By Emily Younker
Bill Starkey first fell in love with kites — the basic 15-cent kind — at age 3 and only rediscovered kite flying about seven years ago.
“It’s changed,” he said. “There’s some great stuff now.”
Starkey, of Joplin, had hauled a vehicle full of “great stuff” out on Saturday morning to a grassy field behind Carousel Park on West Seventh Street for the annual Kites Over Route 66 Festival, which was set to attract kite lovers from near and far.
Starkey said he had brought all types of kites with him, but he was first preparing to fly a 19-foot Delta kite — that’s the triangular kind — that was decorated with the Stars and Stripes.
“I figure the Earth’s orbiting the sun, so send a kite up and you can tag the orbit,” he said.
Barbara Meyer, president of the American Kitefliers Association, was already flying two kites early Saturday morning — a 9-foot black-and-rainbow kite with 100-foot tails, and a 6-foot orange kite with 75-foot tails of her own design that she spent approximately 90 hours making.
She and her husband, Alex, both of Maple Grove, Minn., were preparing to launch a third kite and had another 15 stashed in their Mini Cooper. Having made the nine-hour drive to Joplin specifically for the festival, Meyer said the weather — despite a line of worrisome black clouds that blew past without any rain — was so far cooperating for flying kites.
Meyer, who began flying kites with her husband more than three decades ago, said she has always been drawn to the movement and the colors.
“With my kites, I put them in the sky, and people come over and talk to me,” she said. “I don’t have to talk to an art gallery to put on a show. I can put on my own show.”
Meyer said kites are appropriate for all ages.
The festival, which continues today, even includes a kite-making tent specifically for children.
“A 2-year-old can have fun; a 90-year-old can have fun,” she said. “It doesn’t matter your income level, your physical ability, your mental ability. It’s an activity that everybody can enjoy in some way.”
Nearby, Ron Lindner, of High Ridge, Mo., was flying a red, white and blue Delta kite with a 10-foot wind sock attached at the base. His wife, Charm Lindner, sat in the shade, untangling another kite’s tail.
So how many kites did they bring with them for the festival? The question was met with laughter from Ron Lindner as he moved over to his vehicle to do a rough count.
“I couldn’t even guess, I don’t think,” he said, finally giving the final estimate at 60 kites.
Charm Lindner said she prefers smaller kites, one of her favorites being a kite she made from an Elvis Presley postage stamp. Her husband, meanwhile, said he enjoys the solitude of the activity. He often puts on his headphones and listens to music while he flies kites.
“You’re here by yourself; you can get away from everything,” he said. “You don’t have to think about anything.”
And what does Starkey enjoy best about kite flying?
“Looking at the sky, and ... I don’t know,” he said, surveying the kites already in the air as he was preparing to fly his Delta kite. “You can’t put it into words. It’s something in the heart.”
If you go
The Kites Over Route 66 Festival continues today beginning at 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m. at the old Route 66 Speedway behind Carousel Park on West Seventh Street.