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Former Bel Air Kite Festival coordinator passes leadership torch, stays involved in 'helping mode'

Allen Ault might have stepped down as the long-serving coordinator of the annual Bel Air Kite Festival, but that did not keep the festival co-founder away from the Rockfield Park fields Saturday for the 11th annual Kite Festival.

Allen Ault might have stepped down as the long-serving coordinator of the annual Bel Air Kite Festival, but that did not keep the festival co-founder away from the Rockfield Park fields Saturday for the 11th annual Kite Festival.

"I'm just here in a helping mode," a smiling Ault said.

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This year is the 10th anniversary of the festival, which Ault started in 2006 with the help of the late Paul Hines, a fellow kite enthusiast, and Bel Air's former town administrator, Chris Schlehr.

Ault, 80, stepped down as coordinator after the 2015 festival, but he planned to stay involved as a volunteer. Michael Krantz, Bel Air's town clerk and director of administration, took over the leadership.

"With a little guidance from a senior consultant," Krantz said, looking at Ault.

"You didn't need much guidance," Ault replied.

"I'll still stay involved in this somewhat," Ault said. "Mike's done a wonderful job."

Organizers estimated about 1,000 people had attended the festival by early afternoon Saturday. The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Organizers gave out 500 kites at the beginning of the festival. They had been purchased from the Kite Loft in Ocean City using money donated by APG Federal Credit Union.

Krantz noted the free kites were all gone by 11:30 a.m., and he plans to seek more financial donations for next year's festival to purchase more kites.

He stressed he is not planning to raise the money through having more vendors at the festival or any sort of branding, though, to preserve the "picnic in the park" atmosphere.

'One major thing is, this will never be a major vendor event," Krantz said. "This is meant to be a family event in the park."

The Town of Bel Air is also a major supporter, by having the police department provide traffic control and public works staff operating the park. Additional supporters include the Wings Over Washington Kite Club, the American Kitefliers Association and Domino's Pizza, of Bel Air.

Visitors could purchase pizza and hot dogs from Domino's, the festival's only vendor, as they have done in past years.

Admission to the festival is free. Parents could lounge on chairs or a blanket while their children flew kites, or the adults flew kites themselves.

Ron Romer, of Jarrettsville, and his 14-year-old son, Wesley, flew a large, circular, "circoflex" kite. Romer said he made the kite at home using a design he found online.

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He encourages other people to do the same thing.

"If you want to have some fun online, you'll find designs for any type of kite you can imagine," he said. "The parts are affordable, anyone can do it."

The sail is made from nylon, which he sewed together using a sewing machine he purchased online through Craigslist, and the frame is made from carbon-fiber shafts also used for hunting arrows, Romer said.

He said he worked on the kite "here and there" over one winter.

"I think it's awesome," Romer said of the kite festival. "There is no better example of good, clean fun for everybody in the family."

His son said "it's really cool to see all the different kites flying around."

Wesley Romer noted the day's light winds made it difficult to keep the large circoflex kite aloft, so he and his father planned to use a kite better suited to the current conditions.

"This [circoflex] likes steady wind, for sure," the elder Romer said.

The festival typically draws visitors from outside Harford County, and this year was no exception.

Cristie McNew, of Dundalk, watched as her 8-year-old daughter, Emilie, flew a multi-colored diamond-shaped kite.

"It's fun," said McNew, who was making her first visit to the Bel Air Kite Festival, said. "I've never seen anything like this before.

Emilie has had a few prior kite-flying experiences.

"It can fly good," she said of the kite she used Saturday.

Steve Boucher, his wife, Stephanie, and their children, Victoria, 11, Nicholas, 12, and Alex, 16, came from Frederick County. Stephanie Boucher had seen information about the festival on Facebook.

Steve Boucher noted he grew up in the Baldwin area of Harford County.

Victoria, who is an enthusiastic kite flier, worked the strings of a kite with the face of a dragon.

"I love it," she said of the festival.

She called the conditions "good, not too cold."

Stephanie Boucher said her sons like to fly kites, too, "but not as much as their sister."

"When we told her about [the festival], she was very excited, but it's been fun for everybody," Boucher said.

Helen and Jay Ellenby, of Bel Air, have attended the festival in prior years. The couple worked together Saturday to keep a red-and-black kite, with a skull and crossbones on it, in the air, or untangle their string from other kite fliers'.

"We came out with our kids a couple years ago," Jay Ellenby said. "They've moved on, so we're still out here, we're keeping the kite flying."

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