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Kite Festival fans gather in White Rock

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By Bennett Horne

Tell Carveth Kramer or Sam Pedregon to “go fly a kite” and they’ll happily say, “Sure!”

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And then they’ll disappear off to some wide-open field for a couple of days.

For almost 20 years that wide-open field has been at Overlook Park in White Rock for the Los Alamos Arts Council’s Kite Festival.

“We’ve been to every festival they’ve had, like 19 years,” said Carveth who, along with his wife, Luella, sell handmade banners in their hometown of Taos.

The couple set up several of their banners, which are staked into the ground, on both Saturday and Sunday for the spectators to enjoy.

They also fly big kites of various shapes, styles and colors before stepping back so the younger fliers can enjoy the airspace.

“We get here early in the day, set up our banners and fly our big kites,” he said. “Then around noon we pull off the field and turn the field over to the kids because it’s their day.”

Kramer, 74, credits Pedregon and his wife, Barbie, of Pueblo, Colo., for getting him started in the banner business.

“I never had kites when I was a kid and never knew anything about them,” Kramer said. “(Pedregon) got us to go to a kite festival with him down in Silver City. I like making stuff and he said, ‘Why don’t you just make us some banners so when there’s a no wind day at least we’ve got some color. And I got really interested in it.”

Kramer said he then met a lady from San Diego who made “some unbelievable banners.”

The more he talked to her about the subject the more excited he got and soon was spending a lot of time on his new hobby.

“It’s fun making stuff,” he said.

Kramer was having so much fun, in fact, that he would eventually retire from his job as a long-range planner for the Forest Service in New Mexico out of Taos and Albuquerque to concentrate full time on creating and sewing banners.

“When I was working 50 hours a week, if you told me I was going to go and sew I’d have said you were crazy,” he said.

And now he’s been in the business for almost 20 years.

“They told me to go fly a kite and I said, ‘Right on!” he said.

Over the years Kramer has created banners that feature lots of colors and artistic designs.

“A lot of people buy them to put up at festivals or when they go camping,” he said. “We’ve had people buy them and put them in their front yards when they’re having a celebration, something like that.”

The banners are not only enjoyable to look at, but Kramer also makes them strong enough withstand high winds.

“Flags just get destroyed in the wind,” he said. “With most U.S. flags you have to use about three a year because they get destroyed. But mine are narrower so they don’t flip so hard.”

Kramer, who said he does a lot of testing of his banners by flying them in his backyard until they “blow out,” designs his banners with rounded corners to prevent easy tearing.

“The first thing you’ll see go out on a flag is the upper top edge,” he said. “It’s a square corner and they flip out right away. So that’s why all my banners have a rounded edge on the top.”

He continued, “The next place to go is the bottom corner and that’s why the bottom is rounded.”

The pole the banners are mounted on is fiberglass, which also gives a bit in the wind, but Kramer secures it with a solid fiberglass stake hammered deeper into the ground.

Kramer comes up with the designs himself, sometimes using an overhead projector to make a full-sized paper pattern.

He then sews the patterns together to create the banner.

The finished product is usually one that seems to bring a smile to the faces of people who see it flapping in the breeze.

That gives Kramer a lot of enjoyment, the same kind of enjoyment he’s gotten these many years from coming to White Rock.

“It’s the people here and the field and the town. It’s just wonderful,” he said. “It’s a kids-and-family event. And every year I’m guaranteed it’s going to be snowballs (white kites) in the sky – that’s what I call them, little snowballs. It’s just wonderful to see the families that come out.”