Sky High Kite Collection

Kite collector Con Engels has a soaring collection of “flying art.”



Photos by Becky Thurner Braddock

“When people collect kites, they collect them to fly, not to hang on the wall. Kites are flying art,” says Conrad Engels, who goes by “Con.” In his Economy Borough home that doubles as his kite shop, Engels houses a collection of several hundred kites, ranging in size from smaller than a thumbnail to a delta-shaped kite that is 14 feet wide.

Engels inherited his love of kites from his late grandfather, Leo Lacher. “My grandpap lived on Troy Hill, and every spring when I was a kid we would go to a five-and-dime and buy a diamond-shaped paper kite, and he’d rip sheets to tie on the tail,” Engels says. “We’d go to a park and fly together, and he really knew what he was doing.” In the 1980s, Engels’ brother and sister, Chris and Cassy Engelsiepen, bought their grandfather a rip-stop nylon kite, and when their grandfather died in 1991, the family agreed Engels should have it. Today it’s the sentimental centerpiece of his collection.

Engels’ colorful array of kites, which began with single-line diamond and delta shapes, now includes challenging single-line kites such as rokaku (six-sided traditional Japanese fighter kites that battle to knock each other out of the sky); cellular kites (including box kites); single, dual or quad-line parafoil kites (ones that are frameless and inflated by the wind); figure kites (kites in the shapes of figures, such as animals or objects, like a guitar); power kites (large kites designed for pulling people on skis or skates); UFOs (“Ultimate Fun Objects,” Engels says, which were invented by Lee Sedgwick, of Erie, Pa.); and sport and stunt kites, including his personal favorites, Skydancers.

Skydancers, Engels explains, are quad-line stunt kites invented by David Davies, who lived in a suburb of London. Engels was such a fan of the kite that he developed a friendship through correspondence with the master kite maker. When Davies died last year at age 82, his family sent Engels templates for all of his kite designs.

The pride of Engels’ collection is a Puff the Magic Dragon Skydancer kite, which beats its wings while in flight. “There are only five of these known to exist in the world, but this was David’s personal kite,” Engels says with obvious affection. “He sent it to me as a gift with a note, and I’ll always treasure it.”

An active member of the Fly Pittsburgh Kite Club, Engels says flying in Pittsburgh can be more challenging than in other areas, such as Ocean City, Md., because Pittsburgh tends to get more gusting and swirling winds, not sustained straight winds. But he suggests a favorite spot. “The best place to fly in Pittsburgh, by far, is the Oval in Schenley Park. It’s flat; there’s plenty of room, and the wind tends to be just right,” he says. “Everyone should try flying kites. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you have a kite in the air.”


 

Click below to view a sampling of kites from the collection of Con Engels. To learn more about Con and his collection visit windstarkites.com.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.
Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

This third Renaissance has allowed us to be spectators as Pittsburgh changed from a city suffering the damages wrought by the collapse of its steel industry to a vibrant, active place known for its academic, medical and technology sectors.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

Wigle Whiskey Ripe for Expansion with Threadbare

The Strip District distillers will launch a hard cider business this fall.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

Head to 'Quick and Shameless' For an Unpredictable (and Essential) Night of Pittsburgh Comedy

The LGBTQ-friendly variety show offers one of the city's most unusual (and often unforgettable) lineups of comedic talent.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

Love and Lace: Six Stand-Out Dresses

To coincide with the launch of our Spring 2016 Weddings magazine, we’ve created a Week of Wedded Bliss — seven stories to introduce you to the couples featured in our Real Pittsburgh Weddings. On day two, we fall head over heels in love with these six dresses.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Pillow Talk: Pittsburgh's Skyline Inspires New Design Line

Check out the new pillow collection from local interior designer Zach Mitchell. Plus, get the scoop on The Pittsburgh Christmas Carol Tour.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments