Berkeley Kite Festival 2008

          Close your eyes and inhale slowly, deeply; exhale slowly, deeply; repeat several more times, continuous, you will know when your ready. Keep you eyes closed and imagine a clear blue ski and sun on your skin. It’s not too hot, the sun warms, but does not raise a sweat. Imagine a breeze on your skin, it’s not too cool, it may or not raise goose bumps. Imagine hearing the flutter of nylon, cotton, or paper. It tugs your arm, tight between you fingers. Open your eyes.

          Nothing to do but layback on the soft green turf and relax. The Berkeley Kite Festival is a simple break from the rat wheel and cheese maze. On July 25-26, Highline Kites hosted the largest kite festival on the west coast. Saturday conditions could not have been better at Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina: plenty of open space, sunny, upper 70-degree temperatures, and a constant southerly breeze off the bay.

          10,000 spectators and enthusiasts, amateur and professional, watched or flew kites ranging from 6 inches to 90 feet, from a perfect replica of a swallow to a pod of giant airborne octopi. The Berkeley Kite Wranglers flew 25,000 square feet of giant kites with 17 octopi. The world record is 21. Participants flew everything from pirate ships, dragon kites, box kites, and even Disney’s Nemo made an appearance.

          Festival highlights were the Sode-cho Kite-Flying Society of Hamamatsu, Japan. At the annual Matsuri (Festival), kite fighting between up to 170 teams have competed since 1887. Kites have been a tradition in Hamamatsu, Japan, for 448 years. Taiko Drummers from Taiko Spirit provided live music.

          A team of 16 four-line kites, shaped like two opposing triangles on a single plane, preformed an acrobatic kite ballet. The handlers flew in formation, formed shapes and letters, as well as wing-to-wing stunts. Manufactures pitched their wares and hosted kite making and flying seminars.

          Bay Area Sport Kite League (BASKL) presented the West Coast Kite Championships. Saturday’s events finished with a rokkaku battle, an octagonal kite fight. Competitors of all ages were invited to engage competitors with octagonal kites. Opponents attempted to cut each other’s string, and send their kite to the ground.

          Standard fair food was available and picnic baskets were welcome. I enjoyed a handmade root beer and corn dog, and an ear of roasted corn. Entry admission was free, but parking on the site cost $10 and $8 with shuttle from Golden Gate Fields. The fee covered shuttle expense and supported two local charities, the Berkeley Rotary Club and East Bay Community Mediation. Traffic was typical bay area with available spots filling up early, and scores of cars stuck on I-80 access roads. I parked across the freeway, just on the other side of the Berkeley Aquatic Park. Free, but It was a good mile and half walk.

          Enough of the facts and word after word check out the slideshow.

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