Kites of Franklin County

Spring may be almost over, but it will remain kite-flying season across Franklin County through October and beyond.

The public art project known as the Kites of Franklin County has been installed across the area by businesses, civic groups and even a few individuals to celebrate the county’s bicentennial this year.

More than 125 stainless steel kites each decorated with a unique design are flying in 12 communities, from Stanton, Sullivan and St. Clair to Union, Washington and Labadie, from Pacific, Gray Summit and St. Albans to New Haven, Leslie and Gerald.

The goal of the project is to encourage residents and visitors alike to explore and discover Franklin County’s communities, businesses, parks and tourist destinations, said Wanda Parsons, who is overseeing the project as a member of the Bicentennial Committee.

“They are a source of community pride and a reflection of the area’s creativity, innovation and imagination,” she remarked.

Now Parsons is encouraging people to make their way around the county specifically to seek out the kites on a self-led scavenger hunt that can be done over the course of several days, weeks or months. A list of all the kites and their locations can be found on the bicetennial website, www.franklinmo200.com.

Under the “Kites” tab select Sponsors/Locations. And then at the “How Many Kites Can You Find?” section, click on highlighted “full list of all the kites” where you can select “print a list of the kite locations.” More directly, you can go to franklinmo200.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/kite-locations.pdf.

There is no tanglible prize to be had for finding any, much less all of the kites, aside from bragging rights, the joy of the hunt or the lessons that can be learned along the way.

“It’s really just a way to bring people together, a bonding experience,” said Parsons, who has been seeking out the kites on her own, marking them off on a Scavenger Hunt Bingo card as she comes across them while driving around in her car.

Scavenger Hunt Bingo is one of several promotions the committee has organized to help residents have fun with the kites. There also is a Selfie Kite Photo Contest and a People’s Choice Award, where people can vote for their favorite kite.

Scavenger Hunt Bingo!

You can play this bingo game alone, but it’s more fun to play with a group of friends and family, said Parsons.

It can be played online or by printing off a bingo card from the website. The “bingobaker” page on the website will generate a different bingo card each time.

Players simply mark off the kites as they find them. If playing over multiple days, you can save your progress by saving the URL from your device browser. Press the share button on your device and then press “Save to Home Screen.”

“We would love to hear if you are enjoying the game,” said Parsons. “Email info@franklinmo200.com, or post a photo of you enjoying the hunt on Facebook or Instagram, use hashtag #kitebingo and tag @franklinmo200.”

Snap, Share, Win!

As people hunt for the kites, they can be entered in a contest to win $100 cash by taking photos of themselves with kites and then posting those “selfies” to Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #IFoundaKite and tag @FranklinMO200.

One random winner will be selected in October to win $100 cash. Each “selfie” or photo that you enter betters your odds of winning.

People should keep in mind as they are hunting that some of the kites are placed indoors at various locations, so they may not be accessbile at all hours. Some kites are attached to buildings rather high up, so people may have to look around a little to find them. Others are easy to spot.

Vote for Your Favorite

People can go online now through Oct. 15 to vote for their favorite kite. You can vote once per day by visiting http://bit.ly/2VnUhcM.

The grand prize for the winning kite is $200 cash. Second place will receive $150, and third place will be given $50.

‘I Like a Good Quest’

Deaconess Kelly Hardt of Immanuel Lutheran in Washington has already hunted down 40 or 50 kites over the last few weeks with the church’s Comfort Dog, Sheba, at her side. A specially trained golden retriever, Sheba Comfort Dog provides comfort to people in a variety of situations, including tragedies, as a ministry of the church.

“Personally I enjoy this kind of thing,” said Deaconess Kelly of the kite scavenger hunt. “When St. Louis had the birthday cakes a few years ago, I went with different friends all over on the Illinois side and around St. Louis to find them. It was just fun to see all the different places they were placed.

“When I found out Franklin County was doing this, I definitely wanted to check it out, and I thought it would be cool to take Sheba since she is so much a part of the community with the ministry we do.”

A few weeks into the hunt, Deaconess Kelly said it has been a great opportunity to interact with people.

“When we were in Union, we went to the White Rose Cafe for lunch, and there were so many interactions just there,” she said. “We did a random act of kindness, which is something we like to do with our ministry every once in a while, so we treated someone to lunch . . . So they are getting to know our ministry a little bit too.”

Deaconess Kelly started her kite hunt in mid-May when her mom was visiting and found it was a nice way to spend time together. Since then she has enjoyed taking along other handlers of Sheba on the hunt and sharing that experience with them.

As someone who didn’t grow up in Franklin County, Deaconess Kelly has enjoyed the hunt as a way to see parts of the county that she wasn’t familiar with yet.

“Seeing where all these businesses are is fun,” she said. “I think this is neat to have this project that encouarages people to look at places they may have never needed to before . . . now because of the kites, people are going to these places and seeing them.”

However the best part of the hunt has been the kites themselves and seeing the variety of artistic designs.

“The art of it is really neat,” said Deaconess Kelly, noting some kites have quotes and others are designed specific to a business or location.

There have been a few occasions where the kites she was hunting for were not installed yet, but she didn’t let that frustrate or bother her.

“It makes it even more of a quest,” she remarked, “and I like a good quest.”

Plus, there were plenty of other kites in the area to search for.

Advice

Deaconess Kelly’s advice to other kite scavenger hunters is to have fun with the search. Also, using GPS is good.

“Just plug in the address from the list, and that makes it easy to find the locations,” she said.

“I hope a lot of people participate, because it’s a great way to see your community and enjoy the art that is out there.”

Parsons said the way Deaconess Kelly is conducting her kite hunt is exactly how she envisioned people participating when she came up with the idea.

“That’s the kind of people I’m hoping will get involved — people who are just doing it for fun and really enjoying the experience of going around the county,” said Parsons.

The feedback she has heard already has been positive. At last weekend’s bicentennial parade and festival she handed out many kite Scavenger Hunt Bingo cards to people who planned to play.

“It’s a fun thing to do on a nice summer day,” said Parsons. “There are some great kites out there.”