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

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

We scoured the region to bring you 53 items we’ve deemed this year’s “Best of the ’Burgh,” as well as 8 stellar local Instagram accounts you don’t want to miss.
See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

After writing for seven years about the city for Pittsburgh Magazine and pittsburghmagazine.com, Virginia Montanez is discontinuing her blog and column.
Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

The restaurant at Ace Hotel in East Liberty hits some high notes as it finds itself.
Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

During her final season of professional basketball, Cash remains ferocious on the court and selfless everywhere else.
Idol Find: Pittsburgh Rapper Teams Up with Dad Jimmy McNichol for New Show

Idol Find: Pittsburgh Rapper Teams Up with Dad Jimmy McNichol for New Show

Research led Kellee Maize to discover she is the daughter of the former teen singing sensation. Now she and McNichol are teaming up to develop a television series to help other parents and children find each other.
Daytripping: Rating the Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

Daytripping: Rating the Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

One day, 18 roller coasters, four queasy stomachs, two cheeseburgers, one fried dough … whew.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Downtown Restaurant Owners Win Big

Downtown Restaurant Owners Win Big

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group are among the regional winners of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Stops In Pittsburgh

James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Stops In Pittsburgh

Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino of Cure and Morcilla organized the event, which featured celebrated chefs from DC, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Beer Cults and Brick Ovens: An Evening at Fuel & Fuddle

Beer Cults and Brick Ovens: An Evening at Fuel & Fuddle

The restaurant and bar in Oakland welcomes college students and locals alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Bucs' Biggest Problem Easier to Identify than Solve

Bucs' Biggest Problem Easier to Identify than Solve

As the Pirates try to climb out of a demoralizing slump, one factor has emerged as the team's biggest shortcoming.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Add a Bygone Beacon to Your Living Room

Add a Bygone Beacon to Your Living Room

Vintage signs can add a pop of personality to your decor.

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.
Demons, Orcs, Hipsters and More at the Multiplex

Demons, Orcs, Hipsters and More at the Multiplex

Reviews of "The Conjuring 2," "Warcraft," "Maggie's Plan," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Noah’s Ark Nuptials: One Couple’s Kennywood Wedding

Noah’s Ark Nuptials: One Couple’s Kennywood Wedding

The restoration of the iconic Noah’s Ark whale entrance came just in time to be the backdrop for this Pittsburgh couple’s wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Purple Reign: PPG Paints Unveils 2017 Color of the Year

Purple Reign: PPG Paints Unveils 2017 Color of the Year

Violet Verbena’s grey-purple tones are playful, elegant and calming. Plus, get the history behind some of Pittsburgh's architectural wonders.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Summer Robotics Camp Offered to High-School Students

Summer Robotics Camp Offered to High-School Students

The camp is a collaboration between two area universities and is open to students entering grades 9-12.

Comments