(Photo c/o Kitt Kites)
By Meg O’Neil
Brenton Point State Park on Ocean Drive is well known as one of the top places to watch the sunset in Newport. On any given day at this time of year, you can find couples and families taking in the different hues of reds, pinks and oranges that fill the summer sky as the sun dips below the horizon. But on the weekend of July 14-15, visitors to the park will behold a completely different set of colors in the sky when the Newport Kite Festival returns for its 22nd year.
The man behind the festival is Ron Kitt, owner of Kitt Kites on lower Thames Street. Kitt assumed control of the popular Kite Festival in 2009, and since then, has turned it into one of the most popular free events in Newport.
The event regularly attracts hundreds of kite enthusiasts from all over the world, who are drawn to the park's steady, cooling sea breeze to lift their crafts into the sky.
Born in Brooklyn, Kitt says that life in New York wasn’t exactly prime for kite-flying. Rather, it was during the summertime when his family would travel to Cape Cod that Kitt’s appreciation for kites first took shape.
“I remember going out to Martha’s Vineyard, and I bought a kite that didn’t fly well, but from that moment, I was hooked," he recalls. "Ever since then, I’ve been flying kites as much as I can.”
Growing up in the early ’90s, Kitt was part of the video-game era, and spent much of his time glued to the TV screen. “My mom was always pushing me to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, and since I found kites, I’m now pushing my kids to play outside. We come out to Brenton Point every weekend, and it’s like a paradise.”
This year, the City Council has been more supportive of the festival than in the past, Kitt says. “I think once they found out that we were a local business, they were more supportive. I’m not someone who just swoops into Newport to suck up the resources over the weekend; I have a year-round business here.”
Kitt also points out that the festival has a positive economic impact on the city, despite being a free event.
“Families who come out to the festival will pay for a hotel, come out here for a free event during the day, and then return in to town to spend money on dinner in our restaurants,” he said.
For Kitt, it’s more than just a festival, for him, it’s about offering an opportunity for families to enjoy something together:
“This is what young families need – something free like this, especially in these rough times. It’s great to go someplace and not have to spend a lot of money.”
Vendors will be selling kites, Del’s Lemonade, and hotdogs as part of the festival, but people can bring their own kites and their own coolers of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.
Since its heyday in the mid-’80s, the Kite Festival has had its ups and downs, but Kitt is determined to return the festival to its former glory.
“Kite-flying is kind of a dying sport,” he says, “We’re trying to bring it back, and people love it.”
The event runs from noon – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and will feature demonstrations, games, stunt kites, candy drops, moonbounces, and more.
For more information, visit newportkitefestival.net.