Pierre, SD 1953

Pierre, SD Lodge News

Capital Journal Story: Tenth Annual Kite Day Takes Over Hilger's Gulch

Thanks to the Pierre Capital Journal for publishing this story!

By Michael Woodel mike.woodel@capjournal.com

Jun 25, 2021

Prayers for rain ceased just for the 10th annual South Dakota Kite Day on Wednesday, which has become a tradition for Mike Bietz and his family.

The event, sponsored by Pierre Elks Lodge 1953 and NextEra Energy Resources, which owns multiple South Dakota wind farms, features local residents — and plenty of kids — getting outdoors and flying kites. As Bietz talked, his daughter, Emersen, ran past with a NextEra-branded kite trailing in a corkscrew spin, flapping in the light breeze of Hilger’s Gulch, in the shadow of the state Capitol.

As with almost all days this summer, the Wednesday sky was sunny and clear, the air temperature reaching into the low triple digits. But for now, that was just fine, so long as kites continued to find the occasional breeze.

“We’ve been coming down here for the last several years, brought our older daughter, too,” Bietz said. “It’s kind of a nice thing, especially when the breeze is blowing to launch all the kites in the air and stuff.”

Organizer Steve Wegman said he expected a good turnout from the crowd of 300 children that registered for the event. Children are the cornerstone of the event, as Wegman said the idea for it came about as a result of complaints from area children that there is little to do around Pierre in summertime.

“So a bunch of us sat around the card table one night, and kind of like, ‘Hey, let’s think about doing things when we were kids and having fun,’” Wegman said. “And so we brought kite flying back to Pierre, South Dakota, and actually, in South Dakota (it) had been in a decline.”

Since then, Wegman said he and his fellow organizers found kite flying knowledge being passed down among area children, who no longer need as much guidance to learn how to catch a breeze.

“When we started this 10 years ago, we spent most of our time teaching kids how to put kites together and how to fly them,” Wegman said. “Nowadays, we’ve got enough kids who have learned it from their brothers and sisters or from other events over the years and we don’t do much in kite tying and kite flying. The kids teach the other kids how to do it.”

Wegman had 400 kites on hand for Wednesday’s event, each stamped with the NextEra logo. The Florida-based electricity wholesaler has several wind energy facilities throughout the Dakotas.

“They like to demonstrate that wind can be used for many beneficial things other than generating electricity, which you can also use it for recreational opportunities,” Wegman said.

Needless to say, he said, the art of getting a kite to fly is a little different from when Wegman was a child.

“Most of the kites when we were growing up were made out of balsa wood and tissue paper,” Wegman said. “These kites are made out of rip-stop nylon and fiberglass. If you get them caught in the tree, the old kites lasted about a week in the trees, these here, you get them caught in a tree, about 5-7 years. A little more state-of-the-art kite flying.”

Kelsey Collier, a teacher for Faith Lutheran Church’s Schoolers group, said she and her co-worker decided to bring the group’s children to the gulch as a spur-of-the-moment field trip, albeit a successful one.

“They get bored pretty easily, they don’t have very high attention spans, so the fact that they’re still running around and excited,” Collier said. “Yeah, it’s safe to say they love it.”

And Wegman enjoys seeing the kite-flying fun go beyond the annual event.

“It’s fun to see the kites fly all summer long, it gives the kids something to do all summer long,” Wegman said. “Doesn’t take batteries, doesn’t take Internet, you get to be outdoors, not on the couch, things like that.”