Kite enthusiasts let heritage soar

It’s overcast and calm, warm but not hot. It’s ideal weather. For proudly flying a Canadian kite the weather is ideal.

The gentle wind of six kilometres per hour at Ashbridges Bay is barely enough to ruffle hair. But that’s all it takes to make the Canadian kite soar high above the treetops.

Don Brownridge, president of the Toronto Kite Fliers (TKF), recently showed off his patriotism and heritage by flying his red, white and black checkered kite with the Canadian maple leaf. His design has been showcased in places such as Hong Kong, but most notably in Halifax.

“We flew this right over Signal Hill, for the Canada sunrise, with flags and Canadian windsocks all the way up,” Brownridge says. “It’s turned into quite a patriotic, nationalistic kite for us. Everybody likes to have a Canadian kite in their bag.”

Tradition still the foundation for today’s kite makers

Cliff Quinn of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA) is one of the experts on hand at this year’s Kite Fest held in Scarborough. Quinn, of Pennsylvania, is last year’s kite-making champion and knows all too well how ethnicity, patriotism and heritage play a huge role in kite making.

“Kite making is a tradition. It is a craft that’s passed down through families, fathers to sons and grandfathers,” Quinn says. “People designed kites hundreds of years ago.”

According to Irving Reid, of the Toronto Kitefliers Association, the historical tradition of kite flying is a growing phenomenon.

“There are so many different traditions in kite making,” Reid says. “It’s fascinating to see the different historical threads that have developed in all the different countries over time.”

Patriotism flies strong in Canada

Kiting in China is competitive style of kite fighting. In that country two opponents try to knock each other’s kite out of the air. In more extreme kite fights competitors will use shards of glass or razor blades glued to the strings to cut an opponent’s fly line.

Quinn says the government of China tried to ban the use of dangerous objects in kite flying. That has infuriated the fighters, because kite fighting dates back hundreds of years.

Asia leads the way in ethnical kite design

Some of the most innovative kite designs come from China because the tradition of making and flying kites has been in their culture for thousands of years.

“When you go to an Asian country,” Quinn says, “the kites that they make are what we call traditional, in that their using natural materials. As an example, in Asia they’re using bamboo (as the base) and paper.”

Although kite flying and kite making is ingrained with heritage, kite flyers like Quinn are still reluctant to show they’re patriotism in foreign countries.

“I’m an American.” Quinn says, “and there are many people in many countries that might have ill feelings towards an American. I wouldn’t fly it (red, white and blue) because of that.”

Though it may be taboo to fly an American kite in other parts the world, in North America and especially in Canada at Kite Fest the sky’s the limit.