It takes a village to put on a weeklong kite festival, and in the case of the World Kite Museum’s Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach, that village is comprised of avid kite fliers from across the globe who pitch in to pull off the massive event.
The festival is supported by the city of Long Beach, but “the people down on the beach are volunteers,” World Kite Museum board member and event co-chair Jane Holeman said.
The event, billed as the largest kite festival in North America, will include a full schedule of demonstrations, competitions and other activities Aug. 19-25.
Coming all the way from China, Yao Qingshan and Zhao Liqun are this year’s featured guest kite fliers.
Qingshan, who established the 3 Wind kite brand and club, has been flying kites for more than 20 years, mastering both dual-line and quad-line kites. Liqun is the organizer of the Wuhan International Kite Festival, one of the most successful kite festivals in China, in addition to being part of the 3 Wind quad-line kite team.
Over the years, Holeman said, they have brought in featured guests from Germany, Malaysia, Japan and multiple other countries. In places such as China, Japan and Indonesia, kiting goes back several centuries, so the practice is steeped in tradition in a way it is not in the western world, which “doesn’t really have that history.”
Liqun and Qingshan will fly throughout the week and put on publicized demonstrations at specific times on the main field.
Fun for everyone
Another unique feature of this year’s kite festival is an attempt to break the world record for mega team flying, hosted by John Barresi and KiteLife.com. Brett Morris, the American Kitefliers Association director for the Pacific Northwest region, was part of Barresi’s group who set the record in 2013 by getting 87 individual quad-line kites in the air at one time and flying them in a specific pattern.
The goal during the Long Beach kite festival, Morris said, is to involve at least 100 kites in the mega fly. They will be practicing Thursday and Friday, weather-permitting.
Many people plan to come with their kite stacks and participate in competition Monday. Stacks, also known as trains, are multiple individual kites tied together and flown by one person. A kite train workshop is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
The festival will also include indoor kite flying Wednesday through Friday at Long Beach Elementary School. Fliers perform individually or in groups of twos and threes, and each demonstration is choreographed to a piece of music. Indoor kites are lightweight, so the flier can keep them airborne by mere movement and without wind.
“It’s really fun for a lot of us to get together with people we don’t see all that often,” Morris said.
Sharing their knowledge
Wednesday is Kids and Seniors Day, which includes several family friendly activities and games. For the 17th year, the festival is hosting the Foster Grandparent Fun Fly, which was developed around the concept that many people’s first memory of flying a kite includes an older family member, such as a grandparent.
Children are paired up with a temporary grandparent — or experienced kite flier. Together, they pick from a selection of complimentary kites and then head to the field, where the “grandparents” help the kids fly, Morris said.
The activity helps highlight the magic encompassed in memories of kite flying while also introducing young people to the sport.
“It seems like we have a generation gap,” Morris said.
He acknowledges not everyone will get into kite flying, but for some, all it requires is introducing them to the sport, showing them what can be accomplished and giving them an opportunity to try it.
In general, the event doesn’t specifically promote an environment conducive to learning, “just because of the sheer number of kites,” Holeman said. However, “there are still opportunities and experienced flyers who are willing to share their knowledge.”
Morris agreed, adding it’s “more of a get-out-of-it-what-you-want-type of thing.” One unique aspect of the Long Beach festival is that only the featured guests are brought in by the festival organizers, whereas many other festivals host multiple kite fliers to ensure they can offer certain events and activities.
Nearly all participants cover their own expenses to come, and they even contribute in various ways throughout the week as volunteers for activities.
“No one’s paying them to be here,” Morris said. “People want to be here and be involved in this.”