Photos by Shawn Nowlin
On Saturday, April 15, Salem’s Green Hill Park was filled with thousands of kite lovers for the 19th Annual Blue Ridge Kite Festival. Once again hosted by the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce and presented by Kroger, the event lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking and admission, as usual, was free.
Weather always plays a factor with any outdoor event and for the most part Mother Nature was in a good mood this year. “About 1 p.m. I noticed some clouds building up rapidly. I then got a call from the Salem Parks & Rec Department putting us on alert,” Will Smoot, a member of the Richmond Air Force Kite Club, said. “Once lightning was near we asked everyone to pull their kites down. Fortunately, no one got injured and we just waited out the storm.”
In addition to various kite displays, attendees were also treated to a variety of foods, arts, crafts and corporate vendors. Chick-Fil-A and Arby’s of Salem provided food for the volunteers, Yokohama provided free vinyl kites to the first 500 kids and Freedom First graciously provided ice cream. Other sponsors included: Mount Regis Center, WSLS, Q99FM, Salem VA Credit Union and Southwest Moving and Storage. “We are so grateful to our sponsors, the kite clubs in attendance and our volunteers for making this event a success,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jill Sluss said.
A kite called “King Cavalier” is what Brandon Fisher and his eight-year-old daughter Kimberly brought to the festival. “My favorite basketball player is LeBron James,” Kimberly said. “My dad is a LeBron fan as well and that’s where we got the name inspiration for our kite.”
Will Smoot says it’s not a coincidence that the Blue Ridge Kite Festival typically draws over 10,000 people. “There are normally several kite clubs present from Virginia, Washington D.C. and North Carolina,” he said. “We had some wonderful flyers this year. One fella traveled all the way from Portland, Oregon. He had been hearing about it for a couple of years and finally decided to come.”
First time attendee Nicky Graham said she’d never seen so many kites in one setting before. “I took several pictures to capture the moment,” she said.
“What I love about this kite festival is people get a chance to mix with neighbors they don’t always get to see. It’s pretty close to Earth Day,” Will Smoot said. “It’s an environmentally friendly activity. All you need to do is go outdoors.”
Alex Moore answered the question of whether or not she will be attending the kite festival next year in two words. “Without question,” she said before adding, “I’m going to encourage all of my friends to come out as well.”