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Ray's World Adventures 2000

South Padre Island Festival 2000
South Padre Island, Texas - February 2000

I cannot believe that just two weeks ago I was flying kites on the beautiful frozen Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin at the very successful 2nd Kites on Ice Festival. Despite being all dolled up in long johns, snow suit, lamb's wool boots and Arctic ice spurs on my feet, I was as cold as a frog in an ice bound pool. However, just a few days ago I was flying kites in the tropical tip of Texas at the South Padre Island 5th Kite Festival and Sport kite competitions.

Indeed, this has to be the Palm Springs of Texas, and also the best kept secret. I was sworn to secrecy but there's no way can I even begin to write this article without mentioning this very special island paradise. Easily accessible from the mainland across the 2.5-mile long Queen Isabella Causeway, the Island is blessed with beautiful beaches, nature trails, and five miles of seashore. It offers water sports, plenty of shops to browse through, great restaurants, and for the golfer, a new 18 hole championship golf course. For kiters, it is one of the best places to fly kites, with acres of open space on the sand flats, an awesome place for buggying, great winds, and temperatures averaging in the 70's and 80's. To top this off, they have one of the biggest kite stores (well over 4,000 square feet of floor space) that I have ever been in, stocked to overflowing with kites of every description, and kite related merchandise. It is owned and operated by Mr. Nice Guy himself, Jim Geyerman, and his lovely wife Cathy.

I was thinking on my journey home, what a great place to hold the AKA convention! It has a perfect climate; in October the temperature is in the 75 - 80's range, good winds and no rain. Hotels and a 45,000 sq. ft convention center are located just minutes off the flying arenas. It would certainly attract hundreds of spectators as this is a vacation spot throughout the year. In fact, it is a two-nation vacation spot with Mexico being only 30 miles away. So you have Mexican, national and international travelers who find this a perfect spot to ward off the winter blues.

The festival was a huge success from start to finish; Not the biggest in the world but nonetheless, it was well-supported by kite flyers from all over. Troy Gunn and his sidekick Collete Ratajski did a super job in organizing the Sport Kite competitions which took up most of both days with Individual, Pairs, and Team flying. The judging was in good hands with one of the selected judges for the upcoming World Sport Kite Championships in Malaysia, Troy Gunn. Also judging was Keith Anderson with many years of experience under his belt as a sport kite flier and competitor, and Shane Snowden, 1998 Grand National Champion. The competitors had their hands full on the first day, as the winds were 18 - 20mph. This made it a little tough for ballet routines, but that is the name of the game. Single line flyers put on a great show in the sky attracting hundreds of spectators from afar; the fishermen who were fishing in the Gulf of Mexico told me later that the kites could be seen from a distance of over 6 miles.

Gene and Dorothy Lewandowski from Cleveland kicked around in the air with their scuba man and Lester legs. Sam Pedragon of Pueblo, CO flew his beautiful Trilobite, giant Octopus and Flow Forms, Rob and Margaret Robinson from the Pacific Beach WA brought large deltas, Olympic Rings and dozens of flags, and so much more, which added a perfect backdrop to the competitions. There was no shortage of spectators, either. A great job was done by all the demonstrators, entertaining and thrilling the audience all day. They must have really been turned on because Sunday they were all back again with family and friends. Winds were a steady 10 mph but around 2 pm the wind jumped to 22 mph. By that time the competitions had been completed, and now it was the judges' time to play and -- to the delight of the spectators -- play they did! Troy Gunn showed them what buggying was all about. I think he was in his glory with this kind of wind, but he is also built for it. Spectators were amazed at the speed one could travel at.

However, all good things come to an end and we were all congratulating ourselves on a great festival. I must not forget to mention what a great job the announcer Tom Chaffee did, keeping a running commentary on what was going on, who was who, etc., throughout the day. Sound system man, Jeff Clifton, was right on cue with everyone's music. The Saturday night awards banquet and auction held at the Padre Island Brewing CO. was a huge success; the food was delicious and there was plenty of it. I noticed some guys, even went back for seconds and thirds. Hard to believe, granted, but I know this for a fact as some of them tried to push their way in front of me a few times. Hats off to the Brewmaster, Mark Haggenmiller, whose Ales and Lagers are the best that I have tasted in a long, long time.

I stayed over for a couple of more days on the request of Jim Geyerman, who was my sponsor, and I'm so very glad I did. I was on the beach at 8 am and flew till dusk. The wind and weather could not have been more perfect. This was for me the grand finale of another great sponsorship. Thank you Jim. The festival and the Island were all you said they would be and so much more. I thank you and Cathy for your hospitality and friendship and -- you betcha -- I have marked my calendar for next year.

I would like to add one more thing. One of the highlights for me was spending some prime time on and off the flying arena with Troy Gunn. It has been 7 years since Troy moved from Oregon to Texas. It brought back so many happy memories of times we spent flying and competing in the early 80's in Oregon and Washington. Good Stuff.

Thank you for listening.

Ray.





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