Colorful Kites at the 2018 Berkeley Kite Festival

July 30, 2018 Last Updated: July 30, 2018

Berkeley held its 37th annual Berkeley Kite Festival July 28–29. Every year families and friends from around the Bay Area gather at Cesar Chavez Park to enjoy kite flying.

Founder and organizer of the Berkeley Kite Festival, Tom McAlister, shares his enthusiasm for this annual event.

“It’s one of the largest kite festivals in the Western Hemisphere. We’re tremendously proud of this project. It’s kind of been my life’s work for the past 37 years,” said McAlister.

“We try to present a three-ring circus of what modern kiting has to offer. There are kites that are used for exercise, there are kites that are used to pull buggies and pull people on the water, that’s called traction kiting; there are people who build kites as a form of artistic expression. There’s free kite making for kids. We’re going to build 2,000 kites for kids here this weekend.”

The festival also consisted of other forms of entertainment such as Taiko drumming, food, and kite competitions. The most eye-catching kites were the largest or most unique.

“There’s team kite flying, which is people flying kites that are aerobatic and they’re doing a synchronized routine set to music, kind of like a cross between pairs ice skating and the Blue Angels. And then, there are giant kites,” explained McAlister, “like this giant octopus kite—a hundred feet long, 20 feet wide, we should have 12 of them flying on this field at the same time a little later today.”

Both children and adults could be seen flying kites of all shapes and sizes throughout the park.

“We expect 35,000 people over two days. Peak crowd size is probably about 8,000,” says McAlister.

“Years ago, before the Internet blew up, when there was a thing called the Usenet groups … there was a survey done of techno-nerds who were on this thing … They asked, what’s the best urban kite-flying site on the planet? This field right here and a town in Germany came up as the world’s top two.  Now maybe that’s because of the user base we had, but who knows. It’s one of the finest urban centers to fly a kite.”