April 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The warming, windy days of April entice many Omahans outdoors after months of winter slumber. For the Petrick family, April means it is time to fly kites.

They fly stunt kites, particularly the wing-shaped revolution kites. They fly single-line, 2-line, and 4-line kites. They belong to a kite flying organization and spend hundreds of dollars on kites.

The wide variety of kites is enough to make one’s head spin into the clouds.

And get this: They even fly kites indoors, often in school gyms or other large venues, to get their kite-flying fix during the winter months.

In essence, they use motion, typically walking backwards and in circles to launch the kite and keep it aloft. The strings can also be pulled in different directions to have the kite move in the air.

Obviously, flying kites is this family’s passion.

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“Especially before the girls were in high school, we’d just pack a lunch and our lawn chairs and go hang out for the day,” mother Vicki says. The “girls” are daughters Emily, 18, and Abby, 17.

“Even now, if they find out we’re going to fly kites, they will still try and find out how to come with us,” Vicki says.

“I’m taking advantage of the time I have with them through kite flying,” Abby adds.

“It’s just fun,” says Ian, who turns 10 on April 14. “Sometimes, like when I’m flying like a four-line stunt kite, I can just sit on the ground and relax.”

Abby also enjoys flying four-line kites, because they are easier to control, more graceful, and make less sound in the air.

Like baseball-card collecting or playing baseball, people can spend varying amounts of money on this hobby. The biggest one Ian has flown was a 21-foot-wide, two-string stunt kite the family bought  for

Todd one Christmas. The “two-string” refers to having one string each for your left and right hand, the stunt kite refers to the fact that this kite can be used to perform spins or twists in the air.

If you pull with your right hand, you make it turn right,” Ian says. “If you pull on your left hand it will turn left. If you pull and push it, it will start spinning.”

It doesn’t take a big financial commitment,” Todd says. “It’s a piece of equipment that you can buy once and have for a long time.”

“You can spend a lot, but you don’t have to,”  Vicki says.

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If choosing to spend money for one kite, it is often worth it to have the kite repaired. Incidentally, Omahans can take their kites to Todd to be repaired. He repairs kite rods, or sticks, often with glue. The sails, or fabric, require a more skilled touch. Repairing one means matching the weave of the fabric and putting as few needle holes in the kite as possible.

“It [a hole] becomes a zipper and the whole kite comes undone,” Todd says.

It’s a hobby that, while creating a relaxing family time, does require some concentration.

“When you see it on television in cartoons, they just toss it in the air and it flies,” Ian says. “It’s really not like that. You have to have the right amount of wind and you have to know how to launch them.”

Ian, who is in fourth grade at Dundee elementary, says his favorite subject is science, especially physics.

The Midwest Winds Kitefliers, to which the Petricks belong, offers several community-friendly kite flies a year, where the members and other interested parties go into a field and fly.  Organizer Don Murphy puts these together.

“Ooh, we get candy then,” Ian says.

Murphy organizes candy drops where he flies a kite with a basket of candy attached. At a certain point, the basket overturns, and, as with a busted-open piñata, candy rains from the sky with kids waiting underneath to catch the treats.  The cities of Omaha, Papillion, and La Vista often donate the candy for the kids.

The community kite flies offer people a chance to see a veritable rainbow in the sky…not from raindrops reflecting sunlight, but from the many different colors of kites in the sky, Emily’s favorite part of kite flying.

“It’s fascinating,” Emily says. “They are all unique.”

The Petricks are passionate about letting others experience their love of kite-flying.  All three kids said one of their favorite parts about the hobby is teaching their friends to fly kites. Vicki also recalls helping a kid-at-heart learn to fly a kite.

“We went to a Veteran’s Day thing at Eastern Nebraska Vets Home,” Vicki says. “They were having a picnic, and we were the entertainment. One woman was, I think, 92. She flew her very first kite that day, and she was so happy.”

As were the Petricks.

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