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March goes out like a lamb at annual kite flying festival

April 01, 2007|By DON AINES

CLEAR SPRING-The first kites took to the air more than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese having learned to create the sail, bridle and string from silk and the frame from strips of bamboo.

On Saturday, Matt Koebel and Jared Henry put together simple kites for children using modern equivalents - plastic trash bags, dowel rods, masking tape and string. April is National Kite Month, but the last day of March brought families out to the Fairview Outdoor Education Center for its fourth annual Kite Festival.

"They're so light," Matt said of the kites.

"They're guaranteed to fly," said Jared, finishing the sentence.

And indeed they did. Children and adults decorated kites in rainbow colors with ink markers, while others brought their own or used kites provided by the center, ranging from traditional triangular models to kites with streaming tails 20 feet or more in length.

Colorful kites fought to gain altitude under gray skies against an inconsistent wind.

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"Triangular ones seem to fly the best. In fact, I have one in the tree over there," said John Evans, a teacher at the center. He also had tried to get an elaborate kite shaped like the Red Baron's Fokker triplane airborne, but the morning winds were too light.

"They are seasoned, trained kite builders," Ed Hazlett, the center's head teacher, said of Matt and Jared. The teenagers had materials on hand to make up to 100 kites, he said.

"We're getting public service hours for our school," said Matt, explaining that 45 hours are required to graduate.

"It's grown every year. Last year, we had 30 families and we're up around 30 now," Hazlett said a few hours before the fair concluded. It had been snowed out two weeks ago, he said.

"Our's broke," 2-year-old Annabella James of Clear Spring said of a kite her family brought to the fair.

"We'll make our own," said her mother, Krissy James.

"We wanted to let Annabella see how kites fly and just give her an experience in kite flying," Krissy James said as she carried her daughter back to the pavilion, where Fabiola Zapien, a teacher from Mexico here on a three-year cultural exchange, painted butterflies on her kite.

"It's hard to get it started, but once it's up, it kind of goes by itself," Ben Minnick, 13, of Smithsburg, said of his Spider-Man kite.

Jennifer Hart of Clear Spring, with children Reygan, 7, Jesse, 4, and 1-year-old Eli, had been trying to get a unicorn kite with an enormous tail to fly with mixed success.

"We got in a tree, but we got out," Reygan said.

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