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Stringing the Kids Along : Quartz Hill festival offers proof that kite-flying is more than mere child's play. Aerial ballet and combat games are among the featured attractions.

April 23, 1993|R. DANIEL FOSTER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; R. Daniel Foster is a regular contributor to Valley Life.

Consider the Indian fighter kite, a killer kite if there ever was one.

The kites, named for the country of India where they originate, have lines that are coated with ground glass. One well-placed slash to an opponent's kite string and the battle is finished.

An array of unusual kites will be featured Saturday at the Quartz Hill Kite Festival near Palmdale. Created by the Kite Ranch, a Quartz Hill retail store owned by Jon Small, the free festival begins with hot-air balloon rides at sunrise. An evening festival, featuring lighted kites, will be held July 17.

Small began the festivals last year as a way to publicize his store and as an adjunct to kite workshops he holds at Antelope Valley schools.

"Kids and kites are an unbeatable combination," said Small, who started his store in 1988 and has since visited dozens of schools. "We help kids build their own kites and decorate them. Then we take classes out to a field and give them flying lessons."

Small also holds demonstration kite shows for schools. Among the unusual kites flown is one shaped like a huge elephant head with ears that double as wings and a 75-foot tail shaped like a trunk. Another kite resembles two legs that dangle from a pair of running shorts.

"As the wind goes through the shorts, the legs start kicking and the kite goes higher," Small said.

Such stunt kites are the fastest-growing in the market, according to the San Francisco-based Kite Trade Assn.

Unusual kites to be featured at the April festival include line travelers--small, winged vehicles that travel up kite lines and explode on contact with kites, releasing parachutes packed with toys and candy.

Displays will feature hand-painted silk Chinese kites in the shapes of dragons, butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. Free kite lessons will be given all day.

Kite races for children under 12 years will begin at 11:30 a.m. "It's pretty hysterical to watch. They have to run a certain distance and keep their kite up the longest to win. There's lots of tangled lines," Small said.

A stunt kite ballet will start at 1 p.m. Entrants will fly quad-line kites, either singly or in a train, in time to music. "With four lines, kites can fly upside down, backward, sideways--really any way you direct them," Small said.

Kite combat games will begin at 2:30 p.m. Entrants must stand inside a circle when flying dual-line kites that have tails attached by Velcro. By encircling a kite's tail or line, the winner is able to "grab" the tail and fly off with it. "Beginners have no problem with dual-line kites," Small said. "It's easy to learn how to do loops, figure-eights, power dives, ground sweeps and squiggles."

Desert Lights, the evening festival to be held in July, will award prizes for most lights on a kite, the most beautiful display of lights and the most absurd use of lights.

Jim Reible, owner of Nite Flight kite lighting systems in La Puente, captured the prize for the most lights on a kite last year. Reible, who used strips of light emitting dials (LED's, commonly found on watches and clocks), stacked 10 triangular kites together, lining them with strips of green, yellow and red lights.

"It was spectacular," said Reible, one of 80 entrants who lit up the sky with their creations. "You could see it a mile away."

Where and When What: The Kite Festival at Quartz Hill High School athletic field, known as the "old Highland site," 63rd Street West and Avenue L, Quartz Hill. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Price: Free. Call for cost of hot-air balloon rides to be held at sunrise. Attendees are welcome to bring picnic lunches. Drinks and kites will be sold. Entrants for any event can register that day. Call: (805) 943-6860. Getting There: Take the Golden State Freeway north to the Antelope Valley Freeway north. Exit on Avenue L and turn left. Proceed west to 63rd Street West.

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