Some of country’s largest kites coming to Albert Lea for festival for inclusive playground

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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$50K match in place for all funds raised at event

Great American Kites & Events, along with the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground & Miracle Field and Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau, are hosting “Let Inclusion Fly! Kite Festival” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Edgewater Park.

Kara Paulson, co-chair for the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground & Miracle Field, said the idea for the festival came from resident Mellisa Toupin, who approached the committee and suggested doing a fundraiser similar to the winter Color the Wind Kite Festival in Clear Lake.

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The event will be in the same location as where the inclusive playground is expected to be built to raise awareness for where it will be across from the newer pavilion.

“A lot of people still haven’t heard about the new playground that we’re working on getting, so it’s going to be a great way to draw attention to the location,” she said.

The idea for the event was originally formed in June, and from there the organization started planning with the city for how to make it happen. According to Paulson, Toupin — who had seen a kite festival — thought kites would be appealing for children.

The goal for the playground is to provide a place where families can come together while enjoying being outside. The playground provides equipment for people of all abilities to take part in.

“The whole goal of the event is to raise money for the inclusive playground that they’re trying to build,” said Sean Beaver, co-owner of Great American Kites & Events along with his wife, Stephany.

Great American Kites & Events was approached to help with the event sometime this spring after members of the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground & Miracle Field group saw a winter show nearby.

“It seemed like a great event to be a part of just because of what they are trying to do with the playground,” he said.

Besides a giant kite show with some of the country’s largest kites, there will be face-painting, games, a dunk tank, a raffle and food vendors. There will even be tables for children to make their own kites and other kites for sale. Announcements for who is participating in the dunk tank will be made through Facebook. The area Lions clubs will also host a ring toss.

Paulson said big prizes would be given away during the raffle, including a Yeti Cooler, four wristbands to Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America, four tickets for Crayola Experience Mall of America and two baskets from Dave Syverson Auto Center, among others.

Bracelets made by 9-year-old Brycelynn Partlow will also be for sale for $4 each, with $2 from each sale going toward the playground.

Beaver plans to bring “several hundred” kites to the event with roughly 8,000 pounds of nylon, gear and anchors of line.

Beaver described the company as specializing in producing, planning and managing giant kite displays and festivals with over 15 years of “once-in-a-lifetime” kite displays. Their mission was to provide family experiences while creating discovery, wonder and community.

“Our vision really is to bring people together and create stronger communities through the extraordinary kites that we fly,” he said.

They’ve been flying kites “somewhat professionally” for nearly 20 years, and according to Beaver they spend almost every weekend from mid-March through mid-October flying all over the country.

“We got started really just as a hobbyist and really grew a passion around the hobby, and eventually we started getting more and more requests to come to community after community,” he said. “We put a business plan around it and ultimately formed Great American Kites, which is what we have today.”

Beaver started with a kite club, a group of people he and his family would spend time with on the weekends, and do different events. But eventually there became more demand than what the club could handle.

“I’ve always flown kites throughout my life,” he said, noting his interest started at the dentist office when he saw pictures of kites over the walls.

And as he got older, he saw it as a way to spend time with his family.

“That’s where it’s fun for me,” he said.

According to Beaver, all kites the company used were handmade from all over the world, including New Zealand and China.

Beaver was happy to participate.

“No matter what life is throwing at them, no matter what they’re going through, we want [people] to look up and keep their chin up no matter what’s going on in the world,” he said, noting these types of events brought people together.

Paulson said they received a lot of positive feedback regarding the festival.

“People are very excited to have an activity for families to do,” she said. “I feel like people that know about it are very, very excited to have this come to Albert Lea, and they’re very thankful for all the hard work we’ve put into getting and making this event happen.”

All proceeds will go towards the inclusive playground and Miracle Field. Paulson said currently there was a match for $50,000 at the festival. The hope is to start groundbreaking on the $1.25 million playground project this fall, as long as all of the money has been raised.

There is a suggested $5 entry fee. Handicapped individuals will be able to park on-site, and busing will be provided for others from Southwest Middle School. Limited parking will be available east of the bandshell for people who don’t mind walking a distance into the event.

People are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Alcohol is prohibited.

Should the weather prove detrimental, the event will take place on Sunday.