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May 10, 2005 > Sky magic

Sky magic

Linked to a slender string, they dance, swoop and sometimes fight while traveling with and through air currents sweeping across the surface of the earth. Shape and function may have changed throughout the ages, but love for these creatures of the sky has held a prominent place in many cultures throughout the world.

It is believed that kites originated in Asia 3,000 years ago for religious and military purposes. For some, kites are a New Year's tradition while others let them ascend with messages for heaven. Military applications included use as a spy platform. An early account from 200 BC tells a story of Chinese general Han Hsin. Han and his rebel army were planning a surprise attack on the tyrannical emperor's palace. To calculate the length of a tunnel built to end up directly in the palace's courtyard, a kite was flown over the spot and the string marked. The subsequent attack was successful and marked the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty.

Kites made their way to Europe with Marco Polo around the end of the 13th century, mostly as a curiosity. They became useful in the 18th and 19th centuries as methods to study wind, barometric pressure and electricity. (Remember Benjamin Franklin's electricity experiment with a kite and key?) The Wright brothers studied aerodynamics of kites to research flying machines and during World War I, British, French, Italian and Russian armies used kites to lift men to observe enemy camps. Kites were used for air rescue and target practice by the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Since WWII, kites have remained popular leading to Rogallo's 1948 flexi-wing and the modern hang glider. Jalbert's parafoil introduced the sports parachute. Kites have changed shapes and become elaborate in design and function. Now, single line denizens of the skies are complimented by two-line, four-line variations.

On Saturday, March 14, from noon to 4 p.m., the fifth annual Family Kite Day will be celebrated at the Silliman Recreation Complex in Newark. This popular event features kites of all sizes and shapes, from small to giants. Come by to decorate your own free kite (while supplies last) and watch it join hundreds of others in the sky. Watch the "Fantasy on Strings" puppet show, listen to music, see kites dance to music, be amazed by magician Ryan Adler and laugh with Sketchy the Clown. Candy drops will spill prizes and candy from a giant kite during the day for kids up to age 13 in three separate "drops" during the day. Carnival games, a bounce house and much more will be waiting for you. In addition, a special appearance by a Newark Police Department K-9 unit and the Newark Fire Department "Fire Safety House" will add to the festivities. Want to experience how a kite feels soaring through the air? The Soaring Center will be on hand with a hang gliding simulator.

...And one of the best parts of Family Kite Day - all games, shows and candy drops are FREE.

Feeling hungry? Firefighters are legendary for their prowess at putting out fires and their skill with it in the kitchen. Let the "Iron Chefs" of Newark Firefighters Local 1483 grill hot dogs and hamburgers for you at a special low price. The Newark Soccer Club will be on hand to supply delicious treats as well. Don't worry about parking, plenty of spaces are available.

Family Kite Day
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Noon - 4 p.m.

Silliman Recreation Complex
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark
(510) 742-4400

Easy Directions:

Mowry Avenue Exit of 880. Go west, just past Cherry Street (fire station on corner). Park and enjoy!

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