Enthusiasts get kites aloft at Ripon festival

naustin@modbee.comAugust 31, 2013 

— Bright boxes, diamonds and billowing rainbows painted the skies above Ripon on Saturday, as eager young fliers dashed back and forth beneath them, prodding them higher. A children's fun run and two adult races kicked off the day.

Saturday's weather — mild and sunny — seemed custom-made for running across the expansive green of Mistlin Sports Park for the Color the Skies kite festival, a fund-raiser for Children's Hospital Central California in Ma- dera. The festival has raised more than $160,000 for the hospital over the past seven years, according to Jessica Coleman, president and founder of Color the Skies Inc.

The balloons that are a trademark of the festival were absent because of ongoing construction of nearby softball fields. Balloons are expected to return for next year's event.

The faint whisper of a breeze caused some concern in the morning, leaving some large show kites dragging across the grass. But as the day progressed, the wind caught its breath and buoyed the colorful floaters aloft.

Ron Greenlee of Modesto cheered on son Logan, 4, running to raise a small prism kite. Partner Tristan Uber was having no luck with a larger box model. "We need a little more air. That one needs a lot of wind," Greenlee said.

It was enough for Lori Braden of Hughson and son Eli, 12, to get their old standby up and flying, however. The festival sounded like a good time to pull it out. "I thought, we've got one in the garage and we'll just dust it off," Braden said.

Guadalupe Castillo of Riverbank, watching son Mateo, 4, said the event was a first for the family. "I probably haven't flown one since I was 4 myself," Castillo said with a laugh.

But 8-year-old Katherine Coelho of Modesto gets her peace sign-covered diamond kite out several times a year. Running confidently under her steady high-flier, Katherine said she was having fun.

"I like how it kind of lifts me," she said.

Kite lift, so fun with small fliers, can be a safety issue with large models, said enthusiast Brian Champie of Stockton, watching his 750-square-foot white behemoth with Tweety bird struggle to get airborne.

The forecast called for winds of 15 mph, rising to 25 mph by evening. That would be a bit much for kites, said Champie. He called sustained breezes of 6 to 9 mph the perfect kite float zone.

Many fliers from kite group

Sunday and Monday winds should stay in the kite-friendly 10 to 15 mph range, according to the National Weather Service forecast, for those families who want to keep flying absent the several hundred people who attended the festival.

George Halpin of Modesto, who helped arrange a mid-morning kite candy drop, said many of Saturday's fliers were from an informal group of kite fans. They meet "noon-ish" on the second Sunday of each month at the Mistlin facility.

Jon Bowles of Sacramento said he enjoys flying kites because they relax him. "It's a very meditative thing. You're dealing with your kite — it's flying and the whole world goes away," he said.

It also serves as his own arts outlet. "You're coloring the sky (with the kites). We see it as beautifying the environment," Bowles said.

Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.

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