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Kites fly high during festival

April 30, 2012
By SHELLEY HANSON - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Vanessa Clark and her grandson Christopher Sommerville got the chance to experience something together for the first time on Saturday - flying a kite.

Both Bellaire residents, Clark and her grandson were among the dozens of people who traveled to Brooke Hills Park to fly kites during the seventh-annual West Virginia Kite Festival. Organizer Libby Strong said at one point there were about 70 people flying kites, making for a spectacular display in the sky. This year the event also featured ham, or amateur, radio operators who used their equipment to speak to other operators in Florida, Arizona and even Switzerland.

''It's super-duper cold. It was sleeting at one point,'' Strong said, adding cheerfully that at least the wind was strong enough to carry the kites high into the sky.

Strong noted in addition to enjoying the colorful kites, adults and children learned the science behind how they fly. For example, 6-year-old Christopher discovered why his kite would not fly correctly until he attached a tail to it.

''It stabilizes it,'' noted organizer Robert Strong, husband of Libby.

Robert and Libby Strong own the SMART Center Market in Wheeling. They founded the festival. This year, a grant from the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium helped fund the event. Co-sponsors included the park, the Astrolabe Astronomy Club, Near Earth Object Foundation and the SMART Center. A variety of kites also were being sold by the New Era Kite Club of Parkersburg. The club is planning a kite building workshop for children Sept. 15 at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville.

For Clark, the event was extra special because she and Christopher flew their first kites together.

''It was fun, we had a blast,'' Clark said. ''And he got to do something new with grandma. It was interesting.''

Ham radio operator Joe McCready said he attached a camera to a kite and made a video of the park. McCready said during better weather he can attach a wire to a high-flying kite that enables him to speak to other ham operators in far away places.

He added ham operators around the world are scheduled to hold a Field Day June 23-24 to talk with each other. Local clubs will gather behind the 911 Communications Center in Belmont County.

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