A kite is a wind-borne plaything for children. That was the extent of my kite consciousness
before visiting the World Kite Museum and attending the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach. As it turns out, a kite is much more than a youngster’s toy. Heck, a kite doesn’t even need the wind to fly.
A tour of the World Kite Museum in Long Beach opened my eyes. Kite flying originated thousands of years ago in China, purportedly when a gentleman’s hat was launched airborne by the wind, despite his efforts to secure it to his head with a string. Over the years, kites have been used by scientists to measure the weather, and by the military to deliver messages across enemy lines. Through time, kites have evolved beyond mere functional designs; many are colorful, elaborate works of art.
Today, kites are used for recreational transportation, pulling buggies on beaches and boards across the water. In many countries, such as Japan and Iran, kite fighting is a popular pastime. Competitive kite events feature compulsory and freestyle elements similar to those for figure skating. Remarkably, there is even indoor kite flying, using ultra-lightweight kites that perform in windless environments. Go figure.
Each August, Long Beach hosts the Washington State International Kite Festival in a dramatic seaside setting. At the Festival, the sensory spectacle of mass kite flying is on full display. An armada of novelty kites in the fanciful shapes of animals, birds and fish streams overhead. A team of sport kites dances in choreographed precision to the beat of Santana’s “Smooth”. Spectators and participants of all ages and ethnicities mingle and munch funnel cakes and deep fried twinkies. The atmosphere is as festive and buoyant as the kites themselves.