“There were kites made out of inflatable rubber tubes, Chinese dragon kites, long Japanese kites with forty foot tails and many, many homemade kites consisting of seaweed, saran wrap, cloth and magic marker or other materials.”—Dan’s Papers, August 8, 1978.
Forty-one years ago on a sunny afternoon, the Dan’s Papers Kite Fly debuted on Peter’s Pond Beach in Sagaponack. A week later, a brief report about it appeared in Dan’s Papers as a caption beneath a collage of photographs of the kites constructed by the winning entrants. “About 200 people attended this event and 21 of them received prizes for their imaginative kites. The ‘kite’ at top left, by the way, was a large rock with a face painted on it. It won the award in the ‘Most Relaxed’ category. Also, the USA Water Ski Club in Hampton Bays was incorrectly identified in the article subsequently written about the kite fly. We would like to correct their name here.”
This event has been taking place ever since, one of the longest continually running events in the Hamptons, and this year it continues to be held free of charge for you and your kids on Saturday, August 24, at Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack. You’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls? This is the Flying of the Kites!
So much has changed in the world since 1978. Back then, Son of Sam, a killer who snuck up at night and shot and killed three different couples canoodling at lover’s lanes in their cars in the New York area, was sentenced. (He was arrested the previous year just before he was about to drive out to a Westhampton Beach nightclub to continue his rampage.) Jimmy Carter was President. The first baby from an egg fertilized outside the womb was born. The Camp David Accords were signed. An American cult of more than 900 people set up in a wooded encampment in Guyana, South America, and all committed suicide in unison on the instruction of their leader by drinking poisoned Flavor Aid. The U.S. and China established diplomatic relations for the first time in a generation. And the Cold War was raging.
I had established the Kite Fly all those years ago because it tickled me that having an official and fun Dan’s Papers Kite Fly at the beach was, as a matter of fact, exactly the same thing as having a group of unrelated beachgoers having fun flying kites at the beach without anything official. It would be officialdom free—a good thing in that age of bellbottoms and hippies. We were re-claiming the beach, and nobody could stop us. We not only didn’t charge anything at the first Dan’s Papers Kite Fly, we also found talented professionals who offered up their services.
Gerald Hacquebard, a world famous professional kite-flying expert, gave a demonstration of coordinated flight including 45-mile-an-hour dives and 30-mile-an-hour climbs. A magician with a red-lined black cape came—the children surrounded him—and he did tricks. We had Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” on a loud speaker, 10 minutes long and played over and over as our four judges mingled in the crowd to give away 21 First Prizes in 21 categories to people holding the ends of strings.
Judges back then included painter Priscilla Bowden, art gallery dealer Elaine Benson and painter Jack Youngerman. Two people on horseback trotted down to the top of the dune to watch the competition from the Topping Horse Farm. And the water-skiers flew by offshore. Dan’s Papers volunteers served lemonade and Saratoga Spring Water and gave away toys, comic books and First Prize certificates. Even Mother Nature helped. The fly occurred during a strong wind and a wild ocean with 10-foot slow rollers.
This year, the prizes and surprises remain about the same, though we now live music, a group of face painters and other gifts and a number of prizes to give away.
But there are differences between then and now, too. The Kite Fly no longer takes place at the end of the rough, dirt road of Peter’s Pond Lane. Some years ago the authorities asked us to move it over to the Sagg Main Beach. Back at that first Kite Fly, there were no beach parking stickers yet. Now such stickers are needed for almost any beach parking during the day, so the event starts at 5:30.
And then there is me. I haven’t changed much. You’ll still see me down there with the rest of the crew from Dan’s Papers. Come by and say hello. I’ll be at the Flight Desk there. It’s really amazing. Some of the people who have attended this event stop by to shake hands and declare they had come as children accompanied by their parents, then in the 1990s took their own kids to the Fly, and now they are bringing their grandkids. Novelist Avery Corman told me he was one of those.
Categories to enter in 1978 were for Largest, Best Fighting Kite, Most Futuristic, Most Artistic, Scariest, Most Originally Engineered, Longest Kite, Littlest Kite, Most Colorful Kite, Most Newsworthy, Most Comfortable, Most Fantastic, Most Homespun, Most Poetic, Ugliest, Most Erotic, Highest Flying and Most Relaxed. The 10 categories this year include Most Colorful, Highest Flying, Best Nautical, Most Homespun, Most Inspiring, Most Exotic, Most Beautiful, Most Nostalgic, Most “Hamptonsy” and a special prize for the kite that best captures the spirit of 60 Summers.
Hope to see you there—it’s fun, free and the kids love it.