Whidbey Island has a reputation among kite-flyers.
The wind presents a real challenge, with gusts from every which way. The grassy fields of Camp Casey make unusual footing for kite-flyers making the rounds on competitive cycles. And the annual kite festival is a definite must-go stop for anyone within the region even remotely interested in the high-flying objects.
The Whidbey Island Kite Festival is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 21 and 22 at the Camp Casey Conference Center.
“You’ve got to be pretty quick on your feet,” said Casey Shearer, president of Washington Kitefliers Association. “The nice thing about (the festival) is it does attract top-level competitors…Whidbey is regarded as a very important competition.”
The two-day, free Whidbey Island Kite Festival will feature the favorites: the surprise song “mystery ballet” performances, the Teddy Bear Drop, the Running of the Bols, a raffle draw for prizes, a mass ascension, sport kite competitions, and kite-flying experts who will show off their skills in Whidbey’s wind.
The kite festival, produced by the Whidbey Island Kite Fliers and the Whidbey Island Kite Festival Association, is an American Kitefliers Association-endorsed event.
Shearer is the AKA director for Region 10, covering Washington through Alaska. He has high praise for the Whidbey Island Kite Festival in particular, as it is one of his favorite events of the year.
The festival draws thousands of visitors from Whidbey and beyond. All kinds of kites can be found in the skies, from the trailing lines of the Ghost Kites to the chiseled sports kites. Advanced flyers can be seen managing multiple lines and performing stunts, and, of course, there’s fun kites too — giant ducks, spinning wheels, Seahawk-themed designs, snake-shaped wigglers and more.
The Whidbey Island Kite Fliers launched the first festival two decades ago, with a handful of kite-enthusiasts coming together to create the club which now meets the third Saturday of every month at Fort Casey to fly.
“We have a fun club,” organizer Linda Barnes said, with between 30 and 35 members looking for “any excuse to fly their kites.”
At the festival, her husband, Richard “Dick” Barnes, also known as the “kite doctor,” will be in the house to address all pressing kite concerns.
Steep discounts on kites of all kinds can be found at the used kite loft, and there will be food provided by the Central Whidbey Lions Club.
The sky will be filled with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes during the Mass Ascension at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Anyone can bring a kite and join in the eye-catching spectacle of flying fabric.
The Teddy Bear Drop, a favorite for the young ones, is at 1 p.m. both days. The stuffed animal is hoisted high in the air and released to the clutches of waiting children.
If there’s no wind, it’s more like the “teddy bear toss,” Barnes said.
The indoor kite flying at the Coupeville High School Gym gym will be 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
There will be free flying lessons for those interested in learning about the art of kite-flying. The Running of the Bols will have the circular kites spinning high as flyers charge across the fields.
The main fundraisers for the event are raffles with prizes donated from Whidbey merchants. This year, they have between 200 and 250 items, Barnes said, including discount coupons, gift certificates and bigger prizes.
The sport kite championships and competitions run throughout both days. Times can be found at the festival website, whidbeykites.org.
And the mystery ballet really is a mystery, presenting a challenge for flyers to create a kite routine on the spot to any song, be it rap or classical.