On a sunny spring afternoon- when there's a gentle breeze in the air- Jesse Kapsten heads to the rocky beaches near his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A 14-year-old who has been flying kites since he was four, Jesse launches one of his favorite kites into the wind, and within moments, it's soaring high in the sky. He easily maneuvers the flaming-orange, jet-black, and snow-white kite so that it dances against the brilliant blue background of the sky. The kite does figure eights, sharp turns, loops, and dives. To perform these acrobatics in the air, Jesse skillfully handles special kites- called sport or stunt kites- that have two or four lines of string, rather than just one. "I just have fun flying kites. I enjoy being outdoors," says Jesse.
Like many kids today, Jesse has a passion for kite flying, but it's also a competitive sport for him. He participates in about eight kite competitions a year, in which he is judged on flying routines that are choreographed to music, including popular songs by rock groups 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys and the score from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He often competes in pairs competitions with his father. Last September he traveled to Taiwan to demonstrate his kite-flying routines at an international kite festival.
Although kiting can be a serious sport for kids like Jesse, it is also a fun way to spend a spring afternoon. In some communities, Jewish kids gather for a day of flying kites on Lag B'Omer- a holiday between Pesach and Shavuot that is celebrated with picnics and outdoor activities. Bright-colored kites flitter across the skies of Virginia Beach during Yiddish Kite Day, a Lag B'Omer event sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of Tidewater. "Yiddishkeit, of course, means Judaism," says director Aron Margolin. "So it's a play on words."
Chabad of New Hampshire also sponsored a Yiddish Kite Day on Lag B'Omer a few years ago, complete with kite-flying demonstrations and tables where kids could make their own kites. More than 100 Jews gathered at a park in Merrimack, New Hampshire, where they created a kaleidoscope of kites in the sky. "We were flying and wearing our Judaism proudly," says director Levi Krinsky.
"Kite flying is a great alternative to TV and video games," adds Krinsky. "It's a wholesome outdoor activity." So, what are you waiting for? Go fly a kite!
The Lowdown on Building a High Flier
“Building your own kite is quite a thrill,” says kite-builder Jon Burkhardt, who heads the Maryland Kite Society. “The first time you launch it and see it fly is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.” Here’s the lowdown on how to build a high-flying kite.
- PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. “My first advice is to get a good book on kites,” says Burkhardt. Or log on to www.aka.kite.org for some sample kite plans. There are hundreds of different kite styles. The delta kite—which is shaped like a triangle—is a good one for beginners.
- PLAN FOR A SMOOTH FLIGHT. Your kite will fly better and last longer if you use light, sturdy materials. One excellent choice is Tyvek, a aterproof material available in home-improvement stores. Other possibilities include plastic garbage bags or cloth.
- LET YOUR IMAGINATION SOAR. Use your creativity to decorate a kite to fit your style. Permanent markers and paint work on Tyvek or plastic-bag kites. “Make your design big and bold,” advises Burkhardt. “Kites are made to be seen from far away.”