Larry Goodman, cofounder of the Southwest Oregon Kite Festival, died unexpectedly on his birthday Nov. 4, at home in Savannah, Georgia, it was announced last week.
Goodman, then-owner of radio stations in Crescent City and Coos Bay, and avid kite-flyer Steve O’Brien, founded the popular event in Brookings in 1993 with the hope it could become a “major annual community event.”
They set their sights too low.
The first year, O’Brien’s dream and Goodman’s creation attracted thousands of visitors to the Port of Brookings Harbor, where the festival is still held today, to watch professional flyers take their kites to the skies in dazzling displays of color, size and acrobatics.
Past issues of the Curry Coastal Pilot indicate Goodman and his wife Lynn wanted to start such an event to promote radio station KCRE. When they sold the station 10 years later, the festival was passed to the port to promote.
The Port of Brookings Harbor recently got out of the event business, but the kite festival has forged on, attracting thousands of people over a weekend in July to watch the world’s best kite flyers guide their kites through swirling dances choreographed to music.
Other events have included a dinner for the flyers, an evening illuminary of the kites and a children’s kite-making workshop and parade. Most of the kite flyers stick around, too, to answer questions and teach people how to fly even the trickiest of kites.
The kite-flying event has brought more than a few people to tears of joy.
Goodman wasn’t even much of a kite enthusiast, a July 1993 Pilot article indicates. But after watching 5-year-old champion Chad Morrison of Berkeley, California, work his magic in the skies, Goodman went into town and purchased his first kite.
Goodman later owned a radio station in Coos Bay, and said he was packing some wind in a jar and bringing it to Brookings to ensure good flying one year.
Goodman was born Nov. 4, 1938, to Gladys and Herbert Goodman, received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and his law degree at Columbia Law School in New York.
He never went into law, however, working as an investment banker for Solomon Bros. on Wall Street, then sales and marketing in the medical imaging industry and operating 10 medical centers in cities across the U.S.
But his career love was radio broadcasting. He and his wife founded the Bay Broadcasting Company — the BBC, a “coincidence of acronyms” that brought a twinkle to his eye while honoring his wife, a British-born woman.
Ten years later, they sold all the radio stations and retired to Savannah, Georgia. Retirement was short-lived, however, and the couple started up a market research business, Touch Poll of Georgia, which spread nationwide. They finished their latest job, the Savannah Film Festival, in late October.
He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lynn, daughter Samantha and son Jimmy; sister Ilene Rosenthal; brother Harvey Goodman and two dogs, Silly and Sami.
Lynn remembers Larry for his “exceptionally big heart, his love of animals and his irresistible sense of humor” which kept her in stitches at least 50 percent of their married life, she wrote in an obituary for the Savannah newspaper.
“And to think she almost didn’t give him a second chance after dumping him a month after their first date! Good thing a mutual friend who saw things differently arranged for an ‘accidental meeting’ at the same restaurant they met the first time.”
“He was a very dynamic guy,” said longtime friend Bill Ferry of Brookings. “You couldn’t help but be charmed by his energy.”
Les Cohen, who worked at the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce for more than 21 years, met the Goodmans when they joined the organization in 1993.
After all these years of knowing him, Cohen said he was most surprised about what he didn’t know about Goodman.
“In reading his obituary, I had no idea he was that highly educated,” Cohen said of Goodman’s status as an attorney. “He was very down-to-Earth … I’d been to countless meetings, I don’t think it was ever mentioned.”
Like many others, Cohen said Goodman was quick to smile and quick with a joke.
“We come from a similar part of the country, and I just related to that humor, but he was really funny,” Cohen said. “He was a real personable guy.”
O’Brien, who was opening a CD and music store, met Goodman when he was trying to sell advertising for the radio station. A kite store owner down the street told Goodman O’Brien was interested in hosting a kite festival.
“He said, ‘If you’re interested in some radio people getting involved …’” O’Brien recalled. “Well, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out having a radio station involved would be a good idea.”
O’Brien sent Goodman a video from a Long Beach, California event.
“He’d never seen kites flown like that,” O’Brien said. “We had so much fun that first year, putting it together, getting all the flyers here, who would run the field, announce it. It all just kind of came together. The kite flyers were all astounded.”
To get the event going, O’Brien said, they pulled on Goodman’s connections to get limousines to pick up the Bay Area Sundowners, a wildly popular group.
Goodman, he said, pumped up the event as a community event.
“He was an all-around great guy,” O’Brien said. “He was the kind of guy, he walked into a room and his charisma and personality were just contagious. He just had a way about him. He always had a smile on his face. He was always trying to bring people up; he never talked down to people. He was good, good people.”
Goodman, however, never was a fantastic kite-flyer.
O’Brien laughed at the memory.
“I took him out and tried to teach him how to fly a sport kite,” he said. “They had fun with it … he loved single-line, the sport kite, not so much. He crashed quite a few times.
“He was a good friend — a great guy,” O’Brien said. “The festival definitely wouldn’t be the same, wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Reach Jane Stebbins at email@example.com.