Clipper Staff Writer
ANTELOPE ISLAND — Mac McClary had soared above Antelope Island many times before, but this ride was one he called “epic.”
“It’s beautiful,” said McClary after floating around White Rock Bay, above the performers and booths at the Antelope Island Stampede Festival, and landing just east of the festival. “The best day we’ve had.”
McClary has been a regular at the festival, but gushed that conditions this year allowed him to take a ride that maybe only 20 people in the whole world have experienced.
With him was Kevin Bayless, festival coordinator for the kite demonstrations.
Though perfect conditions for hot-air balloons are not necessarily perfect conditions for kite flying, conditions allowed both over the weekend, which brought kite enthusiasts and professionals from all over the world.
“We love this place,” said Bayless. “Just look,” he said, as he waved his arm toward the bay. “People have been drawn to it for that,” he said of the view.
Bayless estimated that 20 kite enthusiasts from the East Coast were at the island. Others had come from Wisconsin, California, Canada, Mexico and even Denmark.
John Barresi, from Portland, Ore., has flown kite demonstrations in Australia, India, China, Taiwan and Japan.
Now in his fourth year at the five-year-old festival, Barresi said he likes the Utah festival because there’s “something for everybody.”
Besides kites and hot-air balloons, the festival included food, live entertainment and multiple activities for kids.
Lindsey Johnson is in his second year at the festival. He came from Lincoln City, Ore., a major spot for kite flying, to teach kids to make their own kites.
Last year, he helped kids build 907 paper kites but because last year’s festival was a stormy one, he brought Tyvek, a stronger material, for this year’s hand-made kites.
He was prepared to help construct 3,000 this year if there was interest.
Antelope Island felt “Africa-hot” to Johnson, after leaving the Oregon Coast, but he was excited to be part of an event that draws most internationally known makers and flyers of kites.
“There’s an amazing amount of talent here,” he said.
Bethanie Wilson didn’t have so far to come. The Bountiful resident loves how flying kites combines wholesome family fun with the blessing of nature.
“There’s a beautiful breeze, the kids are giggling and laughing,” she said. “That’s why we do it.”
Flying a kite is more than putting something light attached to a string in the air and running with it, she said.
“It’s all about understanding the nature of flight,” she said,
Wilson was still guiding children working to keep their kites in the air long after sunset.
“I love it,” she said, “I can’t get enough of it.”
Barbara Riddle, event chair and CEO of the Davis Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, was thrilled to have “perfect weather,” as the festival began on Friday and motorized paragliders buzzed overhead.
She said goals for the event are to provide an economic engine to the area, showcase one of Utah’s state parks, offer a high-energy event to residents, support sponsors and educate those who attend.
“If you didn’t make it this year,” said County Commissioner Brett Millburn, “make sure you put it on the calendar for next year. There’s a little something for everybody. It’s a whole new, unique experience.”