Smiles were the only thing more plentiful than kites this weekend at Halvorsen Park.
Visitors and tourists joined participants and spectators for Saturday and Sunday’s Redwood Coast Kite Festival, with plenty of sunshine and just enough wind to ensure the event’s success. Admission was free.
Families and groups of friends, many of whom had never previously flown a kite, watched acrobatic demos and giant kite exhibitions. They also had a chance to fly their own kites. For many, it was an introduction to a long-popular outdoor activity.
For the first time since 1993, the Humboldt Kiters organization hosted the largest kite festival between Central Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area on the Eureka Waterfront. For most years between the 1993 event and the one this weekend, kite aficionados gathered each spring in Brookings, Ore., for a day of airborne fun.
Two years of pandemic disrupted the string, and the Brookings-area kiters decided to end their role as host this year. For a short time, it appeared that plans for a regional kite festival wouldn’t get off the ground.
Enter the Humboldt Kiters.
Loose on structure but big on motivation, the Humboldt Kiters is a group of 12 Eureka residents and friends – give or take a couple on any given day – who enjoy everything kite-related. The idea to take the reins as hosts was quickly embraced, and the hard work began.
“We have no membership dues and no officers,” said club member Mark Ahrens. “What we have in an incredible core team of people who can work together using their different strengths. That’s how it came together.”To the delight of attendees – who were difficult to count because of the event’s spread-out matrix – skies above the waterfront were filled with squid, jellyfish, a shark whale, and a myriad of abstract form kites. Adjacent to the field of giants, a large area was populated by young and old, all looking skyward as they or someone else in their party guided a kite.
At that venue, Lindsay Wood watched closely as daughters Ifer, 4 years old, and Mabie, almost two, launched their kites in the light to moderate breeze. Ifer, the older sister, beamed at her success. And Mabie, who eventually got her kite off the ground, proudly said, “I’m getting better.”
Another event highlight was the kite candy drop. Kids between ages 3-7 gathered beneath an enormous kite with a box of candy dangling beneath it. When the string was pulled and the box opened, the candy-gathering frenzy quickly ensued.
“A shower of candy came down,” Ahrens said, “and the kids had crazy fun going after it. It was fun for all of us to watch their reactions as candy showered down in a glitter of color.”
Adding to the atmosphere were artisan booths and vendors. From their inclusion, to parking, security, and fields preparation, all elements were nailed down in three short months.
While the logistics came together, Ahrens and club member Jim Murray helped get the word out on social media. Club member Jimmie Nord, who lived locally until moving to Washington seven months ago, contributed heavily to the event’s organization. He also displayed his skills in a slick, musical exhibition of kite-flying Sunday. Members shared time on the public address system throughout the weekend, keeping the event rolling and contributing fun anecdotes.
During the Redwood Kite Festival, what was evident was the organizers’ passion for kites and sharing of that passion. On the third Saturday of each month, the group hosts “fun flys” at Halvorsen Park, with participation open to the public. They hope to sustain the festival annually.
“We’re excited about the turnout, the flying conditions, and the support we received from community sponsors,” Ahrens said. “So many kids were able to create and decorate their own kites at no cost. It was a beautiful weekend.”
With one festival behind them, Nord sees the event’s potential as limitless.
“We’ve been taking notes on what was successful and what we can add in future years,” Nord said. “For a first-time festival, we’re happy at what was accomplished. I can see it growing in scope and popularity for years to come.”