The Fine Arts Blount art show on Sunday required patrons of the arts to look up.
“Art in the Sky” had a picture-perfect day for the second annual Fine Arts Blount kite festival at Pearson Springs Park.
Giant among the artistic kite offerings were the creations of Martin Blais.
Blais, a former engineer who makes his living building the large kites and banners seen at the festival, impressed the more than 300 folks who turned out to fly their own hand-made kites.
Suzanne Stockfisch with FAB said planners were thrilled with the response. “Last year we had in excess of 300, and this surpassed last year,” she said. “For a lot of people, it was first time they had heard about it. We sold inexpensive kites so people could decorate right there. We had contests involving different age groups for hand-made kites.”
Stockfisch said Blais went all out for the event. “He definitely was the inspiration for it. Of course, a lot of the kites he makes are expensive. Those giant kites made it festive,” she said.
Stockfisch said winds weren’t always cooperative. “It was difficult because the wind shifted in different directions,” she said. “This is our second year. Trees around that park have grown, and they sometimes block in the wind, but it was fun.”
Blais is an award-winning kite maker who has earned a good name at kite festivals and often gets invited to events to show his work. He took grand prize honors during a competition at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. the weekend before the FAB event.
“I won second prize in Master Maker (division) and won best ground display,” he said.
Blais said he enjoyed the FAB event. “I think it went very well,” he said.
Blais, a civil engineer by trade, started making his own kites years ago. “I saw some people flying kites and made friends with a guy making his own stuff. I thought that would be fun,” he said.
Blais also creates vertical banners for advertising promotions, and he also does decorations for festivals. “I do a lot of giant butterflies,” he said.
In his career making giant kites, his most challenging was a Naboo starship he created with inspiration from the movie “Star Wars.”
“I made one as a kite, and I make it two times bigger than the one in the movie. It was 42-feet by 75-feet long, and it’s a kite we actually fly,” he said. “That was the biggest one I’ve ever made.” The kite is valued at $5,000.
His job, though gratifying, isn’t always easy. “It’s always a challenge because I make shapes that aren’t supposed to fly, and they fly,” he said. “The most popular one I sell is a guitar. It looks exactly like a guitar, and they fly very well.”
Blais moved to Maryville nine years ago after his wife got a job teaching at the University of Tennessee. They have one daughter, Juliette, 10.
Stockfisch said the event had a relaxing atmosphere.
“It was a nice time for people to get out and have a relaxing atmosphere with friends and family. We feel it was really appreciated. It was certainly a positive thing, and we’re committed to seeing it continue.”
The event was sponsored by the East Tennessee Foundation and the Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation.
FAB members used most artistic and best flier criteria when choosing winners for the kite-making competition.
In the age 5 and younger competition, winners were: First place - Hayden Kerns; second place - Tiffany Guo; and third place - Elaina Franklin.
In the 6- to 10-year-old competition, winners were: First place - Kassidi McDannel; second place - Cara Huskey; and third place - Ashley Butcher.
In the 11- to 15-year-old competition, winners were: First place - Sarah Kate Lines; second place - Ben Huskey; and third place - Emily Miller.
In the 16 and older competition, winners were: First place - Jeremy Long; second place - Keslea Gilliland; and third place - Raj Shah.