Kite competition aims to take relationships between kids and seniors to new heights

Pat Kasuda has walked the grounds of Charlestown just about every day of the three years she has lived at the retirement community on Maiden Choice Lane.

On one of those walks a few months back, as she appreciated the rolling hills, open spaces and strong breezes on the campus, Kasuda came up with the idea of a kite-flying competition.

"I'm not really a kite enthusiast," Kasuda said, adding she hadn't flown a kite in "years and years."

"It just seemed like the perfect setting to do something like that," Kasuda said.

From that idea came this Saturday's special event. From 10 a.m. to noon on May 19, Charlestown will host kite fliers of all ages as they release homemade and store-bought kites into the air.

Three judges will recognize kites in each of the three age groups with prizes for the highest flying, longest flying, most unusual and most creative kites.

The event, a collaboration between Charlestown and the Rotary Clubs of Catonsville and Glen Burnie, will also include four local schools.

Kasuda said they have invited Arbutus, Hillcrest and Lansdowne elementary schools and Our Lady of Victory School to the event.

At least one student from each school will attend the competition and some teachers at the school have used kites to teach science or art.

Mary Evans, the community resources manager at Charlestown, said the retirement community will have a few kites at the event available to assemble and fly.

"When we hold or come together for special events like this, I think one of the things that we always look forward to is bridging the generations," Evans said.

Lansdowne Elementary art teacher Nicky Styer took the cue from the kite competition to have each of her three third-grade classes make a kite out of bulletin board paper, construction paper and dowels.

Though Styer had not yet received a permission slip to attend the competition as of May 12, she said the kids have enjoyed the project.

"They were flying all over the room. It was pretty wild," Styer said, recalling when one class finished the kites last week. "In a light breeze, those things will take off.

"It was kind of fun to watch the kids realize, 'Oh, this is how this works,'" she said of her students learning the physics.

Bill Lorenz, a member of The Rotary Club of Catonsville-Sunrise, said he loved flying kites as a kid and still does, even now that he's a "bigger kid."

The 46-year-old Catonsville resident said he has a half dozen kites and flies them when he needs a short period of rest and relaxation.

"If they can get a fair amount of kids there, I think it's good for the kids. It's just good fun for everyone," Lorenz said.

Saturday, Lorenz may unveil a kite that has an eight-foot wingspan that he purchased in Ocean City and has never removed from the bag.

Asked what lessons a child can take away from flying kites, Lorenz answered, "The attention to maintain the flight, to get it up there, to watch it, to keep an eye on it."

What started as an event Kasuda hoped would attract 50 people flying kites has evolved into more.

In addition to assembling and talking about kites, a Benjamin Franklin imitator will wander the grounds, telling tales of the patriot's exploits with kites in the 18th century that proved that lightning was electricity.

Kasuda said she has heard other residents may join the festivities by breaking out their clown costumes.

"They're pretty excited about it," Kasuda said of the residents. "The residents around here really enjoy having children on campus."

Evans has added to the excitement by appearing on the retirement community's closed-circuit television and hosting kite-making demonstrations.

She used readily available materials, such as wooden dowels, wrapping paper and plastic tablecloths, to make the kites.

"We looked around to see what we could find and make good use of what we had handy," Evans said.

Because she has been so busy organizing the activity, Kasuda said she has not had an opportunity to make a kite and may not get the opportunity to fly one at the competition.

It doesn't seem to bother her, though.

"It's just going to be a fun-filled morning," Kasuda said. "Hopefully, we'll have a nice day."

Anyone interested in participating in taking part in the competition may register at the gate or call Pat Kasuda at 410-242-2257.

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