A day in the life: The 34th Annual Rogallo Kite Festival

Written by: Emma Turnbull- 2016 Marketing Intern

It was a beautiful weekend for the 34th Annual Rogallo Kite Festival! Typical with any kite festival, the wind was not completely cooperative (too light on Friday and too strong on Saturday and Sunday), but it was good enough to get the kites up and give everybody an awesome scene to admire atop Jockey’s Ridge.


Rogallo Fest ran on Dunkin’

This was my first kite festival as a Kitty Hawk Kites marketing intern, and I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when the weekend began. I obviously knew we’d be flying some kites, but I didn’t realize just how massive and impressive they’d be. For instance, our octopus, affectionately dubbed Squiggs, is 100 feet long! As you can imagine, trying to launch and take down Squiggs in strong wind was a bit of a challenge. There were even a couple times it took 5 people to wrangle him. Once he got under control though, he was quite a sight to see, with his huge yellow body and his tentacles flapping around in the clear blue sky. A couple other personal favorites of mine were our giant purple eel and the rainbow koi fish, which both slithered around in the air to the point where they looked like they were swimming against the blue sky. It’s amazing how much of a show can be put on by a bit of cloth, so strong line, and a few poles.


Squiggs, the 100ft Octopus- a personal favorite.

Now, I’m by no means an expert yet, but this weekend taught me a lot and gave me a sneak peek into the world of kite flying. There’s a lot that goes into flying such huge kites. You don’t just need the kite and a line; you need the kite, bridle, line set, carabiner, and sand anchor, and a bit of expert know-how. I learned about the safety when flying large kites, how to tie a larks head, and daisy chain just to name a few of my new skills. Basically, there’s a lot more that goes into flying show kites than I could have ever imagined.


Not a bad view

As an event crew member, my weekend consisted of a combination of physical labor, interacting with children, and teaching people about kites. To be fair, I didn’t shoulder a huge portion of the physical labor given my small size and utter lack of muscles, but that’s not to say I didn’t pitch in whenever and however I could. One of the highlights for me was set up Saturday morning, when I was helping John Harris, owner and founder of Kitty Hawk Kites, prepare and launch numerous large kites. It was surreal to be able to learn so much from a man who is such an expert in the field.

RevSpinIn addition to the eye catching show kites, visible from across the sound in Manteo, the Rogallo Kite Festival included free stunt kite lessons, and a Revolution Kite Competition. I spent much of my time tending to the larger kites and unfortunately didn’t get to take a lesson, but I did get to talk to many stunt kite flyers, from visitors trying it out for the first time to experienced flyers who travel the country showing of their skills. Watching the performances from afar, the twirls, spins, dives, and other tricks executed but the Revolutions and other stunt kites were every bit as impressive and transfixing as Squiggs’ tentacles in their own way. I look forward to trying it out for myself at the next festival in July!


Revolution Invitation Winners with Rev Rep, Lolly Hadziki, and John Harris

Between digging holes for anchors, talking to curious vacationers on Jockey’s Ridge, and relaunching kites that the wind took down, the days actually sped by. There’s no denying it was hard work, and being out in the sun for 3 full days certainly took its toll. (I have the awkward suntan/burn lines to prove it). There were moments I just wanted to stop what I was doing, lie down, and fall asleep on the spot. But for every funk, there was also a moment equally as funny or inspiring or beautiful to break me out of it. Like the moment a huge kite would get launched and I would just watch it float upward so peacefully into the bright blue sky. Or seeing a kid’s face light up as they watched the koi fish “swimming” through the air. Or honestly just taking a step back and taking in the whole panorama: a beautiful sunny day on the sand dunes with a bunch of colorful kites floating overhead and the ocean in the distance. I now understand peoples’ fascination with kites a whole lot better.

If you missed the Rogallo Festival, don’t fret… The Wright Kite Festival hosted at The Wright Brothers’ National Memorial July 16-17 will feature many of the same show kites (possibly even a few more), free stunt kite lessons, and kite making workshops for the kids. You may also check out this awesome Rogallo Festival recap video below:

OBX Pirate Week a Fun Time

Thrust, slash, parry. Instructions in pirate sword techniques.

Thrust, slash, parry. Instructions in pirate sword techniques.

“Thrust . . . slash . . . parry!” The pirate weapons instructor commanded his young charge. Over and over the boy practiced the commands, his arms tired, legs weary, but at the end of it, the lad was ready to step on board with his 18” saber made of the finest plastic to be found.

Then it was to the cannon drill, firing off the two pound falcon and it’s mate, then the eight pounder followed by the the booming 12 pounder putting the fear of any scalawag or pirate within hearing of Jockey’s Ridge.

The 8 pounder fires a shot.

The 8 pounder fires a shot.

Pirate Week at Kitty Hawk Kites was a great week of fun for everyone—Mom and Dad, the pirates . . . but mostly the kids. Filled with important information about how to be a scalawag and how to use a pirate sword and the fearful medical things that would happen if a pirate were to be cut by a sword or fall ill, it was a great reminder of the heritage of the Outer Banks.

