American-born Ron, a resident of Thailand for more than 40 years, got his first introduction to creative kiting in the 70s. “I was working in Sweden and enjoying a 'creative life' as Art Director at one of Stockholm's most creative agencies. It was on a memorable weekend in Stockholm at the Gardet Kite Festival that I saw amazing kite creations made by the students of Konstfact, the Swedish University of Arts, Crafts and Design. The seed was planted, and I immediately made my first kite, a two-meter bird.
“In 1974 I accepted a dream offer in faraway Bangkok at the Couldry, Jones & Lindberg ad agency to work on the Thai International Airways account with Thai's marketing guru, Roy Howard.”
In March 1975 I ventured to Sanam Luang to view the traditional Thai kite competition. It wasn't long before I made friends with the kite teams who were more than willing to explain to me the intricate details of their 'Royal' art.
The 'champion' team, awarded the Royal Kings Cup that year was headed by a wonderfully gifted kite maker Boontham Himskul, well known by his nickname 'Loong Sup'.
In over 40 years of competition, Boontham's team have proudly won more than 35 Royal Cup Championships. Long Sup is a master Chula completion kite maker, and a true champion of the unique traditional Thailand Chula & Pakpao 'Royal' kite competition.
My first International Kite Festival
The following year I attended my first 'International Kite Festival' in Singapore. It was a window to a whole new world of modern kite creations. I was hooked.
I returned home and bought kite making books and subscribed to kite club newsletters and magazines from around the world. At this time I had two small children, so our weekend adventures often included going to the park to fly the little kite creations they had made.
At the Singapore IKF I would rub shoulders with many of the world-famous kite designers that I had been reading about. Mega kites from New Zealand, engineering marvels from Germany and Japanese art kite masters. Again, another whole world of kiting presented itself to me.
On the first day of the Singapore event, the organizer mentioned to my surprise that there were some traditional kite fliers from Thailand in attendance, and he asked why they weren't flying. The group was standing alone at the far end of the arena, so I walked over to them. They told me that to simply put the kite 'up' and stand there and look on had no purpose. Kite flying, for them, was the real 'competition.'
I understood, so I went to the organizer and requested a 10-minute slot (and a space in the sky) for a presentation of the unique Thailand Chula & Pakpao 'Royal' kite competition. I became the announcer (speaking English in Singapore was no problem) and explained how the big 'male' Chula kite was trying to catch the little 'female' Pakpao kite, and vice-versa.
I also explained that this ‘competition’ was royal tradition dating back to the palaces of Sukhothai and has remained unchanged to this day. The presentation proved hugely popular and prompted a flood of questions from the many journalists there.
The next year, 1977, by invitation, I led a delegation of Chula & Pakpao kite competition kite masters to Singapore. I had prepared a press release to distribute so that I didn't have to answer the same questions over and over. That worked well.
For our third Singapore IKF in 1978, I was well prepared with a five-meter photo exhibition wall, a six-man champion team with traditional uniforms (white Rachapatan jackets, gold buttons and 'joongaben' pants) and masterfully crafted kites flown by the master himself, Khun Boontham.
I had also produced a four-page introduction brochure about Thailand's traditional Chula & Pakpao kite competition.
The Thai Kite Heritage Group (TKHG)
The Singapore presentation attracted worldwide attention, so much so that in the following year we were invited to exhibit at England's largest kite festival at the time in Sunderland. Representing Thailand, Thai International Airlines (THAI) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), we were now recognized as the Thai Kite Heritage Group (TKHG).”
Bringing the kites of Thailand to the world
Organizers of kite festivals around the world were now inviting the Thai Kite Heritage Group as the event’s star attraction, with Thailand receiving great publicity.
In the following years the TKHG was invited to exhibit, demonstrate and represent Thailand at major events in the USA, Germany, Japan Malaysia, Italy, Holland, France, Singapore and Indonesia.
With continuing support from THAI and the TAT, Thai Kite Heritage Group would be the highlight of the event, and was always featured on local and national TV.
The TKHG 'Grand Presentation'
As a Creative Director, my professional experience in designing exhibitions proved invaluable. Our Thailand TKHG presentation had to represent the 'Royal' history and Thailand at a high level. Not just another travel show poster collection.
My TKHG presentation was now a comprehensive 20-meter photo exhibition wall, a BBC video loop, master kites, the special paper, the bamboo and its preparation, the tools used and the making of the string.
I produced a comprehensive 10 page give-away English language brochure about the traditional royal Chula & Pakpao kites, the competition, its history, historical photos, detailed construction drawings and action photos. Members of the TKHG kite team, all champions, were properly outfitted with traditional white 'rachapatan' jackets, gold buttons and 'joongaben' pants.
The TKHG presentation was 'grand' and the daily scheduled flying demonstrations were always the highlight' of every festival.
The TKHG presentation includes TAT and THAI
The TKHG 20-meter exhibition wall panels also included a beautiful photo presentation of Thailand as a wonderful tourist destination (TAT) and Thai International as the national carrier of choice with photos their new aircraft and a beautiful smiling THAI hostess.
Dieppe, France 2010, Thailand is
'Country of Honor'
From 1990 to 2008 The Thai Kite Heritage Group always proudly accepted an invitation to represent Thailand to exhibit and demonstrate at the bi-annual Dieppe IKF, the world's biggest and most prestigious IKF. Dieppe is on the west coast of France, only three hours from Paris.
Then in 2010, the City of Dieppe invited Thailand (the Thai Kite Heritage Group) to be the festival's 'Country of Honor'. Could I do it? Yes!! I accepted the challenge... a mega challenge. It is a nine-day event with over two million spectators. This was serious.
