If you go


Driving miles, Bend to Lincoln City, 380 miles (round trip) at $2.70/mile $41.04

Lodging (two nights), Surftides Lincoln City $198.98

Dinner, MIST Restaurant $64.50

Brunch, Vivian’s Restaurant $35.88

Glass art, Jennifer Sears studio $65

Dinner, Fathoms at Inn at Spanish Head $65.75

Breakfast, Pig & Pancake $29

TOTAL $500.15


Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau. 801 SW U.S. Highway 101, Suite 401; oregoncoast.org, 541-996-1274, 800-452-2151.


Chinook Winds Casino Resort. 1777 NW 44th St.; chinookwindscasino.com, 541-994-3655, 877-423-2241. Rates from $64. Six restaurants serve three meals every day; budget to expensive.

Inn at Spanish Head. 4009 SW U.S. Highway 101; spanishhead.com, 541-996-2161, 800-452-8127. Rates from $230. Fathoms restaurant (541-994-1601) serves three meals every day; moderate to expensive.

Surftides Lincoln City. 2945 NW Jetty Ave.; surftideslincolncity.com, 541-994-2191, 800-452-2159. Rates from $89.99. MIST Restaurant and Lounge (541-994-3877) serves three meals every day; moderate to expensive.


Blackfish Café. 2733 NW U.S. Highway 101; blackfishcafe.com, 541-996-1007. Lunch and dinner Wednesday to Monday. Moderate to expensive

Hearth & Table. 600 SE U.S. Highway 101; hearthandtablekitchen.com, 541-614-0966. Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday, dinner from 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Moderate

Pier 101. 415 SW U.S. Highway 101; pier101deluxebarandgrill.com, 541-994-8804. Lunch Friday to Sunday, dinner nightly. Moderate

Pig ‘N Pancake. 3910 NE U.S. Highway 101; pignpancake.com, 541-994-3268. Three meals every day. Low moderate

Vivian’s Restaurant & Bill’s Barbecue. 1115 SE First St.; viviansrestaurant.net, 541-994-3667. Breakfast and lunch every day, dinner Thursday to Saturday. Low moderate


Alder House III. 611 Immonen Road; alderhouse.com, 541-996-2483.

Connie Hansen Garden. 1931 NW 33rd St.; conniehansengarden.com, 541-994-6338.

Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio. 4821 SW U.S. Highway 101; jennifersearsglassart.com, 541-996-2569.

North Lincoln County Historical Museum. 4907 SW U.S. Highway 101; northlincolncountyhistoricalmuseum.org, 541-996-6614.

Northwest Winds (Kites and Toys). 130 SE U.S. Highway 101; www.nwwinds.biz, 541-994-1004.

(All addresses in Lincoln City)

LINCOLN CITY — When this resort town on the Oregon Coast throws a party, everybody comes — even the whales.

As jumbo-sized kites rose above the sands at the D River State Wayside last weekend, kicking off the 39th annual Lincoln City Fall Kite Festival, a pair of their gray-whale brethren cruised down the Pacific coast, spouting high above the incoming surf.

Families that had gathered for the semiannual event (there’s also an annual Summer Kite Festival in late June) pointed and cheered, and the marine mammals responded, waving a fluke above the waters before disappearing.

By that time, however, the party was in full swing. Replicas of sharks and manta rays and octopi, some of them more than 60 feet long, hovered over the broad strand beside U.S. Highway 101. Colorful, hand-crafted spinners and streamers, tails and taffeta adorned the seaside playground like eye candy.

On one side of the beach, renowned sport flyers — many of them national champions — demonstrated their skill with dual-line and quad-line kites. The ability to make these ultra-light craft twist and bank at 90-degree angles, in sync with popular music, was frankly mind boggling.

Soon thereafter, kids (and some older folk with childlike minds) took center stage, pulling bowl-shaped, multihued “bols” into the southwest wind in an exercise that took more strength and fortitude than most had expected. Then the youngsters erupted into parade, their faces painted and their individual kites proudly displayed as they trod a circuit around a sandy arena.

I was sad to have missed Connor Doran, formerly of Bend and now of Federal Way, Washington. An “America’s Got Talent” semifinalist several years ago, Doran is recognized as one of this country’s finest kite flyers, and his Dare to Dream epilepsy awareness program has inspired people across North America.

The Oregon Coast is a great place to visit any time of year, and Lincoln City is one of its highlights. From its glass-art studios to its nautical antique stores, its beach nonpareil to its fine resort hotels and restaurants, the town of 9,000 — created in 1965 when five smaller villages incorporated as one — draws more in-state traffic than any other along this famously tempestuous coastline.

When the sun shines through the clouds, as it did during this year’s Fall Kite Festival, it’s even better. It’s time, as stated by state Rep. David Gomberg, a longtime organizer of the event, to “strip down to just one sweatshirt!”

Gomberg called kite flying “the perfect Northwest family activity.” And Michael Oswald, who owns (with his wife, Jackie), the Northwest Winds kite store directly opposite the D River Wayside, echoed his words.

