I like flying kites, especially two-line stunt kites. I saw many photos of the Long Beach International Kite Festival and really wanted to attend. I made reservations in 2019 for the 2020 festival. The official festival was cancelled due to COVID but we decided to go anyway. Even through the official festival was canceled there were still lots of kites and flyers. We returned in 2021, 2022, and 2023 and the kite festival has become a favorite annual event.
The Kite Festival attracts fliers from near, far, and very far. Colorful and interesting kites of every kind fill the sky. There are single line kites, dual and quad line stunt kites, stacks, spinners, ground art, line laundry, etc. I especially like watching the stunt kite teams and the stacked kites.
We watched several stunt kite teams practicing during the week and they were extremely fun to watch. Most teams have 5-6 kites flying in various formations. It is really fun watching the large, 20+ kite teams. A master flyer was on one end of a line of kite pilots issuing commands and the entire team did various formations and tricks. I especially liked when they formed two concentric circles and the outside kites flew away from the center and then the inner circle kites did the same. It reminded me a large firework exploding. The leader would then call to reform the circles and do it again. The agility and precision of the four-line stunt kites is just amazing.
Step carefully when walking amongst the kites and watch for kite lines and ground art. These ground art fills with air to create fun and interesting shapes or figures. We saw lobsters, crabs, caterpillars, elephants, birds, and a wide assortment of colorful objects. If the wind cooperates many of these objects can connect to the line of a larger kite to become flying “line laundry.”
Watch for Stacks
Kite stacks are a personal favorite for me. A stack contains several kites connected in a line. The pilot controls the first kite and other stacked kites follow. Dual and quad line sport stacks can be configured into stacks. The world record for kite stacks was set during the 2023 festival (YouTube: World Record Kite Stack flight at WSIKF – 2023). A single kite stack dancing around the sky is mesmerizing but seeing lots of stacks simultaneously is a whole different level of coolness. I have a stack of dual-line kites and each kite has a 60′ ribbon tail. These are really fun to fly especially seeing the long tails trailing the kites.
Foster Grandparents’ Fun Fly
In 2023, I volunteered to be a foster grandparent for the Fun Fly. This was a complete joy, and I will gladly volunteer for this event again. Several kite builders created over 200 handmade, single-line, delta kites. The kites included line and carry bag. The kites were assembled and placed in the event tent. Children (often with an adult) simply went to the tent and a foster grandparent helped them pick a kite. The kites were different colors and had a wide variety of decorations. Kite designs included animals, geometric patterns, cartoons, flowers, piano keys, and lots more. The kids select a kite and the “grandparent” shows them how to disassembly and store the kite, how to reassemble it, how to let out and take in the line, etc. The children REALLY appreciated receiving a free, handmade kite, they liked learning about kites, and we volunteers may have had as much fun as the kids. I HIGHLY recommend this event for both kids and foster grandparents.
Another really fun activity was the night flying. We saw some impressive single-line lighted kites as well as stunt kites. My son and I are both into photography. At first, I tried to set static images of the kites but I could not get images that were clear enough for my liking. Then my son suggested that I stop trying to get clear images and do long exposures to get light trails. I will try to get more images at the next festival, but these are some of my first attempts at light trails.
There are many other events at the festival including kite battles, kite ballets, team flying, mass ascensions, tribute flights, etc. The team flying is always fun to watch and I have to marvel at how much skill it takes for that level of control. I am a basic flyer and can do a few basic tricks, but the competition flyers are on a completely different level. The kite ballet is particularly fun. A flyer gets onto the field and has to fly the kite to random music. The music could be slow, fast, ballad, rock & roll, classical, or whatever. The flyer must adapt, with no notice, and make the kite tricks follow the music.
One thing that many (if not most) kite flyers enjoy is teaching a newbie to fly. I have done this several time with the single-line kites and dual-line sport kites. It would be nice if flyers could be paired with newbies to show them some basics including making a larks knot, winding and unwinding multiple lines, basic kite flying and maneuvering, assembly and disassembly, etc. Maybe one of the fields could be used for teaching beginner and there could set times during the day or perhaps flyers could register at the tents and be texted if a newbie wants lessons.
The Long Beach International Kite Festival is just pure fun for flyers and non-flyers alike. Long Beach is also located to many other places including Ilwaco, Astoria, Fort Stevens, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Ecola Park, Oysterville, Willapa, Cape Disappointment, North Head, etc. There is plenty to do in Long Beach but lots of things to do that are only a short distance from Long Beach. One word of warning: Once you attend you may get hooked (like me) and it may become an annual pilgrimage.