Kite fest takes flight this weekend

Marie Havenga • May 17, 2017 at 12:00 PM

The Grand Haven State Park skyscape will blossom with color Saturday and Sunday as the 29th annual Great Lakes Kite Festival takes to the air.

The sky show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Lynn Negen, owner of event-sponsor MACKite, said she's expecting about 50,000 people to attend this weekend’s event.

The festival includes kites choreographed to music, kite displays and a 3,200-square-foot retail tent full of kites, spinners and other outdoor items.

There is no specific timeline for kite shows, since wind conditions will dictate which kites fly when.

“It's always beautiful, always exciting and always colorful,” said Lynn Negen, whose husband, Steve Negen, first launched the festival almost three decades ago.

Lynn cautioned that kites launch, weather permitting. Although some rain is in the forecast, don't let that scare you away.

“It's Grand Haven,” she said. “Wait 10 minutes and the weather will change. We don't leave the beach. As soon as we are able again, we fly. Whenever the weather permits, we fly.”

Kite enthusiasts from all over the midwest will participate.

Tuesday morning, Indiana residents Dennis O'Day and Patrick Reibold, and Ypsilanti's Roger Tompkins test drove their kites on the Grand Haven State Park beach.

They'll be participating in this weekend's event.

“I brought a whole truck full of kites,” O'Day said, noting that between the three men, there are about 80 kites — one for seemingly every occasion.

“We have one for every wind condition,” O'Day said.

“Kites for morning, afternoon and evening,” Reibold chimed in.

“And depending on how much we ate for dinner,” O'Day said, laughing.

In other words, despite the silliness, kites galore will fill the skies on Saturday and Sunday.

“It's a simple pleasure that is hard to duplicate,” Lynn Negen said. “People come from all over. We have kite groups, individuals ... They all have lots of kites and love to fly them, so they will all fill the sky with their own shows.”

Visitors are also welcome to fly their own kites, anywhere south of the pavilion at the state park.

Joy Gaasch, president of the Chamber, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, said the kite festival sets the stage for summer fun on the shore of Lake Michigan.

“Who doesn't like to go fly a kite or watch the pros fly their amazing kites and cheer as the competitors demonstrate their awesome skills?” Gaasch said. “MACKite's annual event brings visitors from all around the United States.”

She noted not only does the event fill local hotel rooms, it also provides a social media boost, with people sharing images on Facebook, Instagram and other sites, each promoting Grand Haven as a place to visit and explore.

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