“The festival is old-fashioned, clean family fun,” he said. “It will motivate you to go out and fly a kite. And it’s so colorful, it’s almost overstimulating for kids!”

Lightweight technology

When I was a Cub Scout of 8 or 9 years old, my father helped me construct a diamond-shaped kite for a spring jamboree. We built it of sturdy plastic with balsa-wood cross-slats and strings at its four corners. It probably wasn’t a lot different than something he might have made with newspaper, as a Depression-era child in Wisconsin.

Sadly, it didn’t fly. Try though we might, the wind that day was insufficient to lift our sturdy craft, tails and all, into the New England skies. At least we won an award — for simply trying, I suppose!

Today, the technology of kite flying has improved to a point where getting it in the air would not have been a problem.

“Newspaper and wood were heavy,” acknowledged Oswald. “You always had to run to make them go up. Now, the weights of kites have come down, and they go up in lighter winds.”

Every kite has a “wind range,” Oswald said. For his store’s most popular single-line kite, the triangular Delta, that range extends from a faint 4 miles per hour to a gusty 30. “Ideal winds are 7 to 18,” Oswald said. “High winds are more fun, and the Delta is much more stable than other kites as winds increase. What’s more, you no longer need tails for drag.”

A typical Delta, such as the 6-foot Spotlight model ($35), is made of ¾-inch rip-stop nylon with fiberglass spans that prevent major tears, Oswald said.

He always recommends single-line kites for people starting out. “They go up, and you can enjoy other activities,” he said. “A multiline kite is interactive. You are actually making it fly. You can’t go eat your lunch while it’s flying.”

But a two-line Delta (as little as $26) can take a hobbyist as little as 20 minutes to learn how to fly, said Oswald. And he’s glad to give a quick tutorial. “The No. 1, biggest mistake,” he said, “is not laying out all the 75 to 100 feet of line at the start. You don’t let the line out as it climbs. You create a draft by pulling back on the line.”

For quad-line kites (minimum $200), the learning curve is much slower, he said. “We recommend that you take two to three days of practice each month,” he said.

And then there are themed kites, small and large. A pirate ship and an image of “Star Wars” droid R2-D2 really do fly, Oswald assured me, while admitting that “there’s more money in what they look like than in how they fly.”

Three-ring circus

Longtime managers, the Oswalds bought Northwest Winds at the start of 2017 from founders David and Susan Gomberg, who have shown their kites in more countries, 40, than the number of years Lincoln City has had a kite festival: 39.

“We manufacture, design, wholesale and retail kites,” David Gomberg said, as he acknowledged that most of the business today for Gomberg Kite Productions International is online (at gombergkites.com.) “We were here for the very first festival, and we’ve been at most since. We’ve performed for Disney, for motion pictures, for the London Millennium. But this is home field.”

That, of course, is the D River State Wayside, which according to state tourism statistics draws 1.2 million visitors a year. “It’s a wonderful place to fly kites,” Gomberg said. “You can get the public right up close. And the summer and fall festivals are literally three-ring circuses, with the big kites, the sport kites and the kids’ activities.”

The giant show kites Gomberg flew at the fall festival — including a 90-foot whale, a squid, an octopus and a manta ray — were designed by New Zealand kite-maker Peter Lynn. Once raised here, they remained in place as unmistakable attractions in their own right.

The legislator said his entree to flying kites came when he won a junior high school championship at age 13. “I’m still a kid,” he confessed. “I just fly bigger kites.”

Children’s products

Ronda Brewer missed the first year of the fall kite festival, in 1979. She hasn’t missed one since, serving as a volunteer each time the event rolls around.

Brewer and her husband, Lindsey Johnson, now operate their own online kite business, Phantom Star Kites (phantomstarkites.com,) launched in 2004 and specializing in single-line kites.

The couple have two favorite children’s products, both of which they invented. The Ram Air Pocket Sled kit ($6.95) includes line and materials for making a kite with nothing more than tape and scissors: “You can just roll it up,” Brewer said. “There are not even any sticks.”

And the 48-inch, six-sided Rokkaku ($25.95), another no-sew project, is an adaptation of a Japanese fighter kite that includes pre-cut hardwood spars and tensioning lines. Stable and powerful, it is Brewer’s kite of choice: She is a four-time grand national champion in American Kitefliers Association competitions.

The Lincoln City festivals, however, are not about competition, Brewer emphasized. “This is not about the kite flyers having a party,” she said. “It’s all about the families. We even started a ‘passport’ program several years ago to encourage children to get autographs from the different flyers to win prizes. It’s been a big success.”

The kids also love pulling the doughnut-shaped “bols,” which may bounce high into the air or spin like pinwheels but remain anchored to the ground. Kids and adults compete for bragging rights when they see who can pull them fastest through the brisk seaside breezes.

