Before Connor Doran’s indoor kite-flying performances were wowing television audiences on season five of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, he was tearing up the skies on the beach at Lincoln City’s annual Summer Kite Festival. “It’s where I started out,” Doran says, who will perform at the next iteration of the annual kite festival in late June alongside a host of other champion kite fliers.
Though pros like Doran make it look easy, kite flying can be challenging. A video on YouTube with over 85,000 hits called “How Not to Power Kite — Lincoln City, Oregon” shows a man literally being dragged all over the beach by his kite. Even Doran, who flies six kites at once, has to watch the wind or he’ll “get yanked,” he says.
Summertime on the Oregon coast means turbulent winds with fewer storms and even the occasional sunny sky. The beach is an ideal location to let your kite soar, and two upcoming annual kite festivals present opportunities for experts and amateurs alike.
“You don’t have to be an invited performer to fly,” Doran says of the Lincoln City festival, though the performance area for invited kite fliers will be clearly marked. A 22-year-old native of Flint, Michigan, Doran currently lives in Olympia, Washington, but grew up in Bend and has been flying kites for about eight years.
“It’s a great place to start out when you’re first flying, since there’s a bunch of people who will be willing to work with you if you ask nicely,” he adds.
Doran says he enjoys kite flying for the escape it provides from life’s troubles. He’s used his kite-flying fame as a platform to advocate for others living with epilepsy, as well as making a stand against bullying. “It’s very therapeutic [for] the stress I have to deal with in real life,” Doran says. “I just like what it has done to me, and I like the people. We’re like one big family.”
Though Doran will not be performing one of his signature indoor kite-flying routines in Lincoln City, you can get a taste of indoor kite flying in July at the 23rd annual Southern Oregon Kite Festival (SOKF) in Brookings, Oregon. This will be the second year indoor kite flying, which uses specially designed kites, will be featured at the SOKF.
Indoor kite flying and its lack of wind can be mystifying to observe. “People will ask me, ‘How do they fly indoors?’ I kinda shake my head and say, ‘You should just come and watch,’” says SOKF committee member Mike Macdonald, who also got his start kite flying on the beach in Lincoln City, though in the 1970s.
Along with professional indoor and outdoor kite-flying demonstrations, kids will be able to make kites and then go on a kite parade with their creations. “It’s not the oldest, or the biggest, but it’s the best kite festival,” Macdonald says, and “while our field is very small, what we do is put on a nonstop show, so there is always someone performing.”
The Lincoln City Kite Festival is held June 27-28 at the D-River Wayside. Admission is free. More information can be found at oregoncoast.org.
The indoor portion of the Southern Oregon Kite Festival will be held 7 pm Friday, July 17, at the Brookings Harbor High School gymnasium, while the outdoor portion will be held July 18-19 near the Port of Brookings. Admission is free. More information plus directions can be found at sokf.org.