For a long time I have been saying Calgary needs a kite festival. What the heck every city needs a kite festival. Here in Calgary, a kite festival would be a great signature event for Fort Calgary and East Village. When I knew we would be in Austin in early March, I was thrilled to discover we could attend their annual kite festival – the world’s oldest.
Each year Austin’s Kite Festival attracts over 20,000 people of all ages and is one of the city’s best-known annual events. Held on the first Sunday of March, (the second Sunday of March is the alternate day if weather doesn’t cooperate),
It is the kick-off to springtime in Austin
Everyone is welcome – there is no admission to attend, no obligation to participate in the contests or even fly a kite. Most folks do try their hand at flying a kite, but some just come to see the spectacular sight of thousands of kites in the sky and to enjoy a spring day in the park. It is perhaps one of the most inclusive events I have every seen.
Too Much Fun
The festival lived up to my expectations. There was lots of excitement in the air when I arrived at 11 am in the massive park (350 acres i.e. 16 times the size of Calgary’s Riley Park).
I overheard one kite flyer say he was there at 6 am to get the best spot. (Hmmm – sounds like something one would here on Stampede Parade Day in Calgary.) Another guy said he had driven six hours to get there and does so every year. Many young families, pulling wagons with food, coolers and assorted paraphernalia (some even with their dog) came out for the day.
The kids were all smiles with lots of room to run, twirl and look at all of the dancing kites. I was shocked at how many young kids were actually able to fly the kites. And while it looked very chaotic with people scattered everywhere and invisible strings being manipulated at every which angle, I saw only a few injured kites and no injured kids. It was a Sunday miracle.
I think the photo and video speak for themselves.
The ‘Kite Tournament’ was created in 1929 by a men’s service club called The Exchange Club of Austin with a mission to encourage creativity in children. Exchange Club President Ed St. John came up with the idea to give kids a constructive activity the community could participate in. The first Tournament was held in Lamar Park, which is thought to have been close to the intersection of Congress Avenue and 1st Street in the middle of downtown.
In 1936, the Exchange Club partnered with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department to bring the event to newly opened and larger Zilker Park. In 1956, the Kite Tournament was opened to competitors of all ages, and to this day contest events have changed very little.
Austin’s Zilker Park Kite Festival is the longest continuously running kite festival in the United States and continues to be sponsored by the Exchange Club and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department every year. Its lead corporate sponsor for 2016 was ABC Home and Commercial.
Austin’s Kite Festival is cheap, colourful, chaotic and crazy – all in a very good way.