- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Tom Jansen remembers making kites out of newspaper and sticks as a boy, and flying kites given as promotions by the Green Giant company.

“I grew up in town here in Kendallville on Burnam Street, and next to my house was a vacant lot, so that’s where we flew kites,” he recalled. “Once you got them up high enough, you got the string out and you went as far as you could with that string, and then you’d go find another roll of string and put it out as far as you could, and sometimes you went to the store and got some more. Riley Street Grocery wasn’t that far away.

“Most of the time we got it back in, sometimes we lost our kites. It was always fun.”

His interest waned as he grew older, until 1982. While out East to take a chiropractic orthopedic exam, he and his wife happened upon a kite store in Baltimore. They walked out with two kites, a dragon and a stunt kite.

“The dragon kite out of the box was wonderful. It’s really enjoyable to fly, and it flies fairly easily,” he said. “The diamond kite, which was the stunt kite, took a little doing to figure it out, but it wasn’t terrible. I liked that I was able to get out and make it happen pretty quick.”

Those kites rekindled a passion that has grown in the last 32 years for Jansen, who now has a collection of kites (at least 50 and possibly as many as 80, he said) and participates in local and regional kite festivals each year, including Kite Komotion in Shipshewana, the Mother’s Day Kite Fly at the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville and the Great Lakes Kite Festival in Grand Haven, Michigan.

“It’s become quite a hobby, and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. They put their heart and souls into this stuff,” Jansen told The News Sun (https://bit.ly/1jy8DNi ).

Jansen said the bright colors of the kites and their beauty of watching them move through the air drew him back into flying kites. One two-line, diamond-shaped kite was “amazing” to take up in the air, he said.

“It had a hundred-foot plastic tail on it. As you started looping the kite in the air, the tail would follow. And the beauty of watching this tail behind the kite was just amazing,” he said. “People enjoyed watching, I enjoyed doing it, so it was a lot of fun.”

His collection includes all sizes, types and shapes of kites. Which kites he flies on a given day depends on the wind and his mood.

“There are times when you just want to put a kite in the air and fly, and there are times when you want to be active with it,” he said.

He doesn’t have a favorite kite, but one prized possession is a military kite purchased off eBay. The simple box kite was part of a kit used until the 1960s; when a plane was downed in the ocean, survivors could use the kite to raise an antenna for a hand-cranked radio they used to signal for help.

“Guys’ lives were saved because of these things,” Jansen said.

Jansen said children will gather to watch when he flies, and he lets them try it themselves.

“I try to keep some single-line kites around that any size kid can fly,” he said. “If I’ve got some older kids that want to try the dual-line, I’ll keep a couple kites that they can fly.

“Each year we’ll break at least one kite. And then we pull another one out so we can get it up in the air right away for them.”

He also keeps kites to give to children who are really interested in the hobby.

“We’re spending so much time indoors, we’ve got to get kids outside, and this is just something to spark their interest in doing something different,” he said.

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Information from: The News-Sun, https://www.kpcnews.com

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