Kite Festival Rewards Kids, Raises Funds and Delights Community

kite festival
Mini Tornado at 2010 Kite Festival | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Taking place at SunRiver Golf Course, family and friends of all ages are invited to spend the day and evening on the green with live music and entertainment at the 12th annual Dixie Escalante Electric Kit Festival April 16. There will be affordable food and play opportunities of a carnival nature. Admission into the festival is free.

The Kite Festival is a blue chip event that always delivers. It runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The headliner this year is a local musical group, Lawn Darts, offering a mixed variety of ’60s and ’70s music, suitable for all ages and tastes.

But the real headliner of the Kite Festival is its purpose – supporting and encouraging reading development in children, and its historic success.

“It is the largest single day, annual event in Southern Utah, attended by our local community (as opposed to those which draw from out-of-towners),” said Joe McKeehan, director of the Kite Festival. The Kite Festival was actually the brainchild of Pam Bundy back in 1999 but Royce Jones, business development director for Dixie Escalante Electric, and Don Lyman, general manager of Jones Paint & Glass, took the idea and ran with it.

Stella Iverson, Kite Festival Manager, called Jones “one of the greatest imagination minds in the Country.”  The directors of the Festival have changed over the years, keeping it fresh with new perspectives but the goal of the Festival has always been the same.

Iverson said that as they came up with “the idea of promoting reading as a fundamental basis of education for every child.  Students would be encouraged to read additional minutes at home.  A reading chart was developed and at the end of a three-month reading period, students could bring their charts to the Kite Festival to be rewarded with a kite.  In 2009, books were added as an additional choice for students to select for their reward.”

Over the years, a variety of incentives and competitions have been included, however those vary from year to year. The ultimate reward is to the children, the schools and, this year, additional rewards for teachers.

McKeehan said that a teacher reward is replacing the school competition awards because the committee recognized that teachers were also deserving of the opportunity for a reward. One of those this year will be a $1,000 reward for the winning teacher to use in his or her own classroom.

McKeehan emphasized that a large part of the success of the Kite Festival is that “there are no administrative fees, it is delivered through the contributions of volunteers, vendors and sponsors.”

And, as a result, he said, the “Washington County School Foundation has received $30,000 every year for the past four years, generated by the Kite Festival.”

McKeehan is optimistic that the Kite Festival can deliver similarly again this year.

St. George News contacted several of local schools and received anticipated assurances of like enthusiasm with nearly every call. “Our kids love it”; “our students have all their charts”; and “it’s for sure been a great incentive, we participate every year!”

Although the primary focus of the Kite Festival is on the elementary schools, intermediate schoolchildren do participate as well.  Vice Principal Mark Cottle of Tonaquint Intermediate School said that some of his science and language arts teachers do use the tool of the Kite Festival incentives to encourage their students.

As McKeehan said, “This Festival is to reward those children and their families who have earnestly made an effort to read and encourage reading,” working with elementary schools in the area to provide an incentive for improving reading skills and citizenship.

For Schedule of Events, Directions and more, visit

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.

Kite Flying 2010 Festival | Joyce Kuzmanic
2010 Kites Flying

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  • Jerry April 10, 2011 at 1:08 am

    I have taken my kids to the kite festival for 10 years. I disagree with this article that the kite festival offers affordable food and activites. It was affordable a few years ago. Now it costs $5-8 per person for food and the rides(one time down a inflatable slide!) are $2-3 each. If you have 2-3 kids and you eat and go on a few rides you would be paying $50 .There are also plenty of both trying to sell things to kids. as well as pricey sports camp booths. It is hard when these booths are bribing your kids with candy and telling them how much fun they will have if they come to thier cam or buy their toys. $50 is not easy for alot of families and the food is the same as fast food and the rides are just bouncy inflatable things so they are way overpriced. Last year my kids went and got thier free book (they offer books instead of kites) and left. I would rather spend our hard earned money on something better for my family then a few timesin a bouncy house and a hot dog. I remember 10 years ago , it was alll about families and kite flying. It was an enjoyable day. Now it is all about money making and kids begging.

  • Joyce Kuzmanic April 10, 2011 at 9:15 am

    You know, Jerry – your point is well taken and I will pass it on to the management of the Kite Festival. The point in the “affordable activities” is that this year the Kite Festival is offering FREE activities as well as those that the activity tickets purchase.

    The vendors actually pay more to participate in this event than any other event vendor fees in this region year round. As one, myself, I am willing to do that because I know it is part of what funds the charity purpose that ultimately benefits the kids and school and the purpose of stimulating their reading interest.

    That said, I have observed at many events the challenge the past couple years to parents with 3, 4, 5 of 7! kids in tow. I noticed this at the Washington County Fair and have noticed it at the Kite Festival. I’m not sure what the solution is – the vendors pay to be there, alot in this case, and I have tried to come up with kid / family suitable menu options and meal deals that make it more affordable (meal deals lower than those you identify). As food costs to the vendor continue to rise, alot of us are actually lowering our prices for the very reasons you fairly bring up. We still have to navigate this challenge without going in the red – and events being a gamble for vendors, subject to all sorts of contingencies, weather, turnout, and more, we tend to come out fair to midlin more often than well and yet we desire to participate for the benefit of these events.

    I am not sure I have the answers. But in defense of the Kite Festival, as that is our subject here, it might be considered worthy of expenditure for it’s valuable purpose – and while it is difficult I’m sure to deny children the activities that do cost, there are cost-free offerings – activities, music, and especially FLYING those beautiful kites, wind permitting!

    Your input will be appreciated and as I said, I will pass it on. The primary disagreement I offer is that it is not at all for the purpose of “money making” – quite the contrary – it is about kids and rasing funds for schools and teachers and motivating reading. It’s pretty difficult to raise funds without charging for some things. So your choice to participate needs to balance the purpose factor in with the cost factor for a large family, and that is understandable.

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