The sky’s the limit for this high-flying kite club

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The wind wasn’t quite strong enough, but the spirit was.

At the inaugural meeting of the DUMBO Kite Flying Society, children as young as two had their first lesson in the aerodynamic activity, launching kites into the air with the help of their parents and then, before they got too tired, getting them up all on their own.

The society was founded by Robert Elmes, the director of Galapagos Art Space. Just settling into its new home at 16 Main Street (beforehand holding performances in Williamsburg since 1995), the space is within sight of Brooklyn Bridge Park at the foot of Main Street between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, where the society holds its not-so-secret meetings.

Elmes himself doesn't have children, but knew that a lot of DUMBO's residents do. The Kite Flying Society is just one way he's looking to provide a sense of community to the local parents, who, like himself as a Canadian native, might be far from their support system.

“Being a new parent can be isolating,” said Elmes. “We're giving them an opportunity to communicate in a way you can't at a dog run.”

The inspiration for the society came when Elmes saw a mother flying a kite with her son in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. As he watched the pantomime from the Main Street section of the park, a park patrolman came over and stopped the kite flying, which is not allowed in the state park.

“We live in an urban environment that doesn't have a lot of park space,” said Elmes, who holds his events in the city Main Street park where you can fly kites. “Something as simple as flying a kite should be fun.”

At the inaugural meeting on August 2, a day whose storm clouds threatened rain but which only had adequate wind, about five families showed up with their tykes, all five and under, for the occasion.

Carley Roney hadn't planned on going to the event, but was pulled out by her four-year-old son, Cairo, who had seen people flying kites from their home at the Sweeney Building at 30 Main Street and wanted to join them.

“Up, up, up, up, up, up!” Carley encouraged as Cairo ran as fast as he could with his borrowed kite soaring behind him.

“This is so great,” she said. “It's fun to have an organized activity. It doubles the fun.”

Tom Sternal, who also lives in the Sweeney Building and is friends with the Roneys, was a little wary when he heard a club was setting up shop across the street.

“When I first heard a club was moving in here, I was a little nervous," said Sternal, who came to the event with his two children, Tessa, 5 and Finn, 2. "But they seem great with kids. It's not some hipster thing."

Sternal had gotten kites on a whim during a business trip so his children could try out the activity in the park.

"I thought it would be something fun to do," said Sternal, who also personally wanted to be better at kite flying. Not that he was forcing his children to go. On the day of the big event, he said, Tessa woke up in anticipation and already had planned what she was going to wear (her outfit: a pink tank top and flowing blue skirt). Both he and Roney plan on bringing their children to future events in the park.

The Kite Flying Society is just one outreach effort Galapagos looks to make to local parents in its new home. Something Elmes is hoping to start this fall is parallel programming for young children. As parents enjoy a performance downstairs, upstairs in the black box theater of the space their children can enjoy a performance of their own related to some theme or component of what their parents are watching.

As for future Kite Flying Society events, Elmes looks to hold contests and have the young fliers vie for the titles of biggest kite, smallest kite, worst kite, longest-flying kite and most-improved kite. A year-round society, when it gets too cold to fly or the weather doesn't cooperate, he plans on moving the activities indoors to Galapagos, where children can learn how to make their own kites.

The ultimate vision, though, is a sea of kites flying near the East River.

“I want to see 40 kites in the air,” said Elmes. “That's the idea.”

The DUMBO Kite Flying Society meets the first Saturday of the month, with the next one being September 6, at 9 a.m. at Brooklyn Bridge Park (the section at the foot of Main Street). For more information, call 718-222-8500 or go to

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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