Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Sun, wind, friends and kites

Kiters both experienced and novice gather for Kenai festival

Over Kenai’s Millennium Square on Saturday, dozens of kites both large and small rose into sunny skies as part of the annual Kenai Kite Festival.

The field closest to Bridge Access Road was filled with dozens of children shortly after noon. They experimented with lifting their kites up in the wind both while standing stationary and while racing ahead and trailing their kites behind.

Many of the children had arrived for the festival without kites, Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Director Tyler Best said. Walmart donated around 200 kites to attendees; an initial offering of 160 was entirely expended and a second batch was brought in later during the event.

Further kites were constructed earlier the same week at events held by the Kenai Community Library and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula. Some kites were also donated by the Salvation Army.

On the square’s other field, dozens of large, spectacular kites rose and fell with the wind. Among them were large structures that were made up of hundreds of square feet of material, recognizable shapes like an astronaut and a whale, and more nimble fliers with long tails that moved deftly through the sky.

These kites were operated by the Alaskiters, who Best referred to as “professional kiters.”

Tim Tullis said the Alaskiters began as a small club of passionate fliers who wanted to keep in touch. Now, their Facebook page has roughly 2,000 followers and they were recently recognized as the 2023 Kite Club of the Year by the American Kitefliers Association.

A big part of their success, Tullis said, comes from their efforts to share their passion — efforts like the Kenai Kite Festival.

On Saturday, Tullis said he and the other Alaskiters were enjoying good weather and “bringing in a new generation of kiters.” He and other kiters said that kiting is a pastime they value because of its tranquility.

“I find it meditative,” he said. “It’s like I’m watching a fire, just flickering back and forth.”

Suzanne Taylor, another Alaskiter, echoed that thought. The festival, she said, brought “sun and wind and friends and kites — friends old and new.”

Kite flying, she said, demands skill. In the act of managing a kite — on Saturday she was flying a smaller kite with tails that stretch around 50 feet in its wake — she finds relaxation.

“I like the way the light catches it,” she said. “I like colorful kites that catch the eye — the tails are so much fun, because of the way they move in the wind.”

At the festival, Taylor said that people enjoy seeing the kites, they ask questions, and they tap into some childlike wonder — though kite-flying isn’t just for kids. Kite flying is something that anyone can do, without the need to devote a significant part of their time to learning.

“I’ve got a job,” she said. “When I’m done, I can take a little bit of time and just go out and enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine.”

Kiting began for Tullis with a dime store kite he picked up at 6 years old. In the early 2000s, he picked it back up — “that was about $30,000 ago.”

“The wind’s free,” he said. “Nothing else is. But it’s a great way to relax, even though its a lot of work.”

Tullis said he’s been proud to see the festival in Kenai grow each year, from a short first session on North Kenai Beach, moving later to Millennium Square in 2021. It’s only grown each year since.

Tullis said that’s testament to the value and the nature of kite flying.

“I urge everybody to go out and fly a kite,” he said.

Best said the Kite Festival is an exciting summer offering in part because it’s a very low stress summer event, removed from the hustle and bustle that defines lots of other weekend programming on the peninsula.

“Come fly a kite,” he said. “I haven’t seen a single kid look at a screen. They’re just outside, running around on a sunny day in Kenai.”

Other supporters of the event, Best said, included Main Street Tap & Grill, who donated lodging for the Alaskiters, and both Spenard Builders Supply and The Home Depot, who donated material to the kite-building events.

For more information about the festival and upcoming events, find “City of Kenai Parks & Recreation” on Facebook. For more information about the kiters, including photos and video of the event, find “Alaskiters.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at peninsulaclarion.com.

Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Suzanne Taylor directs a kite flying in the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Suzanne Taylor directs a kite flying in the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kites flown by Alaskiters rise into the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Nathan Nelson directs a kite flying dozens of feet up in the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Nathan Nelson directs a kite flying dozens of feet up in the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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