"Caution, giant kites," read several signs posted at a Wheaton park Saturday morning.
And for good reason.
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The signs marked the site where Dan Jones of Milwaukee would launch a 75-foot manta ray kite and an 80-foot octopus kite during Wheaton's fourth annual Go Fly a Kite event at Graf Park.
"Hopefully I'll have both of them up in the air at the same time and they'll be crowd-pleasers," Jones said while setting up the 3-foot stakes and strings that allow the kites to fly.
Spectators oohed and aahed at the giant flying animals, especially the manta ray with its rainbow-colored wings and twisting tail.
The event, hosted by the Wheaton Park District, served as an introduction to everything kites. Kids could make mini kites out of paper, Milwaukee kite shop Gift of Wings had kites for sale, and expert fliers gave demonstrations of their choreographed sport kite routines.
Kids wondered aloud if kites can touch the clouds as they readied themselves for the "grand launch" at 11:30 a.m.
Hundreds of kites shaped like sharks, butterflies, pirate flags, sailboats, ladybugs and, of course, classic diamonds, glided through the sky as participants tried to break Wheaton's record for most kites in simultaneous flight. The goal was to have 843 kites flying at once, but it wasn't immediately apparent how many were in the air at the same time Saturday.
The airplane-shaped kite of Rick Saviano of Wheaton and his grandson, 7-year-old Tyler Saviano, was one of many that caught as much attention as air on Saturday. With its moving propeller and spiraling red streamers behind the wings, the airplane kite flew across the Graf Park sky using Saviano and Tyler's teamwork to get it in the air and keep it there.
"I've got to get lots of string," Tyler said with a smile before one launch attempt.
Saviano said his grandson is a third-generation kite flier after he and his wife became interested in the activity in the 1970s.
"There's nothing more soothing than watching the kite soar," Saviano said.
Well, with the possible exception of hearing the hum of the line as it's extended to allow the kite to fly higher, or reeled in to bring it closer to the ground, he said.
"It's like a giant violin," Saviano said about the kite string.
Kite flying also is becoming something of a family tradition for the Hairekians of Schaumburg. Valanteen Hairekian brought her husband and two kids, 6-year-old Avak and 8-year-old Talein, to the event because they enjoyed a similar one closer to home last year. She even invited her brother and nephews to come along for a day of enjoying the outdoors and the majestic flight of panda bear and penguin-shaped kites bought specially for the occasion.
"An event this big is the second time for us," Hairekian said. "I told my brother to come and have fun here today."