July 31, 2008
Big Show in Berkeley

The Berkeley Kite Festival continues to evolve.

Years ago, the main arena was used for sport kite competitions. Now that space and the public address system are used for demonstration flights and special events like candy drops and rok fights.

Years ago, Berkeley boasted a broad gathering of home made art and creative kites. Few of those fliers participate now, but instead, an enthusiastic team of traditional fliers from Hammamatsu Japan regularly attends.

Years ago, the most popular attractions were the Bay Area Sundowners and Ray Bethel. They aren’t here anymore and IQuad gets all the cheers.

Berkeley Hill

Octo Field

Susie and I spent most of our time on the big kite field. This grassy plain, surrounded by walkways, has become a major attraction of the Festival. In earlier times, the kite store and learn-to-fly fields were there. But the commercial programs have shifted closer to the park entrance and the large inflatables have served as a huge magnet to draw spectators further into the event.

Saturday we lofted 17 Octopus. Maybe one day I’ll grow tired of the mass Octopod display. But not today! The flying show was great fun and the skies were bright and blue.

We joked that IQuad had only 16 kites in the mega-fly and we had one more! They however claimed to have more lines…

Sunday we left the Octopus in their bags and pulled out a variety of other critters. There were Dogs, Cats, Divers, a Gecko, Fish, Crabs and a Trilobite.

IQuad kept up the pressure on the lower field, bringing many local fliers into their show program. In two weeks they head for England to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Revolution kite.

IQuad  in Berkeley

Hamamatsu Kiters

The entire city of Hammamatsu Japan works themselves into a kite frenzy each May. Susan and I visited there on our first trip to Japan in 1989. Each neighborhood organizes a traditional kite team, complete with music and cheerleaders. The teams party every night and march through the streets with kites, trumpets, drums and sake. Then they gather at the kite field the next day for an airborne destruction derby. Last kite up wins!

Many residents of Hammamatsu are now working in the Bay Area and have formed an expatriate community. For the past three years, they have brought kiters to the festival from Japan and then joined them on the field.

Ironically, the Hammamatsu kites are peaceful in Berkeley while locally made rokkaku do all the fighting. Thirty kites have been prepared and outfitted with line and gloves.

The public are recruited for three rounds of fighting each day. That’s a chance for nearly 200 new kiters to join the fun. The winner of each heat receives enthused applause from the crowds and everyone else wins a new appreciated for kiting.

Further up the hill, a variety of kites and laundry are launched with cars brought in as anchors.

Rok Fight

The Berkeley Festival wraps up with a classy dinner cruise around San Francisco Bay. It is good times with old and dear friends – and a few new ones too. Then we turn the mini van north for the 12-hour drive home.

Octo Alternative

Tired of Octopus? Never! But if you are looking for an alternative, one of the coolest new kites is the Chinese Opera Mask, designed by the Gonzalez Brothers of Spain.

This dramatic kite is about 30 feet long and works with or without a Pilot. We list them for $1250. But for the next ten days, we’ll take 20% off. Same deal applies to the Red Devil that the Brothers make.

Mask

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