The TKHG traveled on THAI to Dieppe with 50 persons and 2,000 kgs of gear: eight kite masters, 17 classical dancers and 12 Institute, 500 full-colour French language brochures about Thailand’s Royal Chula & Pakpao kite competition heritage from past to present, 10 VIPs from the TAT including the Governor of the TAT, and the then Minister of Tourism and Sports, Khun Chumpol Silpaarcha, plus two organizers - my wife and I.
The Dieppe, France 2010, Thailand ‘Country of Honor’ presentation, demonstration and exhibition proved an overwhelming success and was named the ‘Most Innovative Tourism Event of 2010’ by the Ministry of Tourism.
The following year, the Ministry of Tourism officially honoured me with a prestigious award for organising the ‘Most Innovative Tourism Event of 2010’ .
I'm proud that over the years I have been able to be a cultural ambassador for Thailand by ‘bringing the kites of Thailand to the world... and the kites of the world to Thailand’.
Thailand's first IKF in Pattaya
In 1987, Khun Seri Wangpaichit, then Governor of the TAT, decided to have Thailand's first International Kite Festival, in Pattaya. I proudly assisted the TAT to gather 30 of the world's best kite makers for this prestigious event with Royal attendance. These kite fliers knew me and I knew them... they readily accepted our invitation. It was a mega PR success.
Thailand (TAT) IKFs 1989 to 2010
From 1988 to 2010, and in 2018 the TAT Thailand International Kite Festival (IKF) immediately became the 'biggest and best' most sought after kite event in Asia. Held bi-annually at different venues, including Pattaya, Ayudhya, Bangkok's Sanam Luang and Cha Am. The TAT were good partners.
In 2017 the Satun IKF becomes Asia's
'biggest and best' IKF
Then in 2017, the CEO of the City of Satun, Khun Samrit Liangprasit, chose to make the yearly local Satun kite competition an International event to bring attention to the tourism potential of Satun Provence. IKF kite festivals are high profile social media events that worked well for Satun.
At Khun Samrit's request, I proudly assisted the City of Satun to identify and invite the world's best kite makers to Satun.
From 2011 to 2020, the yearly Satun IKF grew rapidly in both size and world-wide recognition. The Satun IKF rapidly became Asia's 'biggest and best' IKF. The 2020 Satun IKF hosted 125 kite delegates from 37 countries.
The Asian Kite Circuit
The Satun IKF is now the first stop in the Asian Kite Circuit. I put together a joint cooperation between Thailand's Satun and the Malaysian's Kite Association linking Satun, with Pasir Gudang, Kabong, Labuan, Malacca and Brunei.
The Kite Couple: "We tether together"
The Kite Couple... Baew and myself representing Thailand around the world.
Around the year 2013, local and international kite festival budgets shrank, making it impossible for the international kite festival organizers to invite and support our TKHG team of 10 traditional persons.
By this time my wife and I were well known around the world, not only as kite festival organisers, but simply as The Kite Couple. I represent the USA and my wife Baew represents Thailand.
As the Kite Couple, we received invitations to more IKF events around the world than we could possibly accept. From 2015 through 2019, we, as 'official delegates' attended more than 130 international kite festivals in many different countries.
I was making and flying 'Big' kites... a 15 meter 'Bol', a
30 meter octopus, a 20 sq.m 'Flowform' with 30 meter tube
tails, plus kites for every wind condition. I was recognized
as a 'hard working, always on the field' kite flyer.
e are invited to 'put on a show', so with respect to the organizer, my job there is get the job done no matter what the conditions may be: hot, cold, rain, no wind, strong wind. I am always around and as a result, I see myself on TV at every event saying something special about that event.
"I'm extremely thankful for the life I'm living... I enjoy every minute of it. "
• 2015, as The Kite Couple, we attended 23 international and five local festivals. That's 28 weekends out of 53. Dubai, India, Malaysia, Italy, China (nine mega festivals), Vietnam, Korea, Japan and Singapore.
• 2016, we attended 32 festivals, almost non-stop traveling. Again, most of the above countries... plus England, France and 15 festivals in China.
• 2017, 37 festivals, most of the above countries... including Turkey, Taiwan, Korea, Qatar and 14 festivals in China.
• 2018, 27 festivals, most of the above countries... including 12 festivals in China.
• 2019, 14 festivals, some of the above countries, plus Brunei and eight festivals in China.
• 2020, two local festivals: the Surat Thani IKF in January and the Satun IKF in February... then 'Lock Down'
A 'close knit' community whatever the weather!
My 'friends' are not just Facebook names, they are good friends, a close knit community from every corner of the world. Together as close friends, we have weathered typhoons in Taiwan, freezing rain in Daishan, sand storms in Inner Mongolia, no wind in India, never ending airline cues, wet kites, damaged kites, on-the-spot kite repairs and enjoyed food that we've never heard of.
I've experienced so many 'memorable moments' shared with thousands of people we've had a brief contact with, beyond language barriers:
• the little boy who holds a kite line for the first time
• the King who says ‘Thank you Ron’
• the Sultan who warmly welcomes me
• the hug from an old woman who thought that never in her lifetime, would she ever have the opportunity to meet an 'American'
• the unexpected, overwhelming, rousing applause in Vietnam for 'the American delegate' by at least 100,000 people
• the Chinese lady in Inner Mongolia who appeared from nowhere with a needle, a thread and a big smile to repair my torn kite
It's a never ending list.
I've spent my life enjoying wonderful kite flying adventures all over the world with my wife.
My motto: "Live with your Passion”.
I greatly appreciate all of the wonderful creative people who have helped my along my journey... my professional life and my kite world.”