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Ray's World Adventures 2001

The Mackay Kite Festival
In The Heart of Queensland - October 13-14, 2001

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After the Taipei International Kite Festival in Taiwan I had been sponsored to participate in the Mackay Kite Festival. I have been to Queensland a few times but never to Mackay. I was really looking forward to visiting this part of Australia as I have heard so much about the beautiful beaches and Hawaii type weather. Plus, no one has to twist my arm in visiting anywhere in the Land Down Under. I have mentioned that fact in many of my past articles on Australia, even the name Australia always wakes the memories I had in my boy-hood dreams and fantasies of one day going to Australia.

It was going to be a long 15 hour flight plus waiting for connecting flights, but I was in luck. I was traveling in good company with my Aussie mates Baz and Gill Thrower whom I have known for years plus we have just spent 5 great days together in Taipei, so we would have lots to talk about. We would be parting company at Brisbane where I would be traveling on to Mackay, for Baz and Gill it would be a 6 hour drive to their home in Tannum Sands Gladstone, and in ten days time we would met up again at the Mackay festival. The fight was a piece of cake to Mackay only a 1 hour 40 minutes, considering the 13 plus hours that I have just traveled, My friends Jim & Daphne Ellis who also were my hosts for the next two weeks, were waiting for me at the Mackay airport. Also with them, was Dave Franklin who with his wife was the organizer of one of the festivals I was sponsored to in Australia last year. It was great to see them again, Jim, Daphne and I go way back to the 1995 World Cup that was held at Lakes Entrance Victoria. On the way to their home they stopped at Mackay Harbor beach where the festival was going to be held the following weekend, it was a beautiful day with a 10mph wind coming off the ocean. The beach ran as far as the eye could see, wide and firm golden sand, I was just itching to get out there and fly, Jim said "what do you think then Ray?" I said we got her made in the shade especially if we have wind like this for the festival, Daphne said " No worry mate" the wind is on order for you to enjoy every day of your stay, and she was right I never missed a days flying in the whole two weeks I was there "Wow!! How do they do That"!! :)

Mackay is one of Queensland's best kept secrets, "Well it was up until now". Being a gardener and landscaper in the past, I was very impressed with this tropical city, with its palm-lined main street, and side streets fully landscaped with unique native flowering shrubs and plants. It is also know as the River City. The blue Pioneer River flows through the center of the City making a perfect back drop especially at sunset and sunrise. Mackay is also rich in history, being first settled in 1862. " Let me think, yes I would have only been a couple of years old at that time. :)" It is also the sugar & coal capital of Australia, and has a population approximately of 75,000. It is funny when I think that I have performed to twice that many people at International kite festivals in Europe. For myself, I think the best kept secret of all is the fact that Mackay is a kite flyers dream come true. A real kite flyers haven, they have over 30 beaches the furthest is only a 40 minute drive from the City, my favorite was Bucasia beach wider and longer than any beach I have ever been on, on this planet, "with the exception of Long Beach WA". Beautiful and untamed flat and as a pancake with golden sand. The ocean was as smooth as a baby's bum. There is very little Surf, because of the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is over 350,000 square kilometers in area and is over 2,000km in length, I remember flying stacks of Hyper kites on Lady Musgrave Island in 1986.

The Mackay kite Festival was a two day event which incorporated One Sky One World. This was also Mackay's first kite festival, but you would never know it by the way it was attended by the locals and spectators that came from as far away as Brisbane. The organizers did a fantastic job with the help and knowledge of the local kite flyers including my hosts, Jim and Daphne Ellis who design and make kites. They have attended kite festivals all over Australia, as well as putting on work shops for schools and local kite flies on the beaches through out the year. Kite flyers came from as far as Sydney. Most I had shared the arenas with, in South Australia, Victoria, NSW and of course Queensland. Some even drove from Sydney which is a 3 or 4 day drive, they were loaded down with every kite you could imagine plus kite surf boards and buggies, the Aussies are crazy about bugging and kite surfing ( some of the best in the world are from Down Under).

The kite festival was a huge success both days with great weather and perfect wind. It was none stop flying for 10 plus hours each day. Jim and Daphne's Kite Trains were a great back drop -- all the kites were made by the school children of Mackay, drawn and colored with their own individual ideas, hundreds of them, it took many hours, for Daphne and helpers to attach them to the train lines.

I had two interviews on ABC and Sea FM which was a lot of fun for me but a little worrying for the organizer, as I mean "Hey this guy can't hear, Right" :( I guess they forgot about cue cards :) and also, I have done this a thousands times or more, also live interviews on TV. I also had the pleasure of meeting and talking to the Mayor of Mackay, Julie Boyd, a very charming and beautiful lady with a great sense of humor, "she sure won my vote" :)

We had two great evening BarBQ's, one given by the organizer and her husband and the other by Tropical Apex one of the festivals sponsor, both had great tucker and loads of cold ones. Aussie style, one in the right hand and one in the left. :)

Just before the end of the festival I had just landed the kites when my host Jim and Daphne said Ray just leave your kites were they are, Roger will look after them for you, we have a surprise for you, but you have to come with us to receive it, they then drove me to the local airport where they had booked a site-seeing flight over the City of Mackay and Region plus passes over the kite festival site. Unknown to me, it had been pre-arranged that three of my kite flying Aussie mates would fly my Kestrels as a kind of a salute, as the plane flew over the festival site, what a wonderful surprise and thrilling ending to a super kite festival. And all this happened in a open cockpit of a 1943 Yellow Tiger Moth -- things can't get better than this, or can they -- I had a 5:30am flight to Brisbane Jim & Daphne drove me to the airport. We arrived around 4:30 and to my surprise there was the organizer and her husband, kite flyers, friends and some of the kite festival committee waiting to give me a good send off. This was overwhelming and very heart warming, I said to my mates Baz and Roger, "Wow", imagine all these wonderful people getting up so early and driving all this way just to see me off, Roger replied, "Ray don't let it go to your head mate" the real reason they are here is to make sure you leave the bloody country" :)

There are so many people to thank that has made this trip so unforgettable, thank you Jim & Daphne for your hospitality and friendship, and thanks Jim for all the useful tips and advice on wood turning, and thank you Baz & Gill for for your friendship plus all your help in getting me from A to B, and many times all the way to F:) Thanks to the festival committee and Karen the festival organizer for inviting me, and last but not least, all the great sponsors for whom without them a kite festival of this class could not have happened.

Thank you for listening.


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