WKA was formed by a small group of kite enthusiasts in the early 1970s. Founding Fathers were Dave Checkley, Jack Van Gilder, Tony Toledo, Harold Writer, Ken Conrad, Tom Sisson, Bill Spezia, Jim Carnwath, and John Dusenberry. Because kite flying was too much fun, why worry about details like Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws? They simply sent out a newsletter with gathering places to fly.
According to the September 1974 newsletter, “After only one year of operation, W.K.A. has about 95 paid-up members, the largest local group of kitefliers in the country, according to Bob Ingraham of the American Kitefliers Association. Seattle also has more A.K.A. members than any other city in the U.S.” Articles of Incorporation were developed May 1976, but it wasn’t until December 1985 before WKA’s Constitution was created, taking the first step in gaining a nonprofit tax-exempt status.
Weekly fly-ins were held at many Seattle parks—Stan Sayers Memorial Park (now Genesee Park), Golden Gardens, Volunteer Park, Gas Works Park, Sand Point Naval Station Seattle (now Magnuson Park). Kite fly’s traveled to Westport, Grayland, Long Beach, Vancouver B.C., and other locations. During this time the annual tradition began for flying kites on New Year’s Day at Golden Gardens, now dubbed Protest The Bowls, as an alternative activity to watching television football bowls.
Special kite events included the Festivals of Kites exhibitions in the Pacific Science Center; inaugural ceremonies for the opening of Boeing’s Museum of Flight; the dedications of the Rainier Bank Tower in downtown Seattle, Magnuson Park at Sand Point, Crossroads Park in Bellevue, and the Beacon Hill Park; a celebration for the new Seattle trolley cars; and at one of the early Bellevue Arts & Crafts Fairs. Special fly-ins were held on the Seattle Center fairgrounds by the International Fountain and in Seattle’s Chinese Garden. Jack Van Gilder flew a Philippine Fighter Kite so high that it landed on the observation deck of the Space Needle. Even a boat fly was attempted by flying a kite from the stern of a boat.
For many years, kites flew next to, and later inside, University of Washington’s Husky Stadium during football games. The WKA has been represented during half times for the Seattle Sounder soccer games in the former Kingdome. Two indoor world records were set in the Kingdome—the old record broken on January 31/February 1, 1979, with a flight of 9 hours 13 minutes. This record was broken on February 7/8, 1980, for 39 hours 53 minutes. The flying team was the same on both occasions—Carl Brewer, Tom Sisson, and Bob McCort.
David Checkley, Jack Van Gilder, and other “high fliers” have left us with many kite flying adventures to read about in the WKA archives. We thank David, Jack, and the others for their initial gathering to fly kites, and for the formation of the Washington Kitefliers Association. See more history under the Newsletters and Education tabs.