Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


The Time to #GiveBigPittsburgh is Almost Here

The Time to #GiveBigPittsburgh is Almost Here

Make your donation go farther on the one-day charitable giving bonanza.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Just in Time for the Holidays: Miracle Returns to Downtown

Just in Time for the Holidays: Miracle Returns to Downtown

The over-the-top holiday-themed bar opens at the Original Oyster House the night after Thanksgiving.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Meet the Winner of Our 2017 Cutest Pet Contest

Meet the Winner of Our 2017 Cutest Pet Contest

The winner received the most votes among five dogs, four cats and a bunny.

Comments


Steal the Crown Jewels at Escape Room 51

Steal the Crown Jewels at Escape Room 51

The new escape game is instantly among the best in town.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Are Steelers Good Enough to Overcome Themselves?

Are Steelers Good Enough to Overcome Themselves?

The time has come for the offense to more often resemble what everyone thought it would become this season, as opposed to sinking on occasion to a Cleveland Browns-esque level of ineptitude.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Pixar's Coco is a Visual Stunner, While Last Flag Flying is a Knockout

Pixar's Coco is a Visual Stunner, While Last Flag Flying is a Knockout

Reviews of "Coco," "Last Flag Flying" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Only in Pittsburgh: The Blast Furnace Wedding Venue

Only in Pittsburgh: The Blast Furnace Wedding Venue

Carrie Furnace is one of three intimate, uniquely Pittsburgh wedding venues that can accommodate every style from homestyle to rock-and-roll.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Bright Living: ‘Lumiere’ Condos Slated for Former Saks Downtown

Bright Living: ‘Lumiere’ Condos Slated for Former Saks Downtown

Named after the French word for light, the 86-unit mixed-use development, which will include a Fogo de Chao steakhouse as a tenant, offers folding glass walls in its residences to create an open-air living space.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module