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Canal kite grounded

Members of the Wisconsin Kiters Club struggle to keep large colorful kites airborne -- and to prevent them from tangling with other kites -- at Saturday's family kite-flying event behind Tivoli on the Divine Savior Healthcare campus.

While passers-by were saying “ooh” and “aah,” Steve Nicol was saying, “Uh-oh.”

The skies above the Divine Savior Healthcare campus Saturday were ablaze with kites of many colors and shapes, so much so that people parked their cars around the hospital and Tivoli to watch them.

The Canal Days Kite Fly is part of Portage’s community celebration, which ran from Friday through Sunday.

There were animals (variations of octopi, and at least one horse), and there were kites that were just plain colorful, like the rainbow-hued circle.

But to Nicol, a member of the Wisconsin Kiters Club who hails from Waukesha, the view from the ground included numerous tangles and snarls.

On a scale of one to 10 – with 10 representing ideal kite-flying conditions – Saturday was “about a five or a six,” Nicol said.

“It’s not perfect kite weather,” he said. “We need steady winds, not swirling winds.”

Some of the flyers had more than one kite in the air at a time.

But from time to time, LeAnn Lawer of Kaukauna had to bring her kites back to the ground, because the wind had calmed, or because their lines were tangled with those of other kites.

“We’d have more kites in the air,” she said, “if the wind weren’t so squirrelly.”

While the atmosphere wasn’t perfect, the location was. Most of the kites were launched from a large open field behind Tivoli, the Divine Savior extended-care facility – a field with no wires or trees.

Bob Klopke of Gresham rated the kite-flying atmospheric conditions at “about an eight” as he flew an eye-catching kite depicting a man holding on to tail of an airplane.

That’s his Wallace and Gromit kite, and that’s Wallace hanging by his knuckles from the plane. Wallace and Gromit (a dog) are British stop-action animated characters, and Klopke had his kite made especially for him in England. To his knowledge, there are only two such kites in the United States.

“Gromit,” he said, “is piloting the plane.