Kites of all shapes and sizes at festival

MINERAL WELLS, W.Va. – A threat of rain did little to keep people away from the first day of the fourth annual New Era School Kite Festival on Saturday in front of the old school house next to Mineral Wells Elementary School. The event wrapped up Sunday.

“It was looking a little hairy there for awhile,” said Max Barker, president of the New Era Kite Club. “But since the rain passed us we started getting a lot of wind, which is what we want.”

In the first half-hour on Saturday, 50 free kites for the first attendees had been handed out and dozens of children and their adults were flying kites around the schoolhouse grounds.

“This is our first time attending this festival and it really is great,” said Jennifer McIntosh, of Mineral Wells, who brought her children Alayna, 4, and Alex, 2. “This is fun for the kids and it gets them outside to play.

“Alayna has already told me she wants to fly kites every day and it is something I never would have thought of doing,” she added.

For the first time, the festival is a two-day event with today’s hours being noon to 4 p.m., said Barker.

“We just thought we would try something different and see what happens,” he said.

The free event features kites, food, music and inflatables.

Attendees at Saturday’s event, including children with their parents, grandparents and siblings, spread out in the school lawn, parking lot and the Mineral Wells Elementary School ball field with kites of all shapes, sizes and colors.

“I decided to do the kite festival to get kids outside with their families and get some exercise,” said Barker. “In this era of PlayStation and DVDs, kids aren’t getting out and doing a lot to have fun.”

Barker said he chose to do a kite festival because it got the children outside with fresh air and moving around.

“That and you just don’t see many kites being flown any more,” he said.

Barker described the event as the largest kite festival in West Virginia. He has attended kite-related events in Wellsburg and Canaan Valley but believes general attendance during the first few years of the Mineral Wells event has been higher.

Barker is also president of the New Era One Room School Museum on the Mineral Wells Elementary campus. He said the first kite festival grew out of that program and organizers had so much fun with that, it has been growing each year since.

Proceeds from the kite festival benefit the school museum program, he said.