High Flyers

"We realized there was nothing like it in South Florida, and we thought how perfect. It's a unique, pretty, nice, family oriented fundraiser," says Linda Gelinas, cofounder with her husband Rick of the nonprofit organization Little Acorns, about the International Kite Festival. For the past sixteen years, Little Acorns has been providing free after-school programs to build eight- to ten-year-old children's self-esteem, the main aims being to keep them off drugs and in school. Among the skills that kids and parents (who are obligated to take a ten-week course as part of the program) learn: how to withstand peer pressure and how to listen others' points of view.

The program is currently offered in seventeen schools. The founders hope to see it in 60 to 75 schools eventually. One reason it's not more widespread: lack of money. The vagaries of the nonprofit world mean budgets change from year to year, depending on what governmental organization or private foundation is willing to hand over cash. That's where the kite festival comes in. The group devised the event in 1996 as a way to attract funds from corporations, but more important, to get kids out and about, participating in a wholesome activity. "The people are the kind that we want around our kids," Gelinas says.

Those "people" are experts from far-flung places such as Asia, Europe, Canada, and South America, who will be on hand flying kites of all shapes and sizes. "Some of [the kites] are huge. They take twenty people just to launch them in the air; they're as big as a house," Gelinas boasts. The 40,000 people expected to attend can participate as well. All types of kites will be available for purchase.

At the first festival, fifteen kitemasters showed up. That number has grown to more than forty. Some of them are quite unusual: One West Palm Beach man will bring along a robot that flies a kite. "People's mouths drop open when they see it," Gelinas laughs. Another man on Rollerblades is pulled by a kite. Daredevils can take rides in buggies, also propelled by kites. "The makers and flyers are really just big kids themselves," she notes.

Hundreds of kites will be up in the air, but Gelinas assures there will be sky and fun enough for everyone. The best part of it all, she says: "Watching the interactions between the kitemasters from different countries and the local children and families. It's instant friendship. The language barriers don't seem to matter. The kites seem to bridge that very nicely. It's a real magical thing."

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Nina Korman
Contact: Nina Korman