Be Cool, Fool, and Fly a Kite on New Year’s Day

Dec. 26, 2016
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If diving into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day isn’t quite your thing, but you still want to take part in an outdoor activity and be part of a longstanding Milwaukee tradition, then bundle yourself up and head on over to Veteran’s Park for the 30th Annual New Year’s Day Cool Fool Kite Festival.

“Cool,” of course, is an understatement. All signs indicate a quite frigid New Year’s Day and, although perhaps not quite to the level of the Polar Plunge, this is not an activity for un-hearty. The festival opens at 11 a.m., just before the Plunge at Bradford Beach and will last, per the organizers, “until we can no longer stand the cold, probably around 5 p.m.” In addition to the kites of the attendees, the giant kites of Yves Lafrorest, who owns one of the Midwest’s largest collection of giant kites, will be up and flying. Laforest’s kites – which include an enormous Teddy Bear and a 140-foot-long octopus – are familiar sights above the lakefront in the summertime.

The festival was founded in 1987 by Scott Fisher, a kite enthusiast who had then just opened the Gift of Wings kite shop in Veteran’s Park. “I thought it might be fun to do something on New Year’s besides jumping into Lake Michigan,” Fisher told Around MKE. “The name came up because it’s usually really cold on New Year’s Day and, like the Polar Bears, we must be fools to be flying kites in that cold weather.” Fisher says that kites will actually fly between in the cold air and advises that once you get a kite up to leave it up. “Leave your kite tied to a tree and let it fly while you are warming up indoors.” One year, he recalled, it was not the chill that put a damper on the kiting, but the snow. He said they had about 50 kites up in the air, but as the wet snow began to accumulate on them, they dropped from the sky, one by one. “It was an amazing sight to watch.”

There will be hot food for sale, but all are encouraged to bring their own. Free hot chocolate and coffee be offered while supplies last. There will also be kites available for sale and on-site instruction from Brett Williams, aka “The Kite Whisperer.” A professional ice-carving team, “The Quiet Ice Carvers,” will also be at the festival, performing their feats of frozen artistry and offering ice carving lessons. The event is, as always, free and open to the whole family. If you plan to attend, DRESS WARM. 

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