Callaway with Friends

Scott Skinner
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I’ve told the story to many of you, but it bears repeating now that I’ve taken two old kite flying friends with me to Callaway, Nebraska. Twenty-four years ago I was contacted by a woman who knew nothing about kites and kite flying, but who was the #1 advocate for her small Nebraska town of Callaway. Working for the local chamber of commerce, Connie May called me to see if a local kite fly might be a way for the town to attract late-summer, Labor Day tourists. Callaway is a town of about 1,000 people, most of whom farm or support farming – corn fields stretch in every direction from the edges of town. Connie was looking for a wholesome event that the local infrastructure could support, and she explained that while there was one hotel (the Motel Four, more about this later) fliers could camp in the city park, use the municipal pool showers, and be treated to a local bake sale, karaoke in the park, and impromptu events that might happen over the long weekend.

As it turned out, I couldn’t even come to that first Callaway Kite Flight, I’m pretty sure I was committed to Dieppe, France, but I did drive out and set up kites in Callaway’s local library, to be picked up after the event. In retrieving the kites, I found that Connie was completely enamored by the success of the first fly and that this would be an annual event. Now, 23 years later, I convinced Ron Gibian and Jose Sainz to come with me and see if they might be as impressed as I am with the kite flying purity of this event. Early on, Connie and I had decided that this fly would have no formal contests. It would be a showcase for fliers of single and multi-line kites, purely for the enjoyment of the audience (and that meant the enjoyment of the fliers, as well). Jose and Ron flew into Denver to begin our journey to Callaway.

It’s really not so bad that the drive from Colorado Springs to Callaway is six hours, but Nebraska is on Central time, so the six hours becomes seven when you factor that in. I warned my passengers that this was the case, but by getting a fairly early start, I knew that our lunch stop would be the first of their unique impressions of Callaway. A couple hours “this side” of Callaway, and right off the interstate in a town even smaller that Callaway is Ole’s in Paxton. The original family who owned Ole’s traveled all over the world on hunting trips, and the bounty of their travels adorns the walls of the restaurant and tavern. Deer, elk, bison, even a standing polar bear decorate almost every vertical surface. These days it strikes the first-timer as the most politically-incorrect place on the planet, but ask Jose or Ron if it’s also one of the most memorable!

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