Northwest NEWS

March 20, 2000

Front Page

Seniors are 'flying kites for the health of it'

kite #2 kite #1
Norma Nickols prepares to send her kite aloft. George Behrend, 80, and Sylvia Bernauer, instructor, discuss the finer points of kite flying.
Photos by Darlene Malloy.

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The Northshore Golden Flyers, a kite flying group based out of the Northshore Senior Center, cast their kites to the Ides of March winds at Sorenson Field in Woodinville.

   Led by Malka Fricks and tutored by Sylvia Bernauer, a handful of high fliers were encouraged to let their inner children out for an afternoon of fresh air and fun. And it seemed to work! Within minutes, several men and women were spread out all over the field coaxing aloft various shapes, sizes, textures, and colors of wind-born contraptions. One even flew her kite from a motorized chair.

   "Since I'm not into strenuous exercise or diet pills, I think this is a nice way to get out and enjoy the fresh air," said Fricks, who with husband Pat rekindled the joy of kite flying while representing Northshore at a health and wellness convention last year in Seaside, Oregon. They brought it back to Northshore as an action plan for senior health and wellness.

   "Last week, we had an information event, including meetings and lectures about kite history. It's almost as old as mankind," said Fricks. "We invite everyone out here to Sorenson for another session on March 29, from 1:30-2:30. Then we will have two sessions in April at St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, and two more in May at McCollum Park in Mill Creek. If we get a good enough response, we'll continue it through the summer."

   Because Northshore is the largest senior center in the United States, they have three satellite groups in those three towns, said Fricks. The bi-monthly outings are all planned for the last Wednesday of each month, and two Wednesdays before that.

   Bernauer was asked to lend her technical expertise gained from over 27 years of kite flying and membership in the Washington Kite Flyers Association, based at the Seattle Center. The association will hold a big flying event in Colorado next October, "One Sky, One World," to celebrate world peace, she said.

   "They wanted someone to bring some color," said Bernauer, pointing to the many multi-colored kites from which to choose. "I'm here to help people have fun and fly kites safely. Having fun is what it's all about--flying a kite for the health of it!"

   Bernauer has participated in competition sport kite ballet for years. The flier flies the kite in time and patterns that interpret whatever music they choose, she said. But in "mystery ballet" competition, the flyer doesn't know what musical piece will be played until it starts.

   "Today's kites are made of such ultra-light materials, such as mylar, it allows flight in little or no wind (and no running), just by walking backward," said Bernauer. "You can even fly them indoors, in gyms. You don't have to let out a lot of line!" she called to one of her pupils. "More line is heavier, so with a light wind like today's, use less line. Even on a seemingly windless day, hills and buildings cause enough turbulence to fly kites."