Harvesting the Wind

By: M.E. Powell March, 2015

For some, wind can be a problem, but Swift Current has learned to harness it for the SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival.

Shann Gowan, artist director and coodinator, Windscape, says the windiest hill in Swift Current was chosen as the festival site location. "It's perfect for a kite," she adds. "Wind is the only thing that matters."

Too much of a good thing can be challenging. One year three tents blew away, and another year 45 feet of metal fence blew over just before the festival. In another year, an 800-square-foot teddy bear broke the line and flew two to three miles, before organizers fished it out of the creek.

The SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival generates over $1-million in tourism spending in Swift Current.

But the festival has always been a success, Gowan adds, with about 300 volunteers and business community support. It makes over $1-million in tourism spending in swift Current over the festival weekend, which is scheduled this year on June 20 and 21. Last year, some 9,000 people attended its 10th anniversary, and about half come from swift Current, 39 percent from other areas of Saskatchewan, and 11 percent from such international destinations as Thailand and Germany.

“We get interest from all over the world,” she says.

Audience members travel from across North America, Europe and Australia for the chance to see a variety of kites in action.

For instance, dual-line ‘delta’ kites sound like airplanes and perform tricks for their controllers. Revolution or Rev Kites have four lines, allowing controllers to hold them in mid-air, or tap the top of a sign.

“They can stop a kite on top of your head and make it hover there,” Gowan says. “We’ve had teams of upwards of eight people perform together, all choreographed to music. They’re pretty spectacular.”

The festival offers international celebrity kite flyers such as Quebec kite artist Normand Girard, Holland’s Jan and Jolanda van Leeuwen with kites shaped like school buses and tennis shoes, and the acrobatic 180Go team.

As well, the festival features a kinetic wind sculpture garden, along with multigenerational family activities. Before the festival, the group hosts weekend ‘kite flies’ from April to September, as well as kite-making workshops. “And we have a huge field that’s just for the public, and it’s always full,” Gowan says. Teens tend to be experts at it. “The same kinds of controls that they use for computer games actually control Rev Kites,” she adds.

The Festival’s funding has included the SaskFestivals program, administered by the Saskatchewan Arts Board through a partnership with SaskCulture Inc., and the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.

SASKSCAPES - Check out Kevin Power's podcast of the Windscape Kite Festival on SoundCloud and I Heart Culture

VIDEOS - Watch some fun and fablous videos of the festival by visiting WindscapeKiteFestival.ca.