Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Small town Iowa: Where kids still fly kites May 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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One of two kites spotted upon arriving at Forest City.

One of two kites spotted while approaching Forest City.

APPROACHING FOREST CITY, Iowa, from the south Saturday, bursts of color broke through the grey of morning fog. Kites. Two. I suspected they were to attract customers to a business. But I was wrong, as I would soon learn from Monte Topp.

Steam engine enthusiasts await instruction during Steam Engineer School at Heritage Park in Forest City, Iowa.

Steam engine enthusiasts gather during Steam Engineer School at Heritage Park.

My husband and I met Monte when we pulled off the highway into Heritage Park of North Iowa, a 91-acre site dedicated to the preservation of America’s rural heritage. On this Saturday, the park was hosting Kite Day and a Steam School to teach the basics of steam engine operations, mechanics and safety.

Because of the weather, only a few people flew kites Saturday morning.

Because of the weather, only a few people flew kites Saturday morning.

Directly across the chain link fence from the main grounds, dedicated enthusiasts gathered to fly kites. It was, said Monte, Forest City’s annual Kite Day. But with drizzle and fog making for less than ideal flying conditions, participation was minimal. We saw only three kites launched.

As we toured the grounds, this frog kite began to ascend.

As we toured the grounds, this frog kite began to ascend.

But still, I was not disappointed. I was impressed. Impressed that Forest City and other north Iowa communities (according to Monte) set aside a day and a place to safely fly kites. On this Saturday it was Forest City’s turn to host. The municipal airport even closed for the event, Monte noted.

The vivid colors of this kite were a welcome visual jolt in the grey sky.

The vivid colors of this kite were a welcome visual jolt in the grey sky.

In this day when lives are ultra focused on technology and team sports, I find it comforting that the simple solo act of flying a kite holds such value in northern Iowa. There’s something about flying a kite that connects you to the sky in a way that’s powerful and poetic and freeing. Powerful wind tugging at string gripped in hand. Kite dancing. And then the soaring, oh, the joyfulness when everything comes together and a kite rides the wind.

Kids and kites.

Kite Day is all about kids and kites.

It’s lovely. Simply lovely in a way that roots you to the land, yet frees you to dream, to believe, to reach. I hope these north Iowa kids realize just how fortunate they are to live in communities that understand the value of kite flying enough to host Kite Day.

FYI: Clear Lake, Iowa, to the southeast of Forest City hosts a Color the Wind Kite Festival each February. Held on frozen Clear Lake, the event features about 50 kites, including stunt kites.

Check back tomorrow for a tour of Heritage Park in Forest City.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling