the Harford County Health Department who were providing information on obtaining health coverage, either by signing up for either Medicaid or purchasing it through Maryland Health Connection, the state's health exchange, as well as various community services offered by the department such as rabies clinics for pets.

"We're trying to reach the 16,000 uninsured Harford County citizens," Robin Hollar, a care coordinator with the health department, explained.

The wind picked up a certain times, sending the kites high into the air. The Oscar-winning hit song "Let It Go," from the animated film "Frozen," came over the PA system when the wind picked up at one point.

Angela Newman of Pikesville was helping her son, Jordan Williams, 11, get his kite up as the song came on.

Saturday was Newman's first time flying a kite; she said she heard about the festival through a college friend who lives in Harford County and is a regular attendee.

She decided to bring Jordan and his older brother, Tyler, 14.

"This is really cool," Newman said of kite flying. "I appreciate it; you kind of have to be one with the kite."

She added: "It's a freeing; it's a liberating kind of situation, and then it goes hand in hand with the weather finally breaking."

Tyler, who is a more experienced kite flier, worked a kite that had been provided at the gate, a kite he called "one of the better kites I've flown."

"It's actually a good kite," he said. "It kind of needs a lot of wind though, because it's a heavier kite."

Trina Taliaferro Sales of Abingdon came with her 5-year-old son, Bryson, and husband, Jason. She said she had tried to fly a kite with her son in Edgewood about a week before, but with little luck.

Sales also talked with competitive flier Richard Mervine of Southern Maryland. Mervine is a member of Wings Over Washington and competes with the Eastern League Sport Kite Association, which promotes and oversees kite-flying competitions along the East Coast, according to its website.

"We thought we'd be inspired by others today, get some tips from the experts," Sales said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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