Great Delaware Kite Festival: 50 years of high-flying fun

Video, gallery of photos
April 3, 2018

The Great Delaware Kite Festival started 50 years ago as a kite dueling contest between Lt. Gov. Eugene Bookhammer and the Maharajah of Bharatpur, India. While a kite duel was a new experience to people in this area, kite dueling is a popular sport in India.

The object of the competition is to cut the other flyer's kite line. Bookhammer had beginner's luck and was able to defeat the Maharajah for two years. In the third year, a kite-flying expert from Baltimore came to the park and won the contest. Eventually, spectators began bringing their own kites, and it didn't take long for the festival to become an event that attracts thousands to Cape Henlopen State Park each Good Friday. It's one of the oldest kite festivals in the country.

The Best All Around Kite Flyer Award is named in honor of Bookhammer, who passed away Feb. 23, 2013, at the age of 94. Another key person who contributed to the festival, Delaware State Park's Jack Goins, was involved with every festival except the first until his passing in February 2017. It was his love of music that inspired the musical accompaniment to kite-flying competitions.

During the March 30 event, Sen. Ernie Lopez and Rep. Steve Smyk presented House and Senate proclamations to mark the 50th anniversary to Lewes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Reamer and Delaware Division of Parks Regional Parks Administrator Pat Cooper.

Kite Festival winners: Best All Around, Gene Bookhammer Award: Mark Blattel, Milton.

Children and teen competitions

Best store-bought kite: 1. Zach Faubert, Milton; 2. Mila Patel, Cary, N.C.; 3. Emilia Faubert, Milton.
Best homemade kite: 1. Abagail Kissling, Reading, Pa. 2. Novalee Coleman, Bel Air, Md.
Most attractive homemade kite: 1. Novalee Coleman.
Most unusual homemade kite: Dylan Kissling, Reading, Pa.
Teen, best store-bought kite: 1. Anna Jungkeit, Leesburg, Va.
Youngest flyer: Bruce Leister, 8 months old, Camden.

Adult competitions

Most attractive homemade kite: 1. Phil Broder, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Best flyer, homemade kite: 1. Phil Broder; 2. Arnold Simon.
Precision flying award: 1. Mark Blattel.
Ballet flying award: 1. Dennis Smith, East Brunswick, N.J.; 2. Jim Cosca, Fort Washington, Md.; 3. Mark Blattel.

Special competitions

Highest kite: 1. Arnold Simon, Pikesville, Md.; 2. Chase Nessa, Georgetown; 3. Anna Jungkeit.
Most senior flyer: Thomas Bassett, Manchester, Pa.
Traveled most distance: Walker and Jonathan Schepf, Clifton Park, N.Y.
Smallest kite: Bill Goodwin, Ocean View. Largest kite: Phil Broder.