SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Despite the bitter cold weather, thousands of people took to the ice this past weekend to participate in the 43rd annual Winter Games at Lake Okoboji.

If they weren’t competing in the four day event, they were definitely watching with an eye to the sky.

“I think it’s awesome,” Corey Day of Des Moines, Iowa, said.

Day is just one of the hundreds of pilots who came to Okoboji to fly one of his big kites during the Winter Games.

“It’s big and good to see this come off the ground it’s been going on for a number of years, this is my second time of flying over here, and I know my dad has come over here two or three times before me,” Day said.

From whales to tigers to bald eagles, the sky was filled with gigantic kites.

“It started about 5 years ago just as a way to have some fun,” Steve Boote with Boji Kites said.

Boote says in those five years, he’s made long-lasting friendships with people around the world.

“It’s just been exploding it gets more and more fun, friendships get stronger and stronger the kiting community worldwide is pretty tight-knit,” Boote said.

The kites are the most visual part of the Winter Games…

“It’s amazing one of these kites up here is mine that I just got so its maiden flight was here yesterday,” Bruce Flora of Orlando, Florida said.

But there’s plenty more to do here.

“I heard it was a blast,” Micah Schliemann of Baltic, SD said.

Micah Schliemann of Baltic came here to ice race this year, because the ice where he normally races is not safe.

Plus he loves this atmosphere.

  • Boji Kites event
  • Boji Kites over the lake
  • Kites over Okoboji
  • Kites at Okoboji event

“This Winter Games they have all sorts of things going on that you can catch between races, human foosball, golf, sledding and dog sledding it’s all just crazy fun,” Schliemann said.

“You ever get a chance to come here, I’d say come here just come and spectate and you’ll probably be back the next year.

The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce estimates the Winter Games attracted over 40,000 people.