Kites paint the skies above Grand Haven State Park Friday

Dense fog rolling off of Lake Michigan didn't stop kite fliers from painting the sky Friday during the opening day of the 23rd annual Great Lakes Kite Festival. "Everybody keeps flying,' said Steve Negen, organizer of the Great Lakes Kite Festival. "It does take away a little bit of the color out of the sky - but really it's funny, the spectators care about it more than the kite fliers.' Negen said the kite fliers have been to so many outdoor festivals that they're used to whatever Mother Nature throws at them.
Alex Doty
May 21, 2011


Friday afternoon’s activities at Grand Haven State Park kicked off three days worth of kite activities along the lakeshore. Negen said there are a variety of things that people who come to watch the kites get out of the event.

“The two main things people like to see are the giant kites which are as big as school busses, and the team flying,” Negen said. “Even if you come every year, you get to see some great routines. But if you haven’t come for a couple of years, you’re guaranteed to see new stuff.”

First-time attendee Brandon Westra said he was enjoying the event.

“It’s pretty nice, but the fog is kind of a factor,” Westra said.

Westra said it was a good show, and he spent more than a half-hour walking around looking at all of the kite demonstrations.

Michelle Fulmer — who brought her young daughter, Christlee, to the show — said she was also impressed with the event. Fulmer said it was good to bring her daughter to the event for similar experiences that she had in her youth.

“I’ve been here a few times growing up,” Fulmer said. “That’s why I brought her here, for the historical value.”

Fulmer said she enjoyed how fascinated her daughter was with all of the kites on display.

Those who put their kite-flying skills on display had an equally good time.

“Really, for us it’s a lot of fun because it’s a lot of the old faces,” Negen said. “I’ve been flying with these people for 25 to 30 years, so they’re all old friends that I see a couple times a year. So its just a great time for everybody to hang out and say hello to each other again.”

Eric Wolff, captain of the Chicago Fire Kite Team, said he enjoys coming back to the annual kite festival at Grand Haven State Park.

“I have been at every Great Lakes Kite Festival, which goes back to 1987,” Wolff said. “Our sport kite team is like an extended family and this is one of our favorite places to come.”

Wolff said he enjoys the many friends he and his team have developed, as well as the space that’s available at the state park.

“Here we’re on the beach and we get the best winds out of any festival we go to,” he said. “We look forward to being able to fly in this wind.”

Lee Sedgwick, who came to Grand Haven from Pennsylvania, said he makes attending the Great Lakes Kite Festival an annual tradition.

“I’ve been coming up here for about 22, 23 years — and every year is just as enjoyable as the last,” Sedgwick said.

While he can fly kites in his own backyard at home, Sedgwick said it’s the human element that brings him back to Grand Haven.

“You see a lot of faces that you see every year and you see a lot of faces that you see once every 10 years,” he said.

The festival is free to attend, though there may be a motor vehicle charge to enter park. Out-of-state residents and those who have opted not to add a recreational pass to their license plate tabs will need to pay; those who do have a recreational plate tab and those who have not yet had the opportunity to renew their tab with the new pass will get in free.

A schedule of events can be viewed online at


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