For the last 27 years, people from around the world have gathered at the Berkeley Marina for a traditional summer experience that includes watching flying octopi and cloud fish soar in the sky.
About 25,000 to 35,000 men, women and children came out on Saturday and Sunday to the Berkeley Kite Festival, an event that has been a Berkeley staple for the past three decades. Festival-goers participated in the various kite activities held for event attendees — such as kite flying competitions, kite-making and Revolution Mega Fly, a form of synchronized kite flying — and also took advantage of the open space in the marina to fly kites of their own.
Event chair and UC Berkeley alumnus Tom McAlister said the most notable event for children at the festival is the Candy Drop, during which candy is dropped from a kite and children run to retrieve the candy as if from a pinata.
“The kids are just wetting their pants because it’s Halloween in July,” McAlister said. “It is amazing to see the sheer joy of kids running for a sweet treat, and just having fun.”
Since the Berkeley Kite Festival began in 1986, McAlister said he has committed most of his whole adult life to sharing his love for kites through the event and through Highline Kites of Berkeley, his mobile retail kite business.
“At that time, I was just starting a retail kite business out of the back of my car, literally,” McAlister said. “We planned our first event in three weeks.”
McAlister’s business and the event have grown since 1986, and he is now supported by several organizations in the Bay Area and nationally including Prism Kite Technology, a manufacturer of sport kites based in Seattle, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a non-profit organization whose goal is to stop drunk driving and underage drinking.
According to McAlister, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which provided staff to direct parking overflow at the event, is an important supporter of the event because the kite festival has been alcohol-free since it first started.
“You don’t have to get high to get high,” McAlister said. “(An alcohol-free event) is something that we really believe in.”
Richmond SPOKES, an entrepreneurial program in Richmond that trains children in bicycle reparation, has catered the bike valet at the kite festival for the last three years.
Brian Drayton, executive director and founder of Richmond SPOKES, said one of his favorite things about being at the kite festival is the event’s mellow atmosphere.
“Most festivals have a lot stimulus … music and rides and all these different things,” he said. “Here, you look and people are just looking up at the sky. It’s really sweet to see this many people out in open space and not have (conflicts between each other).”
Drayton said he made use of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to ride their bikes to the kite festival.
“We offset about 15,000 pounds of carbon (for people riding their bikes instead of their cars to the event),” he said.
Other organizations also used social networking to do outreach for the event, such as the Golden Gate Mothers Group, a volunteer-run organization that supports San Francisco mothers.
San Francisco resident Binuta Rao, a mother of two who was informed of the kite festival through the Golden Gate Mothers Group newsletter, said it was her family’s first time at the festival, and her daughter’s love for kites was their primary reason for attending the event.
“My older daughter … who is three-years-old loves kites, so we thought we’d just come out (to this event),” Rao said.
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.