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Kites rule the skies over Centennial Park

North Liberty’s first ever Take Flight! event celebrates aviation

NORTH LIBERTY– For quite a while the only things flying over the grounds of Centennial Park, in North Liberty, were purple martin birds checking out the throngs of humans who gathered for “Take Flight!” an afternoon of kite flying. The event, the first standalone kite event (mega kites were part of the last Beat the Bitter event) was held Sunday, Oct. 6, with gigantic kites sharing the cloudy skies with many smaller kites.
“This is the first time we’ve done this one-off event,” North Liberty’s Community Engagement Coordinator Jillian Miller said. “We’ve certainly had the kites at Beat the Bitter before, but this is the first time we’ve done this in the fall as its own event to bring folks out to the park. It’s ‘Mega Kites,’ about as big as what you’d maybe see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They’re 100 percent wind powered, so Mother Nature has to be on our side.”
“Ultimately we’re at the mercy of whatever Mother Nature does,” said Sean Beaver, owner of Great American Kites and Events. “I can’t really control that. We’ve got the World’s Largest Kite Show right here in our trailer, and the forecast shows for building conditions throughout the day. We got off to a slow start, but we’ll stick with it, and get the show up.”
As the event progressed and a slight breeze picked up, more and more large kites, including a giant squid, large octopus, horses and an astronaut went airborne. Meanwhile, kids and kids-at-heart flew their own kites, while others watched the colorful spectacle taking shape before them.
The event was fully sponsored by the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID). CID Director of Marketing and Communications Pat Hinman said the event was a perfect opportunity for them to be involved, and was also a great opportunity to bring out their 1970s-vintage stair truck. The truck, which formerly was used for boarding and exiting passenger aircraft, provided an elevated platform for people to view the kites and take pictures.
“Kites are a form of aviation, so it matches well with the airport,” she said. “We look for opportunities to participate in events at the various communities we serve, and this seemed like a great opportunity to make people aware of the airport, and it’s fun. Our stair truck is always a great conversation piece.” The truck was at Oktoberfest in Iowa City the day before, “So this was just a great weekend activity for us to be a part of the community.”
Business has been booming for the Airport with steady increases in passengers served year upon year.
“This is a little slower period (with kids back in school), but it will pick up again around the holidays.”
Construction work is underway as improvements are made to the terminal, and new flights continue to be added, as well.
“We added Nashville on Allegiant this year, and American is adding non-stop to Phoenix Sky-Harbors starting in December plus additional flights on additional routes, so we’re doing quite well right now,” Hinman said.
As the grounds filled with families, and birds weaved around kites, Miller said. “It’s something that all ages can come out and enjoy, and admire, just marvel at something unique. It’s some programming to bring people out to this still-developing park, and to an area of North Liberty we don’t often program events outside of Blues and BBQ.”
Kite races and candy drops were also on the itinerary for the day.
“This is just a day for people to enjoy some fall weather and come out with their family and friends, and enjoy the park.”
Beaver, while checking his phone for a weather update to see when the wind would pick up, said, “We’re in the community engagement business. You look at all these kids that are out here, families that, would they be out here without this? It’s neat to see the families come out to these.”
Great American Kites and Events puts on around 35 shows per year, Beaver added, as the wind picked up enough to finally get one of the kites up off the ground.