Holi FestiKite, Batman!

FestiKites, Hindu Holi Festival share Palmer Field
UM students throwing Holi Powder on each other

UM students throwing Holi Powder at each other. "We aim not to eat the powder."

FestiKites last Sunday afternoon had been billed as a chance to come fly your own handmade kite at Palmer Field as a pre-FestiFools activity. The brisk temperatures, with a gray cloud ceiling threatening rain and little wind, meant that the sky was not exactly colored with kites.

But there were plenty of bright colors at ground level. On the edge of the field, University of Michigan students with the Hindu Students Council were flinging brightly colored powder at each other in a belated celebration of the Holi Festival, which is held at the end of the winter season.

Surabhi Pandit, president of the Hindu Students Council, said she hadn’t participated in a Holi Festival celebration until she came to UM, but had done so the last three years through HSC.   One organizer of FestiKites is Matthew Shlian, who teaches a UM course called “Paper Engineering and the Popup” through the Lloyd Hall Scholars program. He reported that before The Chronicle arrived, his students had tested out their creations that they’d made for his class. While there was some kite-flying activity that we were able to observe, it mostly was summed up by Timothy Corvidae – who was there with son, Ansel – who said that they’d achieved kite-making success, but kite-flying success had been more tenuous.

Two guys goofing off with a kite in a field

Michael Flynn and Matthew Shlian fooling around with kites on Sunday at Palmer Field.

Among those we witnessed actually getting a kite off the ground was Michael Flynn, who had also popped up – like one of Shlian’s books – earlier in The Chronicle’s weekend travels. Even though he achieved modest success with his kite, what he’d really wanted to do was mount a miniature wireless camera on a kite, and let it fly higher than the other kites, and then capture images of people’s creations riding the air currents – from above. The plan foundered on the calm conditions.

Benjamin Teague had brought a kite, but based on the wind conditions, said he didn’t even need to try to know that it wouldn’t fly.  Teague said he had some experience building ceramic kites, as well as ceramic boomerangs and airplanes. You get only one chance, he said. If a ceramic kite crashes, it shatters. He cited Yasuaki Ninomiya’s book “White Wings: Excellent Paper Airplanes,” as piquing his interest in gliding objects.

close up of wireless camera for kites

Michael Flynn displays the wireless camera (in hand) and monitor (on the ground) he'd intended to send aloft.

guys with kites looking at students throwing Holi powder at each other

Michael Flynn and Benjamin Teague frame the celebrants of the Holi Festival.

Guy standing with a kite in Palmer Field

Patrick Haggood waits for his wife to return with the cross-bar to the kite, which they had inadvertently left at home.

Guy carrying a kite

Matthew Shlian, co-chair of FestiKites.