Up, Up & Away at the Windscape Kite Festival July 20, 2017 · 9 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
As this was my first time flying a kite, I'm proud to say I only crashed it about thirty times. Thankfully, my instructor said, the kite wasn't too expensive and was made for crash landings. After one particular sharp nose-dive, however, he came over to show me what I was doing wrong. After a few minor adjustments, I kicked the kite back into the air and managed to do my first loop.
The field we were in was empty that day. Within 24 hours, however, the field would be full of kite enthusiasts from across the world. Many of the kite flyers were from Canada and the United States, but some even came as far away as London, Germany and New Zealand. At only 13 years old, the SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival has become internationally renowned to kite flyers around the world.
When people think of kites, they might think of the classic diamond shaped kite of Charlie Brown. However, these days there are many different kinds of kites, and each with their own unique design and purpose.
One type of kite the festival is most famous for are the "inflatables". These kites are known for their incredible size, with many being hundreds of feet long. Due to their sheer mass, the updraft they create is too strong for the average person to control, so they are instead pegged to the ground with metal stakes buried 15 feet deep. By the time the festival is over, many of these stakes have been bent 90 degrees due to the constant tugging of the kites.
Another kind of kite that is less famous than the "inflatables" are the "ground bouncers". These kites sit along the ground and bounce in the wind. They are often designed to look like cute, round animals such as frogs, crabs or fish. While smaller than their inflatable cousins, these kites are also staked to the ground to prevent them from blowing away.
"Parafoils" are another unique type of kite. They are longer than they are wide and often have a long tail behind them. These kites are often created by hand and have either personal, religious or cultural designs sewn into them. They fly slightly lower than "inflatables" and are controlled by people.
"Line laundry" is a nickname given to a fourth kind of kite. This type of kite actually includes several kites that are all attached together on a string so that they blow simultaneously in the wind. They're nicknamed "line laundry" because they look kind of like, well, laundry hanging on a line.
The kind of kite I flew was called a "stunt kite" and can be used for shows and performances. The man who taught me to fly a kite, Bill Brosius, can fly three of these kites at once, controlling one with each hand and a third one with his hips. He told me he's trying to master flying a fourth kite too, which he would use his shoulders to maneuver.
While the kites are very impressive, there's plenty to see around Windscape as well. Throughout the weekend there is the Kinetic Wind Garden Sculpture, clown shows, treasure hunts and even a walking tour discussing the origins of the many different kites.
There were also a wide variety of food trucks at the festival. These included Boston Pizza, Booster Juice, Bon Burger, Smoke's Poutinerie and the Smoke Shack. For those just looking for a drink, you could buy those at the festival canteen as well. While there is no alcohol served at the festival, you're welcome to order coffee, water or pop.
One of the most difficult things about hosting a family friendly festival like Windscape is how to entertain the children. While adults can spend hours ogling at kites flying, children can't. To solve this problem, the organizers of the festival have a tent dedicated to children activities. Here you can design your own kite, fly a pre-made kite and race paper airplanes. Kids can also get decked out in face paint, get temporary tattoos, goof off in the Bubble Station or try their skills in the juggling tent.
Past the Public Flying Field is a straw maze, a mystery sand pit and a place to race with a "bol" – or parachute – strapped to the child's back. I just had to try the last one, and it is a lot harder than it looks!
At the far end of the festival is Windscape's iconic Splatter Mural. The mural starts off white, but quickly becomes a rainbow of colours thanks to an army of children with water guns full of paint. This is one of the most popular locations at the festival, simply because it is just so messy!
The festival runs from 10 AM to 5 PM throughout the weekend, but once the kites are packed up for the day, a second festival begins. As the kite festival occurs near the Summer Equinox, the same grounds are used for the The Long Day's Night Music Festival – a festival dedicated to the longest days of the year. While alcohol isn't served at Windscape, it is served here, and it's very popular. While many common beers are available, the festival favours locally brewed beer above all others. (Unlike a certain football stadium.)
I went to three of the four nights of music while at the festival, and had a great time each night. The music varied between folk, rock, latin and country and had two bands playing each night. All the artists are Canadian, with many of them from Saskatchewan. Three artists I really enjoyed were the Scenic Route to Alaska, Megan Nash and Regina's very own Skavenjah.
If you're planning on going to the music festival, be sure to bring a jacket and toque. The festival might take place in a tent in the middle of the summer, but it can still get pretty cold out at night. Bringing earplugs wouldn't hurt either as the music can get a little loud.
While the kites, the music, the food and activities are all very impressive, the best thing about these two festivals is the volunteers. People from across Saskatchewan come to Swift Current this weekend to help host the festival and many spend countless hours in the wind and heat making it the best it can be. When I first arrived, I put down my camera and helped with some of the volunteering as well. Enjoying the festival was one thing, but being a part of the process that helped it all come together was another. Working together, making new friends and seeing hundreds of people enjoy it were probably my favorite thing about my experience at the two festivals.
Ever since visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg last summer, I've wanted to include more about First Nations culture on my blog. Being of European descent, I often feel I am culturally blind to First Nations culture, and I noticed a severe lack of it in my writing. In fact, I feel in past articles a lot of my focus has been on European history in the New World, with only a side note regarding First Nations history. Now, I am trying for there to be more equal representation in my blog.
To finish off my #BucketlistAB series, I thought this article would be the perfect place to flip the tables, and instead focus on First Nations culture, with a European side note. Sometimes it is impossible to talk about one without the other, but I tried to focus more on the First Nations people and their story in this article. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.