Monday, July 30, 2012

Oh, Let's Go Fly A Kite: The Berkeley Kite Festival

This past weekend, in search of a new experience, I attended an event that is apparently not-so-new: the 27th annual Berkeley Kite Festival. Besides a lot of kites, I really wasn't sure what to expect from this event, but it seemed that it would, at the very least, provide some entertainment for the afternoon. So, in spite of not actually owning a kite, I decided to see what it was all about, and headed down to the Berkeley Marina with my lovely friend Vicki to do just that.

In order to avoid the parking hassle, we decided to bus down to the festival, which meant a long, tiring, and rough walk a bit of a walk to actually get to where we were headed. We literally crossed railroad tracks, traversed bridges, and frolicked through fields before finally reaching our destination. As we approached the Marina (during the field-frolicking portion of our journey), I looked skywards and caught a preview of the festival in the distance––what looked like hundreds of tiny kites in flight.

But, once we got a little closer and it got a little breezier, I was able to see much more clearly that everything was much bigger than I had anticipated. Not only was the festival and the number of kites and kite-flyers larger than I had expected, but the kites themselves seemed to tower above us, even in that vast blue sky. The octopi, lizard, dog, and clown-fish kites in particular inspired awe into each puny human that laid eyes upon them. (Alright, I'm being a tad bit dramatic, but you get my point; these were big-ass kites.)

And for every huge kite, there were countless small ones, the sheer variety of which was incredible to witness. I saw thematic kites, everything from Cal and Stanfurd (*hiss*) kites to angry-bird kites, from American flag kites to an entire zoo's-worth of animal themed kites. And if you included the more generic distinctions between kites––color, shape, size, tails––it seemed like there were endless variations of kite everywhere you looked.

I experienced another new thing while at the festival: Kite Flying Competitions. I didn't realize that there was even such a thing as a professional kite-flyer, or that some people could actually control how their kites fly. (In my best kite-flying experience, the kite flew high up in the air; in my most traumatic, I had my favorite kite ripped out of my hands and into a neighbors yard [I got it back].) But here, there were kite-flying teams, each with a goofy team-name, who crossed and uncrossed kite-lines with ease, making amazing patterns in the sky set to dramatic songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Papa was a Rolling Stone". Needless to say, I found this both amusing and amazing.

The event also included some typical festival stuff, like booths with jewelry, Tibetan goods, and festival food––things that were typical of Berkeley and its eclecticism, so nothing too exciting (for me anyway). And, although I did consume copious amounts of disgusting yet delicious festival food, the most striking aspects of the festival were its sights. So, to share those sights with you, dear reader, I'll end the post with some photos:

Rear-end of dog kite.

Festival goers and kites.

Festival goers and kite flying competition.

Tibetan tapestries.

My beautiful friend, Vicki.

Crossed kite lines.

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