Every summer the families with Down Syndrome children come and spend a wonderful day enjoying the sea, wind, sun, food, and fun at Rockport’s Beach Park. Kite fliers come from surrounding clubs and entertain the families with displays and demos for the entire day, the joy in those little faces make the hearts of the fliers sing.
It all began back in 2003 with nine families in attendance, established in honor of the memory of their granddaughter, Audrey, locals Bill and Jackie Schockley of Rockport along with their son Ray, elicited a group of volunteers to organize and provide fishing, kayaking, kite flying, great BBQ, and burgers for the members of the Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio. Jackie contacted Dano Wright of the Coastal Bend Skypirates, the local kite fliers club and asked if they could participate with kites. The local club members responded with several displays of banners, single line kites and numerous demonstrations for the challenged kids and their parents and siblings. Fellow kite fliers from South Padre Island Kite Enthusiasts club [SPIKE] traveled up to Rockport at their own expense and assisted in the efforts, the combined talents were so well received that the Skypirates have invited kite fliers from several “adjacent” kite clubs to come and be involved each and every year since. The second year of the event had twenty families in attendance and in 2009 there were 57 special kids’ families and with the volunteers the attendance was over 350 people. Kite clubs from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, South Padre, and individual fliers from as far away as Nebraska, Iowa, and Arizona have all assisted in the efforts throughout the past 11 years of this event. Texas clubs that have “represented” in the past are Cloud Chasers of Austin metro area, SPIKE of South Padre and the Valley has had a showing every year, SHARK from Houston metro area have been strong supporters as well as the host group; the Coastal Bend Skypirates. The kite fliers usually have a “Meet and Greet” happy hour and/or evening meal at a local restaurant, this year it was not in the cards as most fliers had schedules allowing only for a “single day” trip. Sunday usually will see some fliers join for an informal fly, a day trip bird watching, or just a late brunch and a bit of “hang out” time with pals.
The Rockport area has numerous attractions to visit for those who would rather see something besides kites for the balance of the week-end. We have aquariums, museums, art centers and numerous galleries, gift and “nautical stuff” shops in a walking friendly downtown Heritage District. So even the “non-flying” members of the family can stay entertained. There are numerous culinary choices that run the gamut, from short order grills, to very fine dining amid the most exquisite art pieces on the walls. Of course seafood is the main attraction, but Texas style BBQ, Italian, Haute cuisine; even gourmet pizza items are available.
This year we were sweating the weather conditions as there had been very nasty storms in the preceding days with Tropical Storm “Bill” being a player. AS it were it was a near perfect day, partly cloudy with winds in the perfect range of 10 mph building as it does to about 18 by afternoon. No kite calamities this year as in past events and all parties went home with smiles.
The event is now a fully recognized 501C charity and is held every year on the Saturday one week before Fathers Day, falling in the middle of June. The kites have historically surrounded the mid-beach area, even had both the festival grounds and the “circle” kite field filled with large display kites all manned by volunteer fliers.
I must say that my greatest joy in being part of this event is seeing the delight in those faces when they experience kite flying, sometimes for the first time and the chance it gives the parents to share that experience with their child. Those Moms and Dads have a real challenge in caring for these kids, and all of the kite folks that do this event know that we are helping to give them a “Special” day.
We have a slideshow depicting thew kites, fliers, and attendees over the past years, enjoy the images —-Audreys Day the Movie