TV star soars at Camas kite festival

‘America’s Got Talent’ semifinalist shows off moves at indoor event

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Want to learn more about indoor kite flying?

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CAMAS — It defied the odds, but a television celebrity was the main attraction at the fifth annual Camas Indoor Kite Festival over the weekend.

“It was a blast,” 17-year-old Connor Doran said after flying two kites Sunday in the Camas High School gymnasium. With grace and precision, he choreographed the kites’ movements to the song “Believe in Dreams.”

The song might be Connor’s motto, as he was a semi-finalist in this year’s “America’s Got Talent” television show.

“He was number 11 out of 90,000 people (who went to try-outs). Not what I expected,” said his proud mother, Amy Doran of Bend, Ore.

More than one spectator asked to have a photo taken with Connor on Sunday.

He flew the same kite in the gym that had earned him fame on television. He said the kite sells for about $200. The high-schooler performed a demonstration and a served as a judge at the event.

Asked about appearing before millions of viewers, Connor said, “It was nerve-wracking. I was scared. … Piers scared me.”

Piers Morgan is one of the judges on the TV show, along with Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel. Connor noted that Morgan “buzzed” (voted against) him in his final appearance.

Connor explained on television that he has epilepsy and that flying kites gives him a peaceful feeling.

Amy Doran said Connor was diagnosed at age 4 with epilepsy and was having 30 to 40 petit mal seizures a day. He has struggled with the ailment, she said, and today takes five medications twice a day.

But on the gym floor, Connor appeared focused and entranced as his Revolution-brand kite rose and dove and flew in sync with the music.

Amy Doran said her son does “soul flying … Everything he flies to, he feels.” Connor, who takes e-mails at connor@kitelife.com, has been flying indoor kites for three years and Amy has been at it for six years.

The kites fly indoors because they are made of ultra-light materials formerly used by NASA. The flier makes the kite move to music and 60 percent of the grading is based on choreography, explained Bud Hayes of Camas. Bud and his wife, Linda, organize the competition and encourage visitors to give indoor flying a try.

Grading includes 25 percent for the execution of the flying skills and 15 percent for the entertainment value of the flier and kite.

Jerry Cannon (Mr. Cool during competitions, please) of Auburn capitalized on the entertainment aspect by wearing a yellow checked zoot suit, a black shirt, green fedora-style hat and black and white saddle shoes. He kept his kite moving to “Strictly Instrumental,” a big-band piece.

Bud Hayes said 17 kite fliers took part in the competition and that the event is sanctioned by the American Kitefliers Association and the Northwest Sport Kite League. He said about 250 persons paid to watch the competition over the weekend.

While the fliers appeared to be having a ball, spectators seemed fascinated Sunday.

“I’m amazed that with no feeling of moving air that they can maintain their heights,” said Collins LeFebvre of Vancouver, who was in the gymnasium stands. “There’s a lot of skill.”

An avid bicyclist, LeFebvre said he also appreciated that, like bicycling, in kite flying ”there’s hardly any sound.”

Event announcer Bob Wendt of Puyallup told the crowd, “It’s not hard to get started. You don’t have to run, you don’t have to work up a big sweat. Just give it a tug.”

Bud Hayes said the event will be back again next November in Camas.