The skies above Cesar E. Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina will be swarming this weekend – with rainbow-colored dragons, purple cobras and chartreuse centipedes!
Not monsters – kites. It will be the 15th annual Berkeley Kite Fest and the West Coast Kite Flying Championships Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“This is one of the three largest events of its kind in North America,” said Tom McAlister, the event organizer, kite enthusiast and proprietor of HighlineKites.com.
“We’ll have kite-flyers from all over the country, Canada and even a team from China,” he said.
In celebration of this year’s theme, “Kites of the Pacific,” an eight-person team from Yang Jiang City, China will fly a 400-foot-long traditional Chinese Dragon Kite. The titanic kite is hand-crafted from silk and bamboo by master kite builders and marks the Lunar Year of the Dragon.
McAlister said that’s just the tip of the kite’s tail.
There will be “windsocks as big as houses,” a two-to-six-man team kite flying ballet, that McAlister described as a “combination of the Blue Angles and pair ice-skating,” and the Fest is also host for the West Coast Championship.
Competitive stunt flyers from around the country will be vying – actually flying for points – to qualify for the Grand Championships in Florida.
McAlister said another favorite is the “Rokkaku Battle for the Skies,” where a field of six to 10 teams battle each other with the spectacular, six-sided Rokkaku kites.
Not to mention the “Mass Acensions,” where all different kinds of kites, ranging from “Centipede Dragon” kites and Diamond kites to a “Mile O’ Sky Tube Trail,” take to the air en masse.
And the candy drop for the kids. Which is, sort of, a kite world version of a piñata, just a little higher in the air and no swinging sticks.
There will also be kite-flying lessons by representatives from Prism Designs and Revolution Kites, so even rookies can look like pros.
The Kite Fest is free.
“This is just something we do to promote kiting and give something back to the community,” said McAlister, who started the Fest back in 1986.
He said a team of 60 volunteers join in to help out at the Fest.
“They’re the heroes,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
McAlister said he expects a crowd of between 10,000 to 20,000, depending on the weather, which is forecast to be clear and warm with a perfect kite-flying sea breeze from 10 to 25 mph.
Check out the website at www.highlinekites.com for a schedule and more information.
Spectators are asked to arrive early and encouraged to take public transportation. Bus 51M will run down to the Marina. Parking is free however.