“KITES!” my kids shout in unison as we round the corner on South Railway Street in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. With a grain terminal to our right and an expanse of blue sky dotted with a colourful array of kites to our left, it is a truly unique prairie vista. The excitement in the back seat of our minivan grows as we approach the festival and the celestial forms begin to take shape. “A jellyfish!” “A whale!” “A DRAGON!” they call with increasing fervour. In spite of the growing ear-piercing cacophony, I find myself drawn into an ethereal feeling of wonder and astral connection. I can’t help but marvel at the sheer size of the spacious skies that are constantly above us, but that we so rarely notice. With my eyes still skyward, I am abruptly brought back to earth, quite literally, as I step out of the vehicle directly into a gopher hole, and land rather ungracefully on my hip. I gather up my dignity, the lawn chairs, and some sunscreen and we make our way to the Windscape Kite Festival grounds.
Upon arrival, we spend several minutes enjoying the view and snapping pictures of the vision that is the fantastic skyward canvas of artful kites that are tethered to the ground some distance in front of us. Our kids urge us onward, and they are pleased to discover a bounty of kid-friendly festival pleasures. On offer, there’s everything from temporary tattoos and balloon animals to a bubble station and a mystery sand pile.
We purchase some tokens, and our girls head straight for the face-painting while our 9-year-old is keen to visit the circus tent and try out his juggling skills. We intersperse their exploits with my highlight of the festival, performances from renowned celebrity kite flyers from around the globe. These folks can make their colourful kites dance in awe-inspiring ways, manipulate them to soar in unison with other kites, and even connect them with an audience member or two!
True to the words on the provincial license plate, Swift Current is a land of living skies. Our family and other festival-goers watch in fascination as dark clouds gather in the distant skies and, over the course of about half an hour or so, make their way definitively toward the grounds. We feel the winds change a dozen times, and I admire the professional flyers who I imagine must have a challenge maintaining the integrity of their performance under such variant conditions, but neither they nor the festival volunteers seem fazed by the ominous weather. In the last minutes, the temperature drops, the wind gusts, and fat drops of rain begin to splatter the thirsty prairie ground. As if by magic, the kites are down and hundreds of festival goers make a mad dash to their vehicles. Those of us that remain huddle under the shelter of the tents and enjoy eats, drinks, and activities while we wait out the storm. And then, as these things do in the prairies, after a furious few minutes and a quick dump of cool rain, the storm passes leaving only the refreshing smell of a festival renewed!
Our kids are happy to while away the remaining hours doing a scavenger hunt, making their own kites to fly in the public kite-flying space, and filling their pockets with treats from the candy catapult. My husband, a bit of wannabe kite enthusiast, dips away for half an hour and enjoys a stunt kite-flying lesson while I indulge in a bit of poutine from one of the on-site food trucks. The festival wraps up at 5 for the day, and our family has time to enjoy an unforgettable meal at the Spice Hut in downtown Swift Current before retiring to our hotel for the much-anticipated hotel swim! The consensus is that we’ll back next year!
*** The SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival runs annually in June. See www.windscapekitefestival.ca for more details. Swift Current, SK is located 270km southwest of Saskatoon and 250km west of Regina ***