What’s in a name? Last March Tony Jetland, aka Kiteman of Martinez, was invited to a kite festival in Doha, Qatar with all expenses paid. He was invited because of his name which the festival promoter found while searching on the internet.
There he met a member of the India flight team, Mohammed, and became friends. Mohammed was connected to and introduced Jetland to the India Ambassador to Doha. That relationship led to Kiteman being invited to the International Kite Festival – 2024 in Ahmedabad, India, as the lone United States representative among 59 different nations… once again, all expenses paid.
“I was like, holy smokes! I’ve always heard about other Americans that have gone over to India for these events, and they all come back with amazing stories,” Jetland said.

The event also included Indian kite fighting. (like cockfighting only with kites.)
“They made books about it called ‘Kite Runner’ where the people stand on top of rooftops upon five-story buildings and have kite battles. It’s like the holy grail of the kite flying experience.”
Jetland brought eight of his spectacular kites and his friend from Texas to be his co-pilot.

They flew out of San Francisco to Dubai and from Dubai into Ahmedabad, India, for 11 days of piloting kites and experiencing the Indian culture.
Countries from all corners of the world were there. The Russians were flying next to the Ukrainians. “You had this overwhelming feeling of watching world powers get along for two weeks on the kite field. There was no tension. There was camaraderie. It was amazing to see these people from all over the world getting together and flying.”
The festival kicked off with a brilliant opening day ceremony of dancing, flag waiving, speeches and other performances. Each pilot was blessed with a red dot on the forehead as they entered the kite field. Each country were assigned a station in a colorful 10 by 10 easy-up in line with all other countries. Members of the international teams would stop by just to shake his hand and grab a selfie with the “guy from Martinez.”

“I felt like I’m some kind of a superstar,” Jetland said. “The hospitality and the overwhelming outpouring of acceptance and love by the Indian people is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

One of the kites Jetland brought was one he custom-made for the event that stated “Kiteman of Martinez” printed on it which he flew in the main arena among all the other international kite pilots.
He gave a brief speech to the generals and admirals and dignitaries introducing himself as the Kiteman of Martinez representing Martinez, California from the United States of America.
The sky was littered with the brilliant colors of hundreds of kites for the duration of the festival. The Festival involved traveling by bus to two other cities and flying then returning to Ahmedabad for the traditional Indian kite fighting competition.

People stand on flat rooftops in bare feet, running around, trying to cut people’s kites out of the sky with what they call a manja line, which is a string line with crushed glass glued into it.
The idea is to wrap your kite line around somebody else’s kite line from three blocks away and cut their kite out of the sky. This continues until the last kite flying wins.
Tony failed at this miserably at this. “I had about 10 kites cut up.” These are kites specifically for the competition and purchased from street vendors . “You buy a stack of ten or fifteen of them and a few thousand feet of line.”

Jetland muses that the entire trip cost him twenty-three dollars and seventy-five cents. That was for his Bart ticket to and from Lafayette to San Francisco. “They took care of us amazingly with hotel accommodations and food and whatever we needed.”
As per the country itself he says, “You realize how lucky we are where we live. The infrastructure, water, store, road conditions, living conditions, it really humbles you to realize how people live in other parts of the world. I came home to Martinez with the refrigerator full of food, while these people are going meal to meal.”
Who knew when Diablo Gazette first named Tony Jetland the “Kiteman of Martinez” in 2017 that it would lead to such international notoriety. Thanks for representing Martinez, Tony.