Holding tight to the string of a kite

by Jesse Cnockaert St. Thomas-Elgin Weekly News

May 22, 2014

Anne Sloboda is a self-taught kite maker.

The 23rd annual Strawberry Fields Kite Festival is coming up May 24-25 in St. Thomas, and Sloboda, the festival organizer, often likes to be the first person with a kite in the air.

She’s crafted more than 50 kites over the years, and since 1984 has visited the US on occasion to check out kite conventions held by the American Kite Flyers Association.

One element to a good kite is symmetry, according to Sloboda.

“It needs to be well balanced. Any slight difference in the two sides of the kite and the wind will work harder against one side more than the other,” she said.

It helps to know your kites. There are box kites, flare kites, delta kites, and other types, all that handle differently.

“I think, really, there is no comparison between a kite you make yourself and one you pick up at the store,” Sloboda said.

Sloboda helped organize the St. Thomas kite festival when it first started 23 years ago. As a therapeutic recreationist, Sloboda saw a value in flying kites for her patients.

“Kite flying is one of those activities that require you to stay completely in the moment,” she said. “Anything else that might be bothering you or that you might be worrying about has to take a back seat.”

The event has since grown from a small gathering of patients, staff and families to an event open to the community that averages around 1,500 people.

The festival was originally a one day event, but it was decided to split it into two days since 2013, after a thunderstorm cancelled the event for the first time in 2012. The event is a draw for anyone from casual kite flyers to the members of kite clubs from across southern Ontario who have a kite they want to send soaring.

The festival will take place on the south lawn at the site of the former Regional Mental Health Centre on the corner of Sunset Drive and John Wise Line. Read more about the festival at www.gothicdesign.ca/strafest.htm.

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