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Chicago’s very own Kite Man, Mike Illich

A 73-year-old man dangles a long piece of plastic off the side one of the busiest pedestrian bridges in the world. It’s just after the high peak of lunch time in Chicago with the tourists and office workers out in full force on the Michigan Avenue bridge in Chicago.

There stands a man unfurling foot after foot of plastic off the edge of the bridge. Everyone busily walks by, but I’m too curious to pass this up. Is he fishing in the Chicago River? Is he hanging a piece of artwork off the Michigan Avenue bridge in Chicago?

Once the plastic reaches about 40 feet long, he reveals a small plastic kite. He’s flying a kite off the Michigan Avenue bridge! Wow! Just a week ago I was pondering the thought of flying a kite in downtown Chicago, and here this fellow has the stones to actually do it—off the side of a bridge!

He motions me over and he tells me that he once got his kite to fly from the bridge all the way over to the Marina Towers! I am shocked and amazed. And he says, “Yeah, I got over 3,000 feet of string here.”

While he‚Äôs continuing to prep his kite, I ask him, “what happens if your kite hits a building? It probably does very little damage at all, it just bounces off the building?”

He responds with a shake of the hand, “awww, I don‚Äôt know why, but it‚Äôs never hit a building.” We discuss wind patterns in downtown Chicago how they can be crazy. He points to the flag atop the tribune tower, “see how that‚Äôs going north and these flags on the bridge are blowing towards west. It can be tricky.” He throws his kite over the bridge and tries to get it airborne, instead it just sinks downward to the river.

I ask him, “How fast do you think this wind is?” He shrugs, “I dunno. This is a decent wind though.” He flies by the feel of the wind, an expert with a finely tuned experience as he points out that Chicago Magazine[1] wrote about him in the July issue last year.

He asks me help him by standing over a little bit away to get the kite started. I gladly walk over as now I‚Äôm officially helping to fly a kite off the Michigan Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago. He holds his hand up in the air to feel the wind. Pauses. “Now!” he points to me. I throw the kite dramatically over the edge. And it sinks downward.

He pulls the kite into fix the knot in the line, but then the line breaks. And I figure this is my time to break off as well. I wish him luck, and tell him that I greatly appreciate that he is doing something so creative and fun in downtown Chicago.

More about Kite Man, Mike Illich:

1) Shore Patrol: Chicago Magazine, July 2006.

8 Responses to Chicago’s very own Kite Man, Mike Illich

  1. Sparx August 20, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    He should sell advertising space on the kites. Also, your blog software thingy uses fancy apostrophes.. they break my rss reader (this post was titled “Chicago”). Just FYI. I might be able to fix it, if it’s something that you’d be concerned about.

  2. Matt Maldre August 20, 2007 at 11:48 am #

    Sparx, thanks for that heads up on the fancy apostrophes. Actually, I think it’s the program that I first use to compose my posts. Then I copy and paste the text.

  3. Sparx August 20, 2007 at 11:50 am #

    Ah. That could be it. I know that wordpress fancy-quotes everything by default – I had to install a plugin to turn OFF that ‘feature’. When I offered help, I was thinking something along the lines of modifying whatever script builds the rss file to just replace the funky characters. But if you can solve it before the publishing, that’s even easier. :)

  4. Matt Maldre August 20, 2007 at 11:51 am #

    I’ll have to remember to compose my posts in another program, so it doesn’t make those fancy apostrophes. I fixed the title in this post. ha! advertising space on the kites! He doesn’t seem like he would do that. Oh! Here’s another story on Mike Illich:

  5. Kelly (KH) August 20, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    I’ve seen that guy! And I’ve admired him for flying a kite in downtown Chicago – I don’t know why I don’t have pictures of it. :(

  6. Matt Maldre August 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    Kelly, you’ve seen him?! This was the first time I saw him. I knew I should have taken a photo, at least with my camera phone, but I was too shy.

  7. Kelly (KH) August 20, 2007 at 7:40 pm #

    Yes, I’ve seen him, but not up-close and personal. Or maybe it was someone else flying a kite….

  8. mike illich September 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm #

    Correction, i am now 74 yo. i remember the day i was not able to fly the kite mentioned above, and i’ve flown it off the bridge twice since then. once westward and once eastward. last week the wind off that bridge was so mixed up that half the flags on the east side of the bridge were blowing eastward and half were blowing westward. you figure it out!! i would like to pass on my knowledge of kite flying to others. any idea how i can do this?

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