- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Like a puppeteer bringing life to a marionette, Margo Brown, 69, alternately pulls and releases string, praising and encouraging her kites to dance in the air above the National Mall.
"You give your kites names, and you have to sweet-talk them so they respond," says Mrs. Brown, dressed in black and with her eyes fixed on "Rainbow," a 6-foot-wide triangular delta kite.
Mrs. Brown will be one of about 30,000 kite enthusiasts to watch or fly their deltas, six-sided Rokkakus and flat kites on the Mall on Saturday as the Smithsonian Associates holds its 35th annual Kite Festival.
The event is free and open to the public.
"Its one of the biggest events on the Mall," says Christine Cimino, spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Associates.
The opening ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Those who wish to compete can register beginning at 10:15 a.m. To be eligible, contestants must have made their own kites, which must be able to fly at a minimum altitude of 100 feet for at least one minute.
There also will be displays and demonstrations, at which Mrs. Brown a past president of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA) and a volunteer at the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum may show one or several of her 300 kites.
This years theme is a celebration of the new millennium, and a special award will be given for the kite that best represents the past, present and future. Seeing Mrs. Browns graceful creation and kite-flying skill could make you think only accomplished kite fliers are welcome to participate at the festival. On the contrary, Mrs. Brown says.
"Anyone can do it and if you have any questions on Saturday, there will be plenty of people there to answer them."
You also dont have to spend a fortune building a kite.
"You can spend thousands of dollars, and you can make a kite out of stuff that lies around the house until its thrown away at the end of the day," David Gomberg, current president of the AKA, says by phone from Neotsu, Ore.
Mr. Gomberg will travel to Washington for the festival, where he will display his "Octopus," a 90-foot-long, 30-foot-wide kite "large enough to park a school bus on."
Mr. Gomberg suggests going to the library or searching the Internet for kite-building information. One helpful Web site is his own associations site: www.aka.kite.org.
If you dont want to build a kite or bring a store-bought one, kites will be available to borrow at the festival.
The festival will wrap up at 3 p.m. with an awards ceremony.

Mrs. Brown learned to fly kites when she was a child. Her mother, a pilot in Burbank, Calif., wanted her daughter to understand why planes fly.
"It was a wonderful lesson," she says. "To have me understand the wind, she had me make kites."
As a volunteer at the Air and Space Museum, Mrs. Brown is following in her mothers footsteps: She runs kite workshops for children.
As she flies "Rainbow" named for its colors on the Mall, dozens of people stop to watch. One family, the Carders, visiting Washington from Ney, Ohio, will be stuck there for at least a half-hour: Zachary Carder, 7, cant let go of "Rainbows" line.
"See how easily the delta rises, and it lifts your spirits with it," Mrs. Brown says.
Zacharys sisters Sara and Emilee, 4-year-old twins, squint and point at the sky as their brother maneuvers the kite.
"It looks like a bird," Sara says. "It looks like a plane," Emilee says.
But the wind is "swirly" and "Rainbow" comes tumbling down.
"Thats OK," Mrs. Brown says. "Well fly it again."
Zachary agrees to leave only after receiving a promise from his dad, Mark Carder, that before the end of the day he will receive a delta kite.
The delta is an easy flier. Once it is assembled, the wind picks it up, and it rises and rises but it cant go too high on the Mall.
"We have to comply with regulations. Nothing can go higher than the Washington Monument," Mrs. Brown says.

The highest altitude reached by a single-line kite is more than 10,000 feet, and the fastest kite in the world, based on the wind-resistance factor, can top out at 121 mph, Mr. Gomberg says. Some very fast kites will compete at the festival, reaching about 60 miles an hour (measured by police radar guns). Organizers ask that festival-goers be careful even though the competition area will be fenced off and monitored.
Kite flying is mostly a peaceful activity, but there will be a segment of competition that involves kites battling kites.
"The purpose is to ground the other kites," Mrs. Brown says. "We call it 'down the kites."
With a long history and months of planning, organizers expect everything to go smoothly. There is one thing they cant control, though: weather.
"The ideal weather would be winds five to 10 miles an hour, 65 degrees. You dont want it to be too hot," Mrs. Brown says, adding that everyone should bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to protect against the sun.
If it rains, the festival will be held on Sunday.
"You dont fly them when theres lightning," Mrs. Brown says. "It could be very dangerous."
"Yes, didnt Benjamin Franklin get electrocuted when he was flying a kite?" Mark Carder asks.
"No, not at all," Mrs. Brown says, explaining that the story is just that, a story. "Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant, careful man."
As Mrs. Brown gets ready to pack up her kites, "Rainbow" flutters restlessly on the ground.
"It definitely wants to go off the ground," she says. "Theyre like knocking angels. They just want to go upstairs," she says.
As she heads to her minivan, Mrs. Brown offers some parting advice for festival participants: "Relax, put it up there, enjoy the sight, and chill out."

WHAT: The Smithsonian Associates 35th annual Kite Festival
WHERE: National Mall, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
WHEN: 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Saturday. Rain date Sunday
TICKETS: Free
INFORMATION: Weather updates 202/357-2700. For more information, see www.kitefestival.org.


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