Glass floats

Two full days of kite flying, six hours a day, is more time than most festival goers invest here. They might also get a little exercise by taking a walk through the salt spray — and perhaps finding a glass float.

Every year, between mid-October and Memorial Day, Lincoln City places more than 2,000 hand-crafted glass floats just above the high-tide mark, where beachcombers can find them and exult in their discoveries. Finders, keepers.

Glass orbs once regularly washed up on Oregon’s beaches, flotsam from Japanese fishing boats that used the hollow balls to float their nets. Shades of green and blue, the blown-glass floats were carried by currents across the Pacific. They appeared in sizes large and small, from 2 feet in diameter down to 2 inches. Collectors treasured their finds.

Today, international fishing vessels mainly use buoyant plastic in place of glass, and glass floats not in private homes are rarely seen outside of nautically oriented antique shops or museums, such as the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.

But Lincoln City, beginning in late 1999, began a tourism promotion that returned blown-glass floats to its beaches. Conceived two years earlier as a means of welcoming the new millennium, the project planted the colorful, signed and numbered floats, designed by local glass artists, on 7½ miles of Pacific shores. Tourists from around the world were delighted.

Now the “Finders Keepers” promotion is a part of life in Lincoln City. By Memorial Day 2018, the city will have placed 2,018 new floats on its beaches, from Roads End to Cutler City, to tempt visitors.

When a float is recovered, it may be registered by number with a phone call to the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau, which will respond by sending a certificate of authenticity and information about the designing artist.

Blow your own

If you want to make your own glass float, Kelly Howard will hook you up at the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio.

The co-owner of the Lincoln City Glass Center employs the ancient science of glass blowing to craft everything from vases, bowls and goblets to whimsical glass sculptures and hanging ornaments. Howard offers her finished glass for sale in the Volta Gallery, across U.S. Highway 101 from the studio. Yet the opportunity to watch her work truly makes her craft come to life. Anyone who can start with a formless blob of super-heated glass at the end of a steel pipe, and who can somehow shape it into a thing of great beauty, must truly be a wizard.

More than an artist, Howard is a teacher. She and her studio colleagues love to share their passion for glass with any and all who venture into the Sears studio. Students of all ages, from elementary school students to senior citizens, are invited to share in the experience. They don leather gloves and goggles, and then are guided through the creative process, which requires only curiosity and interest, a certain amount of dexterity and a willingness to briefly endure the scorching heat of the furnaces.

The cost of the glass-blowing lesson varies, depending upon what you are making. Floats and paperweights start at $65 — and you get to keep the final product!

Howard walked me through the process as I made my own glass float.

From a furnace super-heated to more than 1,000 degrees, I gathered molten silica sand and other glassmaking ingredients at the end of a 5-foot-long pipe. Slowly but continually twirling the pipe to keep the fist-sized glob of glass from dripping, I rolled it onto fractured bits of colored stone, which was quickly absorbed into the glass by reheating. After I again removed the ball from the furnace, I was handed a pair of large tweezers to twist the glass into swirl patterns.

Next, I took my project to a polished steel surface known as a “marver.” I rolled the still-viscous glass upon this surface to balance its design, then placed it into a block, or mold, to define its ultimate shape. Then, much like a trumpet player, I blew into the pipe, gently at first, then with greater force. As I did so, a bubble of air inside the glass ball slowly expanded. When it reached its optimal size, my instructor clipped the neck of the ball with shears, at the edge of the pipe.

The glass slowly cooled overnight in a temperature-controlled kiln to assure its strength and durability. I picked it up the next morning: a brilliant glass float, streaked with marine colors of blue, green and white. It’s about 6 inches across and weighs about a pound and a half.

Other sights

There’s more to see and do in Lincoln City, of course. The five veteran artisans at the Alder House III, just south of Siletz Bay on Immonen Road, won’t teach you how to flow your own float, but they will welcome you to observe their skilled craft work in turning molten glass into goblets, vases, bowls and other irresistible souvenirs.

The intimate Connie Hansen Garden, on the northwest side of Lincoln City, is a charming, year-round botanical garden created by an artist and botanist over 20 years ending in 1993. The garden is open daily, dawn to dusk; but if you come on a Tuesday or Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., a volunteer gardening staff will walk you through the 1½ acres of winding paths, beneath a canopy of ornamental trees and over bridges rimmed with seasonal flora and heather berm.

On this visit to Lincoln City, we stayed at the Surftides, high above the beach a couple of miles north of the D River Wayside. Our room was tidy, comfortable and well-tended. We dined one night at the hotel’s own restaurant, MIST, staying for a set of live music in the lounge, and another night at Fathoms on the top floor of the Inn at Spanish Head, south of the D River. Both meals were excellent.

The D River, by the way, claims to be the world’s shortest river, although I’ve seen this assertion echoed elsewhere. Indeed, the D flows only a couple of hundred yards from freshwater Devils Lake, northeast of the city center, into the Pacific. It represents the heart of this seaside resort town. I couldn’t imagine a better place for a kite festival.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com