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Ray's World Adventures 1999

The 10th Syke Kite Festival
Syke, Germany

This was my third time being sponsored to Germany and each time I tell myself it can't be get any better than it was last time, but it does. The festivals are bigger, better organized and the number of spectators seems to have doubled. Kite flyers attend from all over Germany. I have had the pleasure of sharing kite arenas with some of the best kite designers and flyers in Germany and beyond, including Thomas Roth, 2nd place winner in the 1997 German single line championships, and first place winner in 1998 - 1999 with his beautiful kites "Time for Emotions" and "Nature Time", Rolf Zimmermann with his unique giant Lobster, Seahorse, Sea Star, Centipede, etc., and the infamous Willi Koch, just to name a few. Not only does Willi make exceptional single line kites, but his appliqué work is pure art. I have had the pleasure of spending many happy hours at his home with his wife Erika and family. To sit beside Willi, watching him work on yet another masterpiece, makes it well worth the trip to Europe... and there are so many more wonderful experiences to even begin to mention at this time.

This was my first time to the town of Syke (which means "valley of many waters"), a beautiful town about 25 kilometers from the south of the city of Bremen. My hosts were Matthias and Monika Cordes. Matthias is a fourth generation master baker, whose home is above the bakery. To wake up each morning to the smell of fresh baked bread is something else, a great incentive to get up and head for breakfast. I am not a big early morning eater, but I could not resist the fresh baked rolls, and the many different kinds of cheeses and meats, coffee, milk, and variety of fruit juices.

Matthias is also the organizer of the 10th Syke kite festival. The flying field is 2 miles from Syke in a suburb called Heiligenfeld, a huge open grass area. Their kite club rents this field throughout the year from a local farmer who keeps the grass nice and short , ideal for kite flying. European kite festivals are so different from North American ones, very family oriented with something for every one - no matter what age. It was also very well organized, not only offering kite flying at its very best, but so much more to entertain the hundreds of spectators.

I officially opened the festival with a 3 kite ballet using my Black Knight Pro Dancers to the music of "You are the Wind Beneath my Wings" played on Thomas Getheroefer's "Disc Jockey", a huge mobile music system from Hamburg. Then single line kites of every discription and awesome colors began filling the clear blue sky. This was a great start for the town of Syke to celebrate their 10th kite festival anniversary and deserved every bit of media coverage, video and news, that it received. It looked like the whole town had turned out for this long awaited event, and as I mentioned there was some thing for everyone: North Germany 1999 Boomerang Champions, Dieter Franke and Otto showing their skills with boomerangs ...that I am sure would make many Australian Aboriginals envious, Bremer Sprintierfreunde who put on a Boomerang workshop which was a huge success with both children and adults, Wilhelm Clausing and his 11 man Ultra Light Flying Team put on a spectacular show with their Ultra Light Air Craft thrilling the crowds, plus the spectacular Hot Air Balloon Teams, Horst Sieners, Klaus Sarinsky and the Syker Balloon Team, who would be doing their thing right after the night fly when the wind was calm. The children were thrilled to the eye balls with Bremer and his group entertaining all day with Parachuting Teddy Bears, candy drops, and something that I have not seen before, Skydiving Dolls.

The wind was a constant 8-10mph throughout the first day. I had my own flying area and I flew all day (which got rid of all the cob webs off my bum after the long flight :-)). The night fly was great! the Skylines Lightshow from Hamburg did an outstanding job, making the night fly a super success.

Another great thing in Europe is that you can drink beer at festivals, parks and beaches without having to be fenced in, and believe me, there was a lot consumed throughout the two day festival. I can vouch for that! :) Sunday was another awesome day except the wind was only 4-5 mph. It was enough for most of us to fly all day. Word must have traveled far and wide as there were twice as many spectators as the previous day, the festival ended at 5 p.m. and I was very surprised at the number of people who joined in to help pack up ... by 7 p.m. there was hardly a trace that a festival had just taken place. The organizer, Syke club members and sponsors were over the moon, celebrating the super success of their 10th anniversary, and making plans already for this coming September.

Balloonz and Titz

The next day Matthias said, "Ray, we have arranged a big surprise for you. I hope you will like it." As he drove me out to the countryside I wondered what surprise they had planned. After about 30 minutes Matthias turned off the main road into a field where they were just finishing off inflating a huge Hot Air Balloon. The next thing I knew, I was being hoisted up into the Balloon basket. Up, up and away I went on a fantastic two hour flight across the North German countryside. The weather was perfect and the view awesome. I kept thinking, "I wonder if I could fly multiple kites from up here!! :-)) it was strange to see the balloon team and members of the kite club following the path of the balloon by road, while I was flying hundreds of feet above them. The flight was so beautiful and peaceful. Half way through the flight the pilot, Horst Siemers, broke out the schnapps... which went down very well! Nearing the end of the flight he said, "Ray please hang on." I wondered why but I soon found out, as he was looking for a field to land in. Now I know how a kite feels when it crashes into the ground.

I asked Horst, "Do balloons always land this way?!!" He replied, "It depends on the schnapps!" :) Five minutes after landing (I am not sure if that is the right word :)), Mathias and other friends arrived. Now the fun started. I did not know that after one's first balloon flight one has to be initiated into the club. I I was asked to kneel down, then they spoke a lot of mumbo jumbo...which sounded German to me! :) Then they took a wad of my hair -- which is just about all I have! :( Next they poured a little lighter fuel on it and set it on fire, then doused it with champagne. What a waste! :)So I guess I am now classified as an official balloon man. Last year it was skydiving. It makes me wonder what's in store for me next time around! :) The balloon was packed up -- I cannot believe something so huge can be put into such a small bag!! We headed out for our last supper together. What a terrific adventure, with this special treat at the conclusion of an awesome kite festival. The next morning Matthias drove me 400 Km to Titz where I had also been sponsored, my third time to perform at the Grisu Familiendrachenfest... but that is another story.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors to the 10th Syke Kite festival... The local newspaper Weser-Kurier and the Meals on Wheels company Menke-Menu, for without your support this would never have been another wonderful adventure.

Many thanks to all the members of the Syke Kite Club, the Balloon Team: Horst Siemers and Klaus Sarinsky who made my balloon flight possible, all the kite flyers that attended from across Germany, who made me feel so welcome. To my new friends Briditta Pigsa, the official festival photographer and her husband: thanks for the great photos; Detlev Marquardt and his family: thank you for all your help but most of all for your friendship; and last but not least, my friend of many years, Matthias Cordes: thank you and your wife Monika for your hospitality and for letting me share not only your home but also your family who treated me like a long lost uncle.

Thank you for listening.

Ray.




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