Sunday March 14, 2010 marked Austin's Annual Zilker Kite Festival!
The annual contest held at Zilker Park is one of a number of Austin events that helps keep Austin Weird and fun at the same time. The festival was originally founded in 1928 by The Exchange Club, a volunteer organization that raises funds to support non-profits that work to stop child abuse. For many years the Austin Parks & Recreation Department has joined with Exchange Club to co-sponsor the event at Zilker Park! The festival is free and open to the public, and is very popular with kite aficionados from the serious to the silly ;-) Today I attended with my wife strictly as a spectator to enjoy a picnic and watch the sky over Zilker Park filled with assorted kites of all types. As a fan from both sides of the spectrum, I have attended the festival many times and always had a great time.
This year there were literally hundreds of kites in the air at the same time with numerous contests covering a range of classes from smallest to largest to my personal favorite, "Most Interesting" This years winner in that category was a 93 year old gentleman whose kite "Puff the Magic Dragon" was the clear favorite! It has been quite awhile since I have entered any of the competitions and it was great seeing a guy still at it at 93 years of age. Heck even after my last bizarre experience as a competitor I may give it another try one of these days! I have previously posted about a special entry of mine at the festival in my blog and the story about my involvement as a "serious" participant is worth repeating here and should give you an idea of how wonderfully weird this event can be and another reason we are truly enjoying The Good Life In Austin Texas!!
From my post in March, 2009:
A number of years ago when I was building furniture, I had access to all sorts of tools, materials and a wonderful facility where I could build just about anything that I could possibly dream up. One year I got a wild hair (the day before the contest) and decided to assemble an entry in the LARGEST KITE category. I had a design in mind for a huge octagon shaped kite covered with heavy 12mil plastic. Pestering my friend and partner, Tom Wood (cool name for an architect/furniture builder) into helping me, together we set about designing and putting the monster from scratch. Most of the day was spent gathering materials and the evening was devoted to constructing the framework from wood and PVC pipe and covering the structure with the plastic skin that we had painstakingly melded together. Of course, like all last minute ideas and projects, there were many things that had to be "rigged" and adjusted so the work went on well into the early morning hours. The ENTIRE time, my friend kept telling me, "It will never fly". I just ignored him because after all, I still needed his help. Around 3:00am we finished the kite, my friend went home and I decided to paint my creation. Digging through a closet of spray cans, I began splashing and spraying the kite with all manner of colors, symbols and primitive designs that would have made a DADA-Anarchist proud! The longer I worked, the more bizarre it became and by 8:00am I had done all the damage I figured possible and crashed for a nap in my office!
Knowing that it would take a major effort to get the kite airborne and with safety in mind, we called a number of other friends to help launch and control the kite during its flight.About a dozen of our friends showed up to help and fortified with a cooler full of beverages and party favors as an enticement we made our way to Zilker Park. I need to mention here that Tom told each and every person on the crew that, "It will never fly". We spent most of the afternoon hanging out and watching the different kites, talking and laughing and generally enjoying the festive atmosphere! I don't have to remind you of this but about every 15-20 minutes, Tom would proclaim to anyone who would listen, "It will never fly..."
Toward the end of the afternoon, our event was announced and we assembled our kite, got in position and awaited the start. There were only six entries and it looked like we might have a chance IF we could launch our kite and keep it airborne for the ONE MINUTE time minimum.
We had fourteen people ready, two to hold the kite and a dozen people placed along the woven nylon line to help pull the kite along for enough time to get the thing up in the air. As the whistle blew, four of the contestants could not get up, crashed on takeoff or flew apart while the teams vainly attempted to make them fly! Down to us and one other team, we began pulling in unison running and screaming at each other to keep going and slowly our strange looking kite began to lift off. The coordination up to this point was perfect. What is important to remember is that it is crucial for everyone to release the line simultaneously so the kite can catch the wind and propel into the sky! As we were running along the kite gained altitude and I shouted for everyone to LET GO OF THE LINE! Everyone complied with the exception of, you guessed it...Tom, "Mister IT won't Fly"!Unfortunately, his position on the line was closest to the kite so he neither saw nor heard (or maybe ignored) everyone as they released the line. As the wind caught the kite, it began to pull up and twist violently pulling Tom up and down. We were all screaming at him to let go as the kite began to wildly careen up and around but he still held on. At that point the kite shot straight up and then plummeted into the earth, shattering the frame and collapsing in a huge pile of broken wooden limbs, pvc pipe and plastic shreds! All of us began yelling at Tom but he was completely nonplussed and said, "See, I told you it would not fly!" I don't know who said it first but one of our friends shouted, "DOGPILE" and we all jumped on Tom as the crowd watched in amusement breaking into applause, jeers, laughter! And that, friends was my last "serious" attempt at one of the contests!
If you were unable to make it today, make sure you don't miss it next year and if you have a chance just stop somewhere and pick up a kite! It's going to be breezy for the next few weeks and there is always room at Zilker Park for a few more! So get out and enjoy The Good Life In Austin Texas!