Return to the Weifang International Kite Festival 潍坊国际风筝节 after 30 Years!

My first adventure in kite flying in China took place 30 years ago when I accompanied the American Kitefliers delegation to the 4th Annual Weifang International Kite Festival in 1987. Our group was led by the legendary David Checkley (1917-1988) of Seattle, a kite enthusiast extraordinaire, who had worked with the City of Weifang in the early 1980s to establish an international event at their annual national kite flying festival and competition. In early 2017 I began planning a trip to Dalian to see my son and daughter in law, Chris and Lynn Mockford who were expecting a baby boy in April. Noticing that the 2017 Weifang Kite Festival would be held April 15-17 I wrote to Mr. Liu Zhiping, Director Weifang International Kite Festival about the event and I was happily surprised to receive an invitation to join them as an “old and distinguished friend” 30 years after my first visit to Weifang.

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In 1987 I at 4th Annual Weifang International Kite Festival I had won the award “One of the Top Ten Kitefliers in the World” and along with a certificate I was presented a wonderful Chinese dragon kite trophy that I donated to the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington. It was an appropriate home for the Weifang Kite because the museum contains the David Checkley Collection of Asian Kites that number over 700 kites from China, Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries that the Checkley’s donated to the museum initiating its establishment and making it a must see attraction at Long Beach Washington during the annual Washington State Kite Festival held annually in August as well as offering a variety of programs year round. The museum’s founding executive director Kay Buesing and her husband Jim were also members of our 1987 Kite flying delegation to China. Kay retired from the museum in the past year but continues to be involved and is known to Kitefliers around the world who attended the Washington State Kite Festival at Long Beach over the years. Therefore I carried a few simple World Kite Museum kites with me to fly in China and promote the museum that has the largest collection of Asian Kites and is a testimony to over 30 years of goodwill and friendship between China and the USA. See http://www.worldkitemuseum.com/ .

Weifang Kite Festival Program Cover

34th Weifang International Kite Festival Program Cover 2017

 

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As I was making arrangements to visit Weifang again Mr. Liu sent me another surprising invitation to come to China a week earlier and join him and other international kite delegates to the First Dunhuang International Kite Festival held April 8-9 in Gansu Province at the gateway to The Silk Road. We were enticed by the opportunity to visit the fabulous Mogao Caves and Singing Sand Mountain at Crescent Lake, an oasis in the midst of Sand Dunes as The Silk Road leaves Gansu Province for its long western journey across Xinjiang. So we moved our departure dates up in order to travel over 1,000 miles west from Beijing to Dunhuang and we got ready to fly our kites from the Silk Road to the sea!

See story in the Northwest China Council Newsletter

http://nwchina.org/kite-flying-along-the-silk-road/

 

 

 

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Ranald MacDonald Japanese Rokkaku Style Kite

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  The Ranald MacDonald Japanese Rokkaku style kite made its’s aerial maiden voyage October 7 and 8, 2017 at Long Beach, Washington State during the One Sky One World International Kite Fly for Peace (held annually, around the globe on … Continue reading

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A visit to the Mogao Caves

The Mogao Caves were something to look forward to seeing after a weekend of kite flying at the First International Dunhuang Kite Festival in April 2017. Located just 25 km outside of Dunhuang City our bus stopped at the interpretive center for an introduction and film of the history of the area and then we drove up to the cliffs where the entrance is centered amidst a system of 492 cave temples of which we would enter about 20 caves

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I was excited to visit the historical site because I had heard about the Mogao Caves from friends and family who had visited them and provided enthusiastic reports.  I also gained some further information about the caves during the 2916 Getty Museum exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang that I was unable to attend but followed online at http://www.getty.edu/research/exhibitions_events/exhibitions/cave_temples_dunhuang/index.html

Like many tourists to the area our kite delegation decided to get the feel of the silk road by heading on to Crescent Lake, a spring fed oasis in the shape of a half moon that offered a camel ride along the Singing Sand Mountain of dunes that surround the temple by Crescent Lake.

 

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Kite Flying on the Silk Road: First Dunhuang International Kite Festival

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To arrive in the proximity of Longitude 94° East we had traveled over 1,000 miles west from Beijing to Dunhuang in Gansu Province at the gateway to the Silk Road and arrived at Dunhuang on April 7 to be there for the opening ceremony … Continue reading

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2016 Centenary of The Somme in London

We were in London for the Centenary of The Somme on June 30, 2016 and Cheryl and I attended a segment of the All-Night Vigil at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended about an hour before we arrived and we saw the wreath Queen Elizabeth II presented at the Grave of the Unknown. We watched readings of “The story of the Battle of the Somme in their own words…” and a changing of the guard every 15 minutes for the hour or so that we observed the proceedings before lighting our candle to the memory of great uncle Herbert Mockford who was killed in combat on September 16, 1916 at The Somme.

We visited Imperial War Museum where “The Night Before The Somme” program included music and poetry and performance of “Dr. Blighty” in the Atium while we drank “Gunfire Tea” (a rum tea recipe that soldiers drank at the front during WWI).

I met author Taylor Downing for the book signing of his “Breakdown: The Crisis of Shell Shock on The Somme” and kept it for my in-flight reading on our journey home. The Finale in the Atrium was BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Stephanie Childress performing on the “Western Front Violin” made from trees that grew along the Somme Battlefield.

