Bright shapes of all sizes and colors will be flying high above Arnolds Park during Winter Games 2022, bringing delight to all ages! BojiKites has become a major event over the popular weekend and attracts professional flyers from all over the world.
Organizer Steve Boote said 2022 will be the fifth year for the event, and they hope to have over 100 kites flying at one time – a new record for the area!
“We work in conjunction with the Iowa Great Lakes Chamber and Arnolds Park Amusement Park – it’s a group effort between three nonprofit organizations looking to promote the area,” Boote said. “Kite flying is a lot of fun and is the perfect addition to the Winter Games and adds even more family-friendly activities to the fun weekend.”
Kite Flying in Okoboji
Big colorful sharks and fish started filling the skies of Lake Okoboji in January 2017, after Boote and his family encountered a kite show near Clear Lake.
“I didn’t know much about kites but was intrigued after seeing a news clip about a kite show in Clear Lake. I thought, ‘What are those?’” he said. “I started to do some research and my initial interest in kites has quickly become a fun side hobby for my family and business.”
In 2016, Boote purchased 12 kites unseen from a well-known kite company out of New Zealand. “I quickly realized they aren’t as easy as it looks to fly,” he said with a laugh.
The company, Peter Linn Kites, sent him the contact information for a couple from Utah, who then came up the first year to teach and help the Boote family with the art of kite flying.
“The first Winter Games experience was very simple but an absolute ball,” he shared. “It was Blake and his wife from Utah, my wife, son and daughter – the six of us with the 12 kites. It was so much fun, and once you get the kite fever, you buy more and then meet more and more people.”
Since then, the 12 kites have grown to 2022’s lofty goal of 100 kites in the air at one time. Last year, between Boote’s own kites and the kites from other professionals, they had 77 kites on-site and they achieved Okoboji’s record of 42 in the air at once.
“It takes a lot of volunteers and helpers, and we will have more kites this year than ever,” he said. “Our lofty goal for this year is 100 in the air at once.”
Structure of a Kite
The BojiKites seen flying through the air are not your typical kite purchased from the store. These kites don’t have a specific structure, compared to the stick box kites that rely on rigid bodies and formations to catch the wind.
“The majority of the kites we fly are inflatable and have a head or top where there’s a mesh opening in the mouth or top that launches air through the kite to inflate the structure,” Boote explained.
For instance, a large shark has an unseen mesh opening at its mouth that pushes wind through the rest of the large formation. This allows the structure to fly through the air and keep it’s rigid shape.
“It was a lot more technical than I initially thought but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the process and how it works,” he said.
On the Thursday of Winter Games, Boote and his crew will begin setting up for the weekend of flying. They place a substantial amount of anchors in the ice, which helps hold down the kite’s rigging in the wind.
“Ice is the weight that holds the lines, as three kites in the air could easily lift the back of a car,” he shared.
Another crucial part of the kite flying process is understanding knots and knowing which knot is needed under specific conditions. Tension plays a huge role in how a knot becomes undone and certain wind levels can put significant pressure on the kite’s rigging.
“It’s a lot like sailing,” he added.
Ideal wind for kite flying is between 8-12 miles per hour, allowing them to fly all sizes and shapes. Depending on the wind speed, some kites do better in high winds and others in low.
“Really gusty winds can take down the big rays with tails, as they pull really hard and can’t handle the intensity,” he said. “They do better in low wind while gentler kites are better in higher winds.”
Boote has lots of favorite kites, but he especially loves teddy bears of all sizes and colors. Another common theme in kites are whales and sharks, and he also really likes the Astronauts. He’s hoping to have a commissioned Pokey flying through the air this year, a kite that was lost in shipping last year. There is the possibility of another commissioned kite coming from Germany, if it’s done in time.
Professional flyers will also bring their array of kites and join the fun. Boote said professional kite flyers all host their own show but then travel to other people’s shows in support. Many of them also fly kites and are part of design and research teams in partnership with Disney and other organizations.
He said that this past summer professional flyers also tested kites out on the lake, researching new kite designs. These kites were flown behind boats and the flyers loved the ability to use the Iowa Great Lakes area as a testing site.
“Some of the same flyers that fly kites for Disney will also be at Winter Games on West Lake Okoboji. They love to come here and love the community and friendships they’ve formed in this area,” he shared. “I really love how we can bring a part of the world to our area, and I look forward to the near future of bringing Okoboji Tourism to other areas around the world.”
Boote’s family helps him with logistics and equipment, loading and organization. His company, Eagle Construction out of Sioux Falls, also plays a huge role in helping with BojiKites.
“While we live in Sioux Falls, we also consider Okoboji home and love that we can promote the area,” Boote said.
Anyone who would like to volunteer or help at BojiKites 2022 during Winter Games, should visit #BojiKites on social media or go to Winter Games Kite Festival and contact them for more information.
“We would love to teach you and have you join our team! We have so much fun and it’s a great way to meet people from all walks of life,” he said.
Boote is hoping for the perfect wind to showcase all colors, shapes and sizes during Winter Games 2022 – the addition of BojiKites is just another way to promote the beauty of the Iowa Great Lakes area to the rest of the world.