‘Kites on the Coast’ comes to Pensacola Beach
The Council on Aging of West Florida wants you to fly a kite. The non-profit organization presents “Kites on the Coast”, September 2 and 3 at Casino Beach.
“Our idea is to have a community event that combines intergenerational fun,” explained Emily Echevarria, director of marketing communications for the council. “September is intergenerational month. Our seniors remember it from childhood and children today can still love flying a kite, so it was around this idea of an activity that crosses all generations.
The weekend also includes professional kite flying demonstrations, children’s activities, food trucks and a “kite hospital” for repairs and troubleshooting.
“Chicago Kites will also have kites for sale,” Echevarria said. “Or people can bring their own and fly it or just come and relax on the beach and watch all the kites fly.”
Kites of course fly for a cause. Sponsors that have stepped up include Cigna, Pete Moore Automotive Team, The Arbors of Gulf Breeze, Inspiritas of Pensacola, The Waterford at Creekside, Pensacola Nursing and Rehab, and Homestead Village. Donations are also accepted at the event.
Now in its 50th year, the Council on Aging of West Florida “helps seniors in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties live healthy, safe, and independent lives in their own familiar surroundings” through services such as companionship , Adult Day Care, Meals on Wheels, and the United Way Americorps Seniors Program. In addition to support from area businesses, the Council also benefits from annual fundraisers like the “Rat Pack Reunion,” an evening of roasting and grilling from community leaders that just completed its 10-year run. Commemorating its golden anniversary is the next “Dancing with the Decades”, Nov. 4 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach.
When planning Kites on the Coast, the board contacted the Emerald Coast Kite Flyers Club for advice.
“It was supposed to be a little kite day at Bayview Park,” Echevarria said. “But once we talked to them, they said we needed those big kites and we needed to go somewhere that has more space like Maritime Park or the beach.”
And just like that, the council was able to reserve the beach for Labor Day weekend.
“They wanted our opinion,” said Jason Wheeler, the club’s de facto chairman. “So I said, ‘If you want to do this, let’s do it right and put it on the beach. Your organization can generate funds and we can spread the word about the kite, so it can be a win-win for everyone.
The Emerald Coast Kite Flyers Club formed around 2009 as a cohort of local kite enthusiasts who periodically met in open fields in the area. The club is laid back enough not to charge dues or hold meetings, but it does affiliate with the American Kitefliers Association, the largest organization of its kind.
The Council on Aging also did its homework at the second annual “Kites Over Mobile” held last April. Echevarria attended the event with her family and was impressed with the aerial display at Battleship Park and the backdrop of the Mobile skyline.
“You couldn’t even take a picture of how cool it was because of the scale,” Echevarria reported. “It was really unique to see all the kites flying at the same time. I think we can have the same atmosphere on Pensacola Beach.
Wheeler also pointed to the benefits of a kite festival held on the coast.
“The beach is mainly better because you have a nice clean wind blowing out of the water.” he said. “I think we have a view that is unbeatable.”
Most kites today are not your simple diamond-shaped variety. The flyers stand out for their size and color, opting for familiar shapes like animals. A kite measuring 25 feet wide by 35 feet long is not unusual. Wheeler has seen some as big as a bus.
“Line sets for these kites cost more than most people would spend on kites in their lifetime,” he said. “It’s like anything else in life, how much money you want to spend on it is what you’re going to get out of it. If you want to spend a lot of money, you get some really cool stuff .
Another big draw for kite fans is a “night flight” that lights up the sky with a colorful kinetic display.
“Seeing kites in the sky during the day is one thing, but at night it’s magical,” Wheeler said.
However, due to turtle nesting season, Kites on the Coast is restricted to daylight hours. But the Council on Aging is already gearing up to build on its inaugural event.
“We are planning for next year and are excited to pick a weekend in March where we can fly at night outside of turtle season,” Echevarria said.
Kites on the coast
4 p.m. to sunset, September 2; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 3