Kites leave some Villagers on Cloud Nine.
Photos: Nicole Hamel
Ken Stokes is happiest when gentle breezes swirl in the air. Gazing skyward, he watches in admiration as his agile, colorful kite dances peacefully in the blue Florida skies.
A resident of The Villages, Ken is a kite-flying enthusiast who took up the hobby as an 8-year-old Cub Scout. He has flown a kite in nearly every state.
“Before moving to The Villages 10 years ago, my wife and I lived in our RV full-time,” Ken says. “Wherever we’d stop, I would get a kite out if the wind was blowing and fly it. I had four kites when I moved to The Villages, and I thought that was a lot. Now, I have around 30.”
Today, Ken enjoys the hobby with other kiting enthusiasts. He is a member of The Villages Cloud Chasers Club and has served as president for three years. The club boasts 48 members who learn the finer points of kite making and kite flying. What amazes new members the most, he says, is the relative ease of mastering the sport.
“Many new members attempted to fly kites as children and often did so unsuccessfully,” Ken says. “That is probably because nobody taught them the basic rules. You don’t have to run to fly a kite; you just need a decent wind. Once you’ve mastered the basic concepts and see your kite flying like a dream, you derive pure pleasure from it.”
Members gather to fly each Tuesday and Thursday at The Villages Polo Club from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at the Everglades Recreation Complex from 2-5 p.m. On those days, the sky becomes quite a spectacle. With limitless overhead space, kite flyers unspool more and more string until their kites float as high as 300 feet. Kites of all shapes—square, triangle, and rectangle—fill the air with their vibrant colors.
Typically, members use three types of kites: a single-line kite, which is ideal for beginners, a single-line fighter kite, known for their agility and maneuverability, and two- or four-line sport kites, which are famous for their acrobatic stunts, loops, and dives.
One of Ken’s favorites is a $200 four-line sport kite sporting red, white, and blue colors.
“This kite flies forward, backward, upside down, side-to-side, and diagonally,” Ken says. “Believe it or not, it’s actually one of the easiest kites to fly once you get used to it.”
Like Ken, other club members bring a wealth of kite-flying experience. Gregory Lamoureux formerly owned Seaside Kites in Boston and is currently a member of the American Kitefliers Association. He has flown kites for 30 years.
“I love the fun, the thrill, and the relaxation of being part of this club,” Gregory says. “There are no egos here. We love coming out and sharing knowledge with whoever comes to play with us.”
Although residents must reside in The Villages to be a club member, everyone is invited to join the Cloud Chasers on days they fly. Be forewarned, though. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate.
“One of the most important pieces of equipment we have is a lawn chair,” Ken says. “Kite flying can quickly turn into a social gathering on days the wind isn’t blowing.”
That’s OK, though. For club members like J.B. Buranosky, just being outside among friends brings a feeling of euphoria.
“Kite flying is an excellent substitute for work,” J.B. says jokingly. “Seriously, it’s hard to have a bad day when you’re flying a kite. Being in the sunshine and being around like-minded people helps you forget about your worries. It’s an escape.”
For more information, visit thevillageskiteclub.weebly.com or call Ken Stokes at 925.200.1601.