Propelled by a feisty breeze, dozens of kites and wind sculptures soared, sailed, looped and spiraled in the Indian summer - blue sky above South Ridge Park Sunday afternoon.
"Nearly perfect," one kite flier said of conditions. His swallowtail kite swayed and dipped, then caught an updraft and tugged against the restraining line. "Perfect!"He was flying his kite for the exhilaration. Others were there for the challenge. Some were kiting to relax. But whatever their reasons, they were together Sunday for the fifth annual "One Sky, One World International Kite Fly for Peace."
Kite enthusiasts throughout the world participated in the event, which promoters called a festival of peace. "We do it to express friendship through a common interest," said Scott Hampton, president of the Wind Watchers Kite Club of Utah.
The common interest involved uncommon kites. There was a kite with multiple tails that twirled, box kites, a big kite with a train of little kites in tow, four kites that flew in acrobatic tandem, kites that roared like jets and a 65-foot ground kite - a wind bag - through which children ran.
One kite was shaped like a pair of trousers. And up in the sky beside it was not a bird or a plane, but a nylon Superman hanging on to the cord of a hang-gliding villain.
"Kites have changed," noted Mark Levey, a kite store owner and local co-sponsor of the festival. He said most kites are made of nylon rather than the tissue paper of old. The fragile cross-sticks have been replaced by ultra-lightweight graphite and carbon-aluminum rods.
But the reasons for flying kites haven't changed. "No, a lot of it is that same childhood aspiration to make something fly," Levey said.
Some people have a secret wish to fly themselves, Hampton said, and flying a kite is the next best thing.
The four-hour festival drew an estimated 200 spectators and 50 kite fliers to park, 5051 S. 4015 West, which the experts say lies in a prime location because of the southwest winds that funnel through the center of the Salt Lake Valley.
A dividing line separated single-line kite fliers from the stunt fliers, whose kites whip through the air and dive at the ground at speeds reaching 60 mph. "They can hurt if they hit you," said Levey, glancing with respect at one stunt kite that swooped upward like a rocket.
Many of the sport kites have steering lines and can be guided with some precision, unlike the old "dime-store" kites that flew only into trees or plummeted headfirst to self-destruction into the playground.
Hampton said some of the newer, high-tech kites can fly in a breeze as slight as 2 mph, while others do best in near-gale force winds. And flying a kite is easier than it used to be, he said, pointing to the dozen kites that were flying themselves while tethered to rods anchored in the lawn.
"You don't have to run with them and hope they get airborne anymore," he said.