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Ray's World Adventures 1999

Adventure On Ice, February 12-14th 1999
Kites on Ice - Madison, Wisconsin

I was sponsored to Madison Wisconsin for the first "Kites on Ice Festival" on beautiful Lake Monona. This had been Craig Wilson's dream for many years and it was just about to come true, through the very capable hands of organizer Linda Underwood, and her staff. They had spent over a year putting it together. I mean, for someone who, at the very start did not know one end of a kite from the other, it presented a huge task. This was not your "run of the mill Sunday afternoon watching children running around with a-brown paper bag with a piece of string" kite festival. This was the Big Time; some of the best kite flyers from around the world had been invited to show off their kites and skills. Besides a million other things to organize and reorganize over and over again as problems arose, each day was a challenge throughout the year. But that very beautiful lady and her crew did it, and with flying colors!

The festival was a huge success from start to finish. The weather and winds were in God's hands but the festival was in theirs. I had been kind of skeptical at first when I accepted their invitation. I mean, I don't skate; how was I going to stand up and do multiple kite flying on ice? And then there was the cold. Between you and I, I hate the cold; 60F and I am freezing. I am sure Linda Underwood and Angie Tyler thought I was kind of weird asking all these questions as the came to my mind throughout the year.

But I need not have worried it was a breeze, they did a superb job of babysitting Big Daddy!

Snuggling with Scott Skinner

The day came, and I was off to Kites on Ice: one stop in Chicago, then a 30-minute flight to Madison. A piece of cake, right? Wrong! The flight to Chicago went without a problem. I had a short wait before my connecting flight. I caught sight of Scott Skinner and we chatted for a while, then boarded the plane to Madison. A half-hour later we should have been in Madison where people were waiting to take us to our hotel. Right? Wrong!

We were told to leave the plane as the pilot had phoned in sick. We boarded two more planes in the next four hours and all had the same excuse: Pilot sick. We ended up stranded at Chicago O'Hare Airport for 18 hours, just to travel 30 minutes. But I was in very good company with Scott Skinner, and Montreal's Team S.T.A.F.F. We talked a lot, laughed a lot, and cried a lot. Someone opened a bottle of wine to celebrate our misfortune. The highlight of the whole misadventure for me was waking up in the morning on the airport floor snuggled up close with my arms around Scott Skinner. If you have never experienced that ?you have yet to live!

We finally left the Chicago Airport at 9 a.m. Needless to say, we were 24 hours late getting to Madison, but we were welcomed with open arms and from that minute on it was pure joy. I put on my snowsuit, went out on the ice and flew away all my frustrations of the day before. This did not take long, especially when I looked around and saw all the beautiful kites in the air belonging to some of the best kite builders in the world: George Peters, Robert Trépanier, Ron and Sandy Gibian, Ann and Chris Harris, Peter Dolphin, Yves Laforest and Ann Clément, and Dave and Susan Gomberg, just to name a few. Once again, it was pure pleasure for me to share the Sport Kites area of the ice with the Decorators from the UK, Team STAFF from Montreal, the infamous Chicago Fire, and Roger and Janice Maddy from the USA. We all worked together to excite and thrill the 15,000 plus spectators each day who came to watch the kiting magic.

 The Decorators

For the Saturday night fly the winds were very light, but we just had to put on a show for the thousands of people who braved the cold. People had paid $15 for window seats inside the Monona Terrace, where the Madison Symphony Orchestra was set up to play live music, giving that extra magic touch to the night fly. I had set up my 3 Black Knight Pro-Dancers; Team Chicago Fire and Team STAFF were already in the air. It was awesome to fly multiple kites in the pitch dark and then watch them come alive as they danced through the light rays and were caught by the laser and spotlights to the live music of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. It was tough going in with less than two mile an hour wind. But I had a mission, and that was to dedicate these few minutes of night flying under the stars over Madison to a very good friend of mine who had collapsed and died just a few weeks before. "This one is for you Pip," and knowing him he would have said, "Good on ya, Ray!"

All our kites were packed away by 7 p.m. as there was the $100/plate fundraising dinner, and what a posh do that was!! All the high-society including the governor's wife were there all dressed in their beautiful gowns and tuxedos There was no problem identifying the kite flyers. We came dressed up in our tee shirts and jeans. Roger Chewning let our side down; he wore a suit and Scott Skinner wore a beautiful Japanese silk Kimono. The dinner and evening was great, I don't think anyone noticed that we were dressed any different. People came around after dinner shaking our hands and asking a lot of questions about kiting and telling us how exciting the festival was.

Sunday the winds were 20mph plus. Angie gave me a pair of Arctic Spurs. They were great and gave me the degree of confidence I would have had flying on grass. Jody McCann acted as anchorman, to keep me from falling while doing multiple kite ballet. I did not want to end up breaking anything since this was just the first of my 20-plus sponsored trips around the world this year. Thankfully, all went well and I was able to do my thing.

Different Ways of Killing Lee

After landing I took a short break. That is when the infamous Lee Sedgewick skied over my 3 sets of lines cutting them neatly. I spent the next hour splicing them together. It was very cold out there sitting on the ice, but I kept warm by thinking of different ways of killing Lee? the one I liked the best was choking him with my bare hands.

That evening we all got together for a farewell dinner in a German restaurant. It was great food, great company, and we all had a turn at drinking from "The Boot". (Not to be mistaken with "Das Boot" - which is a submarine!) This is a glass, shaped like a riding boot and holds about 3 pints of beer. There is now a new rumor going around the kiting world that I drank the Decorators under the table and if you believe that you will believe anything. I mean, these guys are pros!

The Decorators, Linda, Angie and Robert Trépanier, a couple of others and myself ended up in a pub next door for a final nightcap and to say our farewells. It was indeed a great -- no the word is AWESOME -- kite festival and I would like to congratulate Linda Underwood, Angie Tyler and their staff for a superbly organized festival. At the same time, I take my hat off to all the wonderful volunteers, for without them it would not have been the success that it was.

Thank you for listening.


Decorators photographs used with the kind permission of Kitelife Magazine.

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