Lufkin man builds and flies some of world's largest kites for charity

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By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Have you ever seen a giant octopus flying through the sky? How about a great white shark hovering over you? Barry Ogletree has. After retiring five years ago, he and his wife had a dream.

"We just said, let's do something fun," said Ogletree, who owns Whatakite! in Lufkin.

Their dream? To build kites, fly kites-- kites that consume the open sky.

"We probably have around 60. It's one of the largest kite collections in the world of large kites," said Ogletree. "It grew and grew and now we go all over the hemisphere. Canada, Mexico, South America, all over flying our kites."

Barry flies his collection in various festivals, all to raise money for charity. He just returned from a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser in Enid, Oklahoma.

"We raised about $58,000 with the kite festival," he said.

Five days a week they go to work, ordering materials, designing, and piecing together their next sky masterpiece.

"The biggest kite that we own is 2,200 square feet and he has over one million stitches in him."

Each kite gets a name.

"They just seem like the names are like family dogs or cats. They just get a name and that kind of sticks with them."

Meet Petey the centipede. He's 100 feet long, made with 200,000 stitches. Barry says he's one of the smaller kites, completed in a month. Steering Petey along is a pilot kite supported by long, sturdy lines.

"You can't hold these kites with your hands. It's physically impossible so we have to tie them off."

It can take crews of people to get the kites ready. The flying is the easy part. Once you feel the sails get tight, it's as simple as lifting up and it's gone.

Dancing in the blue sky, it puts on a show helping imagination come to life.

If you'd like a tour of the Whatakite Workshop or want information on how to request a special kite performance for charity, go to

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