A humorous "covid kite" from last year's kite festival. Credit: Margot Kravette
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the blog Inspired Journeys and is republished here with permission. This year’s kite festival takes place Aug. 15–21, 2022.
The Washington State International Kite Festival takes place in Long Beach, Wash., every year during the third week in August. It is both a celebration and a competition with people that come from all over the world to participate either flying kites or spectating, or both. No surprise that last year’s event had fewer attendees, but there was still a full seven-day agenda with hundreds of people. It has been said that the Long Beach event is “the greatest, grandest kite festival in North America.”
The week’s weather was cloudy and chilly, and we missed having blue skies as a backdrop to the colorful kites, but it did not distract from the excitement and beauty of the kites, and it certainly did not inhibit spectators from coming. Participants arrived in their VW and other vans, they claimed their space in the designated parking location, and essentially set up shop with their chairs, tents that mirror their kites, decorative flags, and in some cases, their pets. That area was almost as fun to peruse as the kites in flight. And of course, there was a long row of food and souvenir vendors.
As we walked through the grasses, across the boardwalk, over more grasses, and down the hill from the car to the festival we could hear music. I was so pumped just seeing kites in the air, but the first song I heard was “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman, which is a song I always sing to my grandson Nathan when we’re in the car together. I just sang and danced and felt so happy.
Each day of the festival has a theme and a schedule of activities including workshops and competitions. The beach is divided into numbered fields where different events take place, with the largest area reserved for the large kites unassociated with scheduled events.
Our first day at the festival was Kids’ Day, which explained the songs we were hearing. Twenty-four kite makers from around the country produce approximately 200 small kites which are given to children at no cost. Dozens of volunteers serving as “foster grandparents” were paired up with the children and their kites to help them learn to fly. Some of the volunteers were dressed in creative costumes, Games and contests are held for kids as they develop their own love for the sport. Some of the children were really into their kites, and some were not. But the volunteers were patient and did their best to engage each and every child.
Everything is perfectly organized, down to having announcers working enthusiastically calling each event. The only thing out of any person’s control is the weather and the wind. By noon that day the wind had died down and the kites were unable to fly. The next day, however, the wind had returned, and kites were everywhere. Most impressive were the number of handmade kites. Many of the experienced flyers had been making their own kites for years. Their creativity and handiwork are so impressive. Some of them require long periods to put the kites together at the festival after traveling long distances to be there.
Many participants brought multiple kites with them. Tim, a man we met from Alaska, told us he came with only 10 of his kites. When we asked how many he owned he responded, “about 150.” The kites were brightly colored with imaginative designs and ranged from very small, about one-foot square, to about 30 feet in length. And the ones that are stacked may even be longer. There was even a covid kite which I unsuccessfully attempted to fly. It was just too heavy to get off the ground. And that’s about as close to the virus as I ever want to get.
I had no idea that the breadth and variety of kite activities and contests at these festivals were so extreme. Here are a few categories of competitions held during the week.
- Fighter kites, including Rokkaku individual and team battles. Rokkaku is the traditional Japanese battle kite.
- Senior ballet, for people over 50, judged on music selection, smoothness and variety of movement, control, and innovation. They were so graceful.
- Handcrafted comprehensive competition — judging arches, trains and centipedes, traditional kites, innovative concepts and design, stunt kites, figure or novelty kites, line accessories, ground art and the smallest kite.
The sponsor of the festival is the World Kite Museum, an institution dedicated to the thrill, art, science, sport and history of kites worldwide, and located in Long Beach. This non-profit organization is the only kite museum in the Western hemisphere with rotating exhibits. According to the museum’s website, its exhibits and educational events introduce the kite as a multicultural art, in celebrations, modern-day design, pulling power and application to energy production. Some of the current exhibits include Kite Stamps, Dime Store Kites, and the Business of Kites. Also on the museum’s website are videos that briefly discuss War Kites, Fighter Kites, Leaf Kites and Miniature Kites.
What’s next in the Long Beach world of kites? The next kite event is called “One Sky One World”, an international kite fly for peace, which has been held since 1986. Always held on the second Sunday in October, kite flyers around the world will connect via social media.
If you go...
Where: The Washington State International Kite Festival takes place in Long Beach, Wash. Long Beach is a little over a three-hour drive from the Seattle area.
When: The 2022 kite festival is happening Aug. 15–21.
Lodging and visitor info: Visit Long Beach Peninsula