For visitors coming next week, Pirate Week will be gone, but there’s still lots to do.

August 19 is National Aviation Day. Free admission all day at the Wright Brothers Memorial, with lots of aviation related activities . . . kite making, historic aircraft will be on hand and much more.

Kites Fly at Wright Kite Fest

Decorating the sky at the 37th Annual Kitty Hawk Kites Wright Kite Festival.

Decorating the sky at the 37th Annual Kitty Hawk Kites Wright Kite Festival.

Mother Nature threw us a curve on Sunday for the second day of the 37th Annual Kitty Hawk Kites Wright Kite Festival—there was no wind, which on the Outer Banks has got to be considered an anomaly.

That’s actually a bit of an exaggeration—there were occasional puffs of winds, but the nice constant southwest breeze we’re so use to on the Outer Banks in the summer was sporadic.

That didn’t stop kite flyers for putting kites in the air.

Sled kite in flight.

Sled kite in flight.

Some of the larger kites that help decorate the sky had a tough time staying aloft but there were almost always a parafoil, large delta and assorted other kites flying to let people know something special was happening.

The sled kites the kids were making in the kite making workshop were flying great. The sled kite is a perfect beginner kite—run fast and the kite soars into the air.  Easy to make, easier to fly and customized with each child’s own decorations, it’s no wonder they’re always a hit at every festival.

The stunt kite flyers got in some flight time. In the demo field quad line flyers had their kites dancing to music a flitting across the sky.

Chris Shulz doing a 360 with a power kite.

Chris Shulz doing a 360 with a power kite.

One of the most impressive demonstrations came from Chris Shultz from HQ Kites who brought a quad line power kite with him. For about five minutes Chris had the kite flying with no wind, making a 360 degree turn around the field keeping the kite in the sky with just his movement.

Next up on the Kitty Hawk Kites entertainment agenda will be the Watermelon Festival at the Jockey’s Ridge Store in Nags Head. Face painting, watermelon seed spitting contest, games, lots of watermelon to consume  . . . a great day on the Outer Banks. Friday, July 30. Be there if you can.

Hang Gliding Memories

"I Flew Jockey's Ridge" for more than 20 years one of the most popular designs.

“I Flew Jockey’s Ridge” for more than 20 years one of the most popular designs.

John Harris, the President and founder of Kitty Hawk Kites, started teaching people to fly from Jockey’s Ridge in 1974 and it didn’t take him long to figure out that a hang gliding dune lesson and T-shirt went together as naturally as ice cream and a hot day.

For about as long as there has been a Kitty Hawk Kites, T-shirts have been a great way for people to remember their visit to the stores and the Outer Banks. We create our own designs—they are not available anywhere else—and we make sure they’re built to last. In fact, they hold up so well, they’ve traveled the world, and people have sent us photos from distant places and lands wearing our T-shirts.


Every year some designs really stick out, but one of the oldest designs we have is still one of the most popular. “I Flew Jockey’s Ridge” has been around so long no one can quite remember when it was introduced but after talking to some of former employees about the shirt, we know it’s been here for at least 20 years.

KHKtropicalWe try to keep things fun and sometimes funny with our designs—after all, flying a hang glider is fun! And we also know it’s a great way to remember a wonderful memory.

For anyone who is traveling to parts unknown and would like to send us a picture of a Kitty Hawk Kites T-Shirt, take the pic and reply to this blog.


A Great Day for Rogallo Festival

Flying a nine-stack of stunt kites at the 33rd Annual Rogallo Kite Festival.

Flying a nine-stack of stunt kites at the 33rd Annual Rogallo Kite Festival.

Friday was the first day of the 33rd Annual Francis Rogallo Kite Festival and the weather was a little bit iffy. Gusty winds, a little bit over cast . . . kite were still flying above the dunes, but the stunt kite demos from Prism Kites and the quad line flying were put on hold.

Then came Saturday and all was right in the world again. With sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70s it was comfortable on the Jockey’s Ridge State Park dunes, and a nice 8-10 mph north wind created just about perfect flying conditions for the stunt kites.

Life-sized blue whale kite in flight.

Life-sized blue whale kite in flight.

The sky was filled with every imaginable kite, and it looked as though the flyers from Kitty Hawk Kites emptied the storage room, bringing out kites that boggled the imagination in size and shape. The most spectacular had to be the full-sized blue whale that stretched for 70’ or 80’ along the dune’s ridge.

Prism Quantum in flight with long, long tail.

Prism Quantum in flight with long, long tail.

The stunt kite flying was superb. Prism Kites was flying their Quantum with what looked to be a 100’ tail. Easy to fly, responsive, it would be a great kite for a beginner right on to more experienced flyers.

Bob Lauder from Wings Over Washington (DC) was on hand with the quad line kites he makes himself. Excellent instruction. Patient and thorough, for anyone who has ever wondered what flying a kite with four lines would be like, he’s the guy to see.

Sunday will wrap up the festival and the weather is looking pretty good for Sunday as well.

A great day on the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge and something to put on the to do list for next year.