The Santa Barbara Kite Festival will be returning to the West Campus lawn of Santa Barbara City College today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be the 36th held in the city since its inception, and will occupy the Great Meadows next to the Garvin Theatre at 721 Cliff Drive.
“Up” is the theme of this year’s festival, a selection intended as a positive statement of change in the community and the return of the festival after a two-year hiatus. Today’s forecast is for sunny skies, light winds and cooler temperatures. If these conditions hold, it will make for an excellent day of kite flying.
The Children’s Kite Tail Chase features the master kite flying of Rakesh Bahadur. Mr. Bahadur is the founder of the kite festival, which he started in San Francisco in 1973. In 1980, he brought the festival to Santa Barbara along with his kite shop, Come Fly a Kite. The shop closed about 5 years ago when he retired, but the festival remains.
Mr. Bahadur was also named the “Master of Kite Flying” by the America Kite Flyers Association in 1981. His family was the first family to open a kite shop in America. Mr. Bahadur has been flying kites since he was three years old.
In India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, kite fighting is enjoyed as a challenging sport, not a hobby, according to Mr. Bahadur.
“It is the best thing you can do. It is an extension of yourself when you are flying, it’s almost like you are flying yourself when you are flying a kite. Men always want to fly,” Mr. Bahadur told the News-Press.
The festival will feature friendly competitions: “Best of Fest,” “Best Ground Display,” “Youngest & Oldest Kite Flyers,” “Most Unique/Unusual Kite,” “Funniest Kite,” “Most Un-flyable Kite,” “Most Beautiful” (handmade & commercial), “Highest Flying,” “Largest & Smallest Kites” and “Sport Flying.” Prizes will be awarded to all contest winners.
The most prominent award is the Lion Award, created in the memory of local philanthropist Chad Dreier, whose family is still a major supporter of the festival. The award’s name was inspired by the Dreier Family support of the Lion habitat at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The award recognizes the person who makes the greatest impact on the happiness and success of the festival.
“It brings people outdoors and you have the feel of the wind. It’s like sailing. It’s more like meditating when you are flying kites, you are just with the kites. It’s like heart to heart,” said Mr. Bahadur.
Admission to the festival is free. Parking is available on both the west campus and the main campus. Kites, food and beverages can be purchased at the festival. All current state and county health and safety protocols will be in place at the event.
Thanks to a 2007 City Council proclamation, the month of April is officially recognized as Kite Month in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara’s kite month is promoted in coordination with the National Kite Month of April – co-founded by the American Kite Flyers Association and the Kite Trade Association International.