Camp Casey will be overrun with vibrant colors and displays of creativity Sept. 16 and 17 as hundreds of kites take to the sky for the annual Whidbey Island Kite Festival.
But for the Whidbey Island Kite Fliers, this isn’t a once-a-year sight. They fly their kites as a group every month, both to practice coordinated team flying and to test their newest hand-made creations.
Many local kite aficionados took to the skies on the Labor Day holiday to gear up for the festival, which is sponsored by Coupeville Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.
“The thing about the kite festival is the colors and the imagination that is put into some of the kites,” said Lisa Root, festival chairwoman. “Seeing hundreds of beautiful kites dominating the sky is just incredible.”
Whidbey Island Kite Festival is a combination of a family-friendly community flying event and a sport kite competition that attracts people from far and wide.
An annual event in Coupeville since the late ’90s, according to Root, the festival brings out “about 1,500 people that come and go each day, at least.”
Most people bring their kites to fly, whether purchased or handmade, although some arrive to simply witness the vibrant display of human creativity over a picnic.
With the backdrop of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, it’s a colorful sight.
The festival features a plethora of events. One facet of the festival is the sport kite league, where the competing fliers butt heads in sporting categories such as precision and ballet; kites must fly in a certain way to score points and fly to music, respectively. Members of Whidbey Island Kite Fliers compare ballet to figure skating and say competitive kite fliers prepare for them like an athlete would for a competition.
There are also team competitions, where kite fliers stand shoulder to shoulder and direct their kites in a coordinated manner.
Practicing recently, a group from Whidbey Island Kite Fliers directed their kites in unison, similar to the movements seen in synchronized swimming. As one kite flier gave directions to move left, right and turn, the others followed suit.
As precise as clockwork.
Steve Dutcher of Oak Harbor said the group flying is where people test their mettle.
“You don’t really get good until you fly with other people, because you have to keep an eye on other kites that are close by,” Dutcher said. “Plus, for me it’s all about flying together. Together, everyone here has become masters and I can hardly keep up with them.”
For those not looking to compete, the Whidbey Island Kite Festival has a number of other events.
The Whidbey Island Kite Fliers put on kite-making sessions for both kids and adults, as the members of the group all dabble in their own kite-making, designing simplistic crafts to intricate ones with multiple moving parts that sway in the wind.
There is also a competition for kids to test their strength, where the object is to run with a kite against the wind.
Root says the most popular event tends to be the annual Teddy Bear Drop at 1 p.m. on both days. This is when a kite drops a stuffed animal dangling on a parachute into a swarm of eager kids battling to snag it from the sky.
For those hoping to snap a postcard picture, Root says the festival has a mass ascension at 12:30 p.m. both days.
“With the best wind on the island, a large field and the view of the mountains behind the Sound, it’s an amazing sight,” Root said. “Knowing the hours people dedicated to making their kites and practicing their flying make it even better.”
Whidbey Island Kite Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, and Sunday, Sept. 17
Where: Camp Casey Conference Center, Coupeville. Free admission.
What: Whidbey Island Sport Kite Championship competitions both days; kid’s kite making and games; sport kite lessons, free-fly area and food vendors both days.
Featured events: Mass Ascension at 12:30 p.m. both days; Teddy Bear Drop, 1 p.m. both days; Indoor Kite Flying at Coupeville High School gym; 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Presented by Whidbey Island Kite Festival Association and Whidbey Island Kite Fliers.