How a pizza maker changed the stunt-kite-flying world
How a pizza maker changed the stunt-kite-flying world Kites of all shapes, sizes and colours are flying over a Christchurch beach. (Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr)
How a pizza maker changed the stunt-kite-flying world
Lexile: 1090L

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First, let’s establish the fact that there is something in the United States called the American Kitefliers Association and there’s something called competitive stunt kiting.

Now, as you might expect, the people who compete in stunt kiting competitions are interesting folks. At Collectors Weekly, they’ve got a profile of Richard Dermer, pizza shop owner and kite-collector extraordinaire. The walls of Dermer’s pizza joint are covered in kites from all over the world, which is impressive enough, but it’s not his only accomplishment. 

Dermer worked at Hideaways, one of the first pizza places in Oklahoma in the late 1950s, when pizza was an exotic food. He bought the joint in 1960 and he delivered pizzas in these weird Volkswagen Beetles painted like Herbie and lady bugs. Then, in 1970, his game-partner and manager at the Hideaway was the first to market the Japanese version of the game Go in the United States.

It was this game company that lead Dermer to kites, and from there he took off—eventually becoming president of the American Kitefliers Association.

Dermer now has a huge kite collection. He told Collectors Weekly:

“I was very much a novice, but I started learning. And the more we got into going to kite festivals and collecting kites, the more I discovered and the deeper the subject became. My kite-book library now runs over a hundred volumes. I learn stuff new every time I go to an event. And I think the kites out in the garage are multiplying when the lights are out.”

What Dermer’s collection and hobby brings to the United States is an international perspective and history on kite flying. In India, for example, kite flying is a fierce, sometimes violent sport, while in Thailand, kite battles reflect the war of the sexes between men and women. Kites were used in World War II, to distract German planes and for target practice.

When Dermer started stunt-kiting, it was pretty new - all the kits were triangular, they all looked about the same. But soon, Dermer told Collectors Weekly, that changed. “In the ’80s and ’90s, kites went through quite a developmental phase where they were getting better and better as new lighter, stronger materials were being developed. Tubular fiberglass became obsolete when tubular graphite came along.” Dermer, ever the innovator, set up the new rules for judging these stunt kite competitions, which take into account how much control the flier has, the difficulty of the moves, and the choreography. It’s a lot like ice skating or gymnastics, Dermer says.

Dermer’s next arena? Taking these stunt kites inside. He makes kites at schools, for kids and adults alike. He’s even made kites at weddings out of napkins. Really, Dermer sounds like the life of any party.

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What makes kite-flying a popular pastime?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • AndredW-pla
    10/26/2020 - 01:24 p.m.

    Kite flying to many people can be seen as very simple but this article demonstrated just how deep this kite-flying rabbit hole goes with its story revolving around a pizza maker named Richard Dermer. Dermer worked at a pizza place and became interested in kites through a gaming partner that released a game called Go, and it was through the game company he became interested in kites. The article goes on to explain the impact kites have had over time and their meanings. Kites have been symbols in history like in India, kite flying is a fierce sometimes violent sport, compared to Thailand where kite flying represents a battle of the sexes. Kite flying has been a symbol for many different cultures and becomes a high flying symbol to people of those nations. Dermer became interested in kite flying and began to understand and become interested in history and has collected a plethora of kites where he now has to store them in his garage and claims they "multiply at night" and his collection is an international perspective and history on kite flying. Dermer has watched throughout time and seen the progress for both the physical and symbolic changes to kites, and Dermer helped set up new rules for judging these kite-flying competitions as well. Dermer, starting as a pizza worker, is now involved with a culture of kite flying and continues to get involved in that community today, even though it may be more competitive in these competitions rather than symbolic value, Dermon has learned to love the history and the impact its made on the world and contribute to helping it continue to grow on into the future.

  • CamdenD-cre
    4/20/2021 - 09:13 a.m.

    Because you get to fly it.

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