On July 1 we attended the performance of the Welsh National Opera presentation of “In Parenthesis” at Royal Opera House. This opera was commissioned as part of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and is based on the 1937 epic poem about WWI by David Jones, grandfather’s second cousin. After the opera we went out on the town with my second cousin Kitty Ellard whom we spent a couple of days with in London seeing some lesser known sites and we joined David Jones’s grand niece Sarah Williams (my 4th cousin) and her husband Ian whom I met in 2015 during the Faversham Nautical Festival at their home in Faversham, Kent.

As an executor of the Jones estate Sarah has been very involved with centenary activities involving the use of David Jones material in the Opera program and the exhibits of his paintings at galleries such as Palant House Gallery’s exhibit “David Jones: Vision and Memory.” in 2015. Art historian and BBC Producer, Kenneth Clark, believed that David Jones was the greatest British watercolourist of the 20th century and Author Mark Sheerin said, “Pallant has revived a painter with wit, verve, technique, and vision. David Jones has everything, except perhaps fame.” There has been a rediscovery of David Jones during the centenary of WWI and we found his name in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey as one of the Great War Poets.

The following week we went to France to attend Somme Centenary activities at the cemeteries and monuments at Mametz Wood, Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Thiepval, and many others.

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A visit to the Luxembourg American Cemetery

We visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery to pay our respects to the graves of Dad’s 11th Armored Division 55th Armored Infantry Battalion and all of those buried there including General George S. Patton. We brought photos of some of the men taken earlier in 1944 during Army training at Camp Cooke California before the 11th made the cross country trip by train and boarded ships for the trans-Atlantic voyage to England and then on to France where they prepared to enter the war. But upon the German attack at the Ardennes Forest on December 16 General Patton ordered a mobilization of his 3rd Army forces in a rapid response to relieve Bastogne and then push out the German forces from Belgium in last major battle of World War II known as The Battle of the Bulge.  Many of Dad’s Battalion, Company, Platoon, and Squad members died on the first day of combat when they attacked from their position at Margarotte through the Bois des Haies de Magery and to the village of Acul. We placed their photos and American Flags at the graves of these men in the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

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We looked for the grave of  First Sergeant Melvin L Dorsey first and found it in Plot A Row 3 Grave 24. Dad talked about Sergeant Dorsey and we had photos of him with Lt. Michaels taken at Camp Cooke during baseball games and in group photos such as their Half-track photo. Dad wrote on the back of one of the photos, “A hell of a good guy.” Melvin L.Dorsey was from Ohio and was killed in action on the first round of incoming mortar fire on their first day of combat on December 31, 1944.

dorsey-at-camp-cooke

We walked past row after row of graves looking for the names on our list and found many of the men we hoped to find taking photos and stopping to rest on a very hot and humid day in Luxembourg.

 

 

 

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A visit to Bastogne and Battle of the Bulge Battlefields

On July 4 2016 we arrived in Bastogne to see the places that my Dad was in combat during the Battle of the Bulge. Our first stop was McAuliffe Square to see the Sherman Tank that belonged to the 11th Armored Division and was stopped at Renuamont on December 30, 1944 when German soldiers captured its crew. The tank survived the war and was later renovated for placement as a monument at McAuliffe Square.

Our big tour began the next day when we toured the Bastogne War Museum and Mardasson Memorial that remembers the 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing in the Battle of the Bulge. Then we met Belgian historian Roger Marquet and his wife Monique who took us on a tour of the small villages and forests to the west of Bastogne where Dad’s first day of combat began on Dec. 31, 1944 at Margarotte. Roger Marquet met Dad at an 11th Armored Division Association convention some years ago and kept in touch by email over the years. I had contacted Roger Marquet with some research questions during our 2011 Veterans tour of Germany, Czech Republic and Austria although we did not visit Belgium on that tour. I wrote to Roger Marquet again in 2016 as we prepared for our trip and he and Monique kindly drove us to the exact places where Dad’s 11th Armored Division 55th Armored Infantry Battalion Company C had been in combat in 1944-1945.

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It was a remarkable day and a very moving experience to see these places and hear Roger Marquet’s stories of Dad’s battalion that mirrored some of Dad’s stories and provided greater detail to the stories I had heard from Dad over the years. We literally walked in Dad’s footsteps as we stopped at the village of Margarotte and then walked the road where the half tracks had stopped in December 1944 in order for Company C to begin their siege position to advance across the fields and into the woods called Bois De Magery and beyond towards Acul another very small village where the combat was fierce. Many of Dad’s friends from Army training at Camp Cooke died on the first day of combat. We brought their photos with us to place at their graves with American flags when we visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery a few days later. A plaque commemorating the sacrifice of the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion was placed in the village of Tillet, Belgium. From Tillet we drove to the Bois Jacques of Band of Brothers fame and saw the fox holes dug by the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company when they held the woods in January 1945 and only about a mile from where Dad’s company was located on January 14, 1945, the coldest night of the war as described by Sgt Don Malarkey in his book “Easy Company Soldier”  on page 191. Sixty five years later on January 25, 2010 while Dad was recovering from heart surgery at Portland’s Providence Hospital I met Don Malarkey at McMemamins Kennedy School History Pub and he autographed his book with a “Hi Rog” that I took back to the hospital for Dad to read.

The visit to Bastogne and the 11th Armored Division combat trail from Margarotte to Acul and Tillet and many other places continued as we drove through the Ardennes and to the German border where Dad carried a flame-thrower through the Siegfried Line and into the next stage of the war which was to end months later for the 11th Armored Division in Austria. In 2011 we toured the final path of that historic battle trail that culminated with the annual memorial ceremonies at Mauthausen Concentration Camp. On this trip however we circled back from the German border areas to Luxembourg to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

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