Like most kids growing up, Dan Ward needed toys and games to play with. But before social media became popular or video game systems evolved, Ward had kites.
“Kiting was fun. I could create my own kites,” said Ward, whose fantasy to fly as a 6-year-old boy kept him interested in kites. “I always enjoyed the fact that I could sit down with a piece of paper and some sticks and create a flying vehicle.”
Now Ward, 50, owns a kite shop at Haulover Park called Skyward Kites and will be hosting the 20th anniversary of the Kite Day Kite Festival this Sunday.
This year’s theme of Kite Day is “Kites of the Caribbean.”
“Over the years, we’ve noticed how many locals are from Caribbean heritage and enjoy making their own kites,” Ward said. “We decided to make a little display of them called the Kites of the Caribbean Museum, which will be a tent set up showing off the different types of kites, the materials used and from what region of the Caribbean the kite-maker is from.”
David Labatad, 63, also known as Super Dave, has been attending the Kite Day Kite Festival at Haulover Park since it started in 1992.
“This event is a relaxing thing, a family event outdoors,” said Labatad. “I have fun making sure my big kites are out of the way from the smaller kites. I’m out on the field all day taking care of eight or nine big kites.”
The field will stretch out into two lots, with plenty of room to fly many kites. One lot used to be a nine-hole golf course. The other lot is where Ward’s kite shop is located.
Ward left the restaurant industry almost 30 years ago to start Skyward Kites when he noticed there was no place to buy a kite in Miami.
Since then, the Kite Festival at Haulover Park has grown from a crowd of 300 people (and the largest kite being 11 feet in wingspan) to more than 6,000 people (and kites being up to 100 feet in length) at last year’s Kite Day.
This year, Labatad plans on bringing a large 200 foot dolphin kite and a four-line kite of a light-blue ocean design with fish on the bottom side.
Randy “The Kite Man” Lowe, 60, brought a 60 foot teddy bear kite to last year’s event. This year, he plans to bring a man-made 60 foot whale, fish and giant crab.
“Dan [Ward] and I are good friends,” Lowe said. “We share the same passions for kites. I don’t mind doing him a favor and bringing in several big kites to the kite festival.”
Pete Dolphin is another kite-flying enthusiast who has been attending the Kite Festival since the mid-’90s.
“I had the good fortune of being there last year and seeing all the kids run around with kites and giving them pointers and teaching them about safety,” Dolphin said.
Dolphin has won national trophies from the American Kiteflers Association in sport-kiting and kite-making. He has also been given the People’s Choice award at AKA many times.
“I enjoy showing someone new who has never seen kite-flying at the level that we fly kites,” he said. “I want people to experience the big and large and very complex kites some have made. This event allows us to introduce a novice to kite-flying.”
The festival will include flying competitions for children and adults, paper kite-building classes and exhibitions from longtime kite enthusiasts.
“We’re lucky enough to be putting this on for 20 years and so pleased to see how many people want to come back to this event. That’s why we’ve been able to grow it to the size we have,” Ward said.