August 2, 2006
The Berkeley Persona

Festival Sky

Over time, festivals begin to build up a personality. You get to know the field, the wind condition, and the regular participants. You know what to expect in the sky and who you will see there. You even get to know the schedule – or what passes for a schedule on ‘kite time’.

Regulars know the core Berkeley personality – bumpy fields, blasting winds, a dramatic San Francisco vista, and huge crowds.

You get that great hotel at the Marina. You also get traffic snarls. You get Ray Bethell wowing people at the entrance to the park, sport kites and demos in the main field, huge kite displays, and a fine dinner cruise/award banquet at the end of the weekend. But events, like personalities, change over time.

For many years, Berkeley was a premier sport kite event. As competition waned, the attention on the main field shifted to demonstrations. And then someone got the bright idea to fly big showpieces in a central arena with a focus on giant Octopi. Today, the major events on the demonstration field are candy drops and a wonderful series of rokkaku matches. Further down the hill, they hold a modest sport kite and fighter kite competition,

Kid's Fly Kid's Fly Kid's Fly Kid's Fly Kid's Fly

This year, Berkeley offered something new. A twelve-man team from Hammamatsu, Japan, arrived with two 20-foot crates of large traditional kites.

Hammamatsu hosts a major fighting festival each May. Neighborhoods each organize kite teams, supported by crowds with bugles, drums and whistles. The teams party each night and then parade into the streets. When they meet another team, they join together and march to the next intersection. And suddenly there are thousands of chanting, drinking, joyful kite enthusiasts parading in what can only be described as a ‘kite frenzy’.

Hammamatsu Guests Hammamatsu Guests Hammamatsu Guests

The Northern California Japan Association turned out in Berkeley to celebrate with the Hammamatsu fliers. Their traditional kites, traditional costumes, and traditional music became a major part of this year’s festival.

And Berkeley offered their own style of kite fighting as well.

Arnold Stellema and Nathan Sendan have annually brought kites and line for a rokkaku battle. This year their ‘kit’ expanded to 36 kites – which is quite a fight! The public is educated and then invited to participate in one of three matches each day. That means nearly 200 people came onto the field for a first flying and fighting experience.

Octo-Pile Octo-Pile Octo-Pile Octo-Pile

As in other recent years, giant kites dominated the central festival space. Berkely has become famous for the Octo-Pile which this year featured ten of the monster kites -- a North American record.

Berkeley turned 21 this year. That is a testament to organizer Tom McAlister and the many volunteers who have sustained the event for more than two decades.

Just think – when Berkeley started, Ray Bethell was only in his 60’s…..

Sutton Flowforms: These are the classic flowforms from Air Affairs. Big, easy to handle, and major sky-impact. You've seen them at festivals all around the USA. Now you can own one. Hundreds of square feet of fun!

Flowforms are stable and remarkably gentle for their size. Remember to add your own drogue , spinsock or our exclusive Sutton Streamers.


So here is the Update deal -- we have a few 125's on the shelf and ready for immediate shipment. Normal pricing is $550. Buy one and we'll take $100 off the price! Quantities are limited but designs include rainbow with black keels; red,yellow and orange; red,white and blue; and red,yellow and black.

We also have a few 252's. We'll take $125 off the normal $850 price of the larger model. We've got rainbow; rainbow with black keels; red,yellow and black; cranberry,teal and black; and red,blue and yellow.

This deal is limited to kites on hand, while available. And the price is good for one week only! Offer ends August 10.

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