Using rap music to spread kite safety

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kite safety
Members of OPPDs "kite crew" were Leah Ringling, Netra Bell, Mark Gorup, Windy Scalise, Lundy Williams and Todd Moran.

In mid-April 1991, a new rap song exploded on Omaha’s local airwaves. With catchy beats and even catchier phrases, this tune carried a special message.  It was not just a rap song; it was a television commercial that focused on safety and those on screen were the OPPD “Kite Crew.”

The kids were not only featured in TV commercials, but also on posters and print ads. Pat Thompson, then manager of Consumer Relations, said in a May 1991 Flash magazine that the effort was part of a new upbeat campaign aimed at elementary school students. The 30-second commercial used the music of the 90s to outline kite-flying safety rules. The hope was that the commercial, which also featured bright neon colors, would grab the attention of its target audience, children ages 3 to 12.

kite safety
On the set of a commercial shoot, the “kit crew” gets last minute instructions on choreography and makeup touch-ups.

The “Kite Crew” were performers brought together from several schools in OPPD’s service territory. The leader was then-15-year-old Lundy Williams, an eighth grader at Omaha’s Monroe Junior High. Others included fellow Monroe students Windy Scalise, 14, Netra Bell, 12, and Todd Moran, 13. They were joined by Mark Gorup, 10, a student at Millard’s Robert Ackerman Elementary School and Leah Ringling, 9, a student at Waterloo Public School.

“We really want to get our message to the kids. We wanted to talk in their language and make it fun so they would remember the rules,” said Thompson.

With warmer weather just months away, those kite flying rules are just as important today as they were in 1991. They are meant to ensure safety and save lives.

kite safety
Lori Hogan applies makeup to “kite crew” member Lundy Williams as Leah Ringling looks on.

“The best way to ensure the fun of (kite) flying while reducing the risk is to follow the primary safety rule of kite flying – never fly kites near power poles or lines,” explained Ed Skaggs, then-OPPD safety manager. “The kite safety rules are well worth the time it takes to relay them to our children.”

The rap tune’s opening lyrics make the theme very clear:

Fly high, fly high

Get your kite up in the sky.

Remember, safety first

So you won’t get hurt.

In addition to rehearsals in preparation for their 30-second claim to fame, the “Kite Crew” spent four hours taping the sound track and six hours filming the dance portion of the commercial under hot, bright studio lights.

Mark Miller, who co-directed the commercial, said, “They were really tired after it was over. But, they were very proud to be a part of it.”

Paula Lukowski

About Paula Lukowski

Paula Lukowski, The Wire managing editor, has more than 34 years of experience in corporate communications, 29 of them at OPPD.

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