Kites and Creativity Take Flight at Annual Berkeley Festival

Jacqueline Johnston/Photo

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From afar, it seemed like several giant octopi were flying over the Berkeley Marina, their tentacles undulating in the wind as their eyes gazed upon the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tethered by strings, the octopi soaring 100 feet in the air were part of the 23rd annual Berkeley Kite Festival, which took place at Cesar E. Chavez Park in West Berkeley on Saturday and Sunday.

With a peak attendance of about 8,000 people, the park was crammed to full capacity with first-time kite flyers, kite enthusiasts and kite professionals from as far away as Japan.

"It's really amazing to see so many kites and people of all ages, from kids to professionals," said Eric Salituro, 42, a self-described kite enthusiast from Emeryville.

This year, the festival hosted a delegation of traditional Japanese master kite builders, who presented kite designs that were several centuries old. Each region of Japan has a distinctive kite form, and regional kite competitions are common in Japan, said UC Berkeley alumnus Tom McAlister, who founded the festival in Berkeley in 1986.

The festival also included free kite-making workshops with the aim of inspiring children to be creative and productive, said McAlister, who owns Highline Kites of Berkeley.

"Flight is a miraculous thing. When children make a kite with their own hands, an object that defies gravity and joins a world normally reserved for birds, insects and technologists, it is an enormous confidence builder," he said.

Many of the attendees found the festival enjoyable, citing the Bay Area scenery, people and favorable wind conditions as ideal.

"I think it's the best kite festival in California," said kite flyer and Santa Maria resident Steve Riehle, 71, while flying a kite that featured the Mona Lisa.

-Matthew Peters


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