Lompoc City Councilman Jim Mosby said he has fond childhood memories of constructing his own kites, sometimes in school, and eagerly attempting to get them airborne.
In the years since then, he said he’s noticed fewer people — particularly children — using kites. After a recent conversation with some friends, including one who happened to have an old kite collection, Mosby set about doing something to reverse that trend, at least locally.
Mosby, who owns a large parcel of land near the entrance to River Park, is set to host a series of “Kite Day” events over each of the next four Saturdays. He intends to hold the first event from about 2 to 5 p.m. this Saturday on his property near the intersection of Highway 246 and Sweeney Road. At the free celebrations, attendees will be able to pick up a free kite and learn about kiting, or bring their own kite — or kites — and join in on the fun.
“I’m thinking it’ll be good to get people off their couches and outside,” Mosby said.
Since initially coming up with the idea for the kite celebrations, Mosby and a group of friends have spent several afternoons at his property testing different styles of kites at different heights and different times to determine what time of day would be best for kiting and what length of string would make for optimal flight.
During those tests, he said that many people clearly noticed the kites from nearby roadways, and more than a few of those people pulled in to his property to inquire about what was going on.
“It’s difficult to compete with video games and such, but this is something that piques interest and there’s also a learning curve involved,” Mosby said.
“In our town, we’ve got to think a little bit outside the box and find things to do for both youth and adults,” he added. “One of the things I found interesting was that I’ve had several grandparents tell me this was something they wanted to bring their grandchildren to. And we are really limited in what a grandparent can do with a grandchild here. So, this is one of those things that has seemed to blend.”
During one of those testing days last week, Mosby and others tied several kite strings to poles and other makeshift anchors, like power tools, so the kites could fly hands-free. As those kites — including a dragon, a butterfly and a tiger, in addition to the standard diamond kite — danced in the air, Lompoc resident Brian Frances worked diligently at a nearby table to construct one of the most unusual pieces from his kite collection: a “Kiteamaran.”
Frances said he acquired the “Kiteamaran” in a storage locker auction. The kite, whose name is a mix of the words “kite” and “catamaran,” is billed as amphibious — able to fly in the air and sail across water. Frances said it was still in its original 1979 packaging when he took ownership of it.
Although Frances said he grew up loving to fly kites, he acknowledged that he had all but abandoned the hobby after getting into RC airplanes. Breaking out some of his older kites and testing them over the past several weeks, though, has rekindled some of those memories, he said.
“It’s been pretty fun,” he said as he continued tinkering with the “Kiteamaran.”
Frances said he was hopeful that Lompoc community members would embrace the “Kite Day” events and give kiting a chance. It’s an experience that can be enjoyed by everyone, he said.
“We were out here flying kites and a guy came out here in a wheelchair,” he said. “People in wheelchairs can do it; little kids can do it."
Frances also pointed to the creative outlet that kites can provide.
“Kids can build their own, and then we’ve got guys that have these huge kites,” he added. “Those kites are just ginormous — some of them look like parachutes. And it’s cool because you can buy a generic kite and do little things to it to make it faster or add extra lines to it to make it a stunt kite. You can do anything.”
Mosby was also joined by fellow Lompoc City Councilman Dirk Starbuck on some of the testing trials. Starbuck noted that he was in favor of anything that gives people in the community something positive to do and said he would help the series in whatever ways he could.
“Let’s face it, Lompoc is a pretty good place to fly a kite,” he said, noting the area’s infamous on-again, off-again winds. “You could put a lot of kids out here and a lot of kites in the air. It’s like fishing at Gaviota used to be — all the lines will tangle. It’ll be a blast.”
Mosby said he plans to give away 400 kites over the four weeks of “Kite Day” events. He purchased the kites at bulk for about 69 cents each, so he said he’s hopeful that kids and adults alike will take advantage of the opportunity. Anyone who picks up a free kite will be free to leave and go fly the kite elsewhere if they’d like, Mosby said.
Although the first event will be held on Mosby’s property, the councilman said he’d like to see it move to other areas for the following weeks. He pointed to Beattie Park as a possible future destination.
More than anything, though, Mosby said he has one goal.
“I just hope we put some smiles on some faces,” he said.