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Kite flying and much more

38th Long Beach festival includes everything from true love to big smoke

By Jessica Douglas

For the Observer

Published on August 28, 2018 4:20PM

“Uncle Sam” waved Old Glory for festival attendees.

NELLIE HUX PHOTO

“Uncle Sam” waved Old Glory for festival attendees.

Colorful “dinosaurs” wandered around the festival and downtown Long Beach last week.

NELLIE HUX PHOTO

Colorful “dinosaurs” wandered around the festival and downtown Long Beach last week.

Maya Phipps was very excited to see the giant cat kite at this year’s kite festival. It was Phipps’ first time attending, in the company of her grandparents from Ocean Park.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Maya Phipps was very excited to see the giant cat kite at this year’s kite festival. It was Phipps’ first time attending, in the company of her grandparents from Ocean Park.

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The 2018 kite festival included the wedding of a couple who met at the festival last year.

NELLIE HUX PHOTO

The 2018 kite festival included the wedding of a couple who met at the festival last year.

Marty Martin and her dog, Bismark, enjoyed the stoll down Bolstad Avneue to see kite-flying action.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Marty Martin and her dog, Bismark, enjoyed the stoll down Bolstad Avneue to see kite-flying action.

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Father and daughter visited the flying beasts at kite festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Father and daughter visited the flying beasts at kite festival.

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Vendor Row on Bolstad beach approach attracted a crowd.

NELLIE HUX PHOTO

Vendor Row on Bolstad beach approach attracted a crowd.

Box kite fliers gathered for a celebratory photo.

NELLIE HUX PHOTO

Box kite fliers gathered for a celebratory photo.

Cumoreh Mathison, from Ckanogan County, flies her first kite indoors on Wednesday afternoon of the 38th Washington International Kite Festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Cumoreh Mathison, from Ckanogan County, flies her first kite indoors on Wednesday afternoon of the 38th Washington International Kite Festival.

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Donna Wendt, a four-time national indoor kite flying champion from Puyallup, Wash. practices her flying routine on Wednesday afternoon of the 38th Washington International Kite Festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Donna Wendt, a four-time national indoor kite flying champion from Puyallup, Wash. practices her flying routine on Wednesday afternoon of the 38th Washington International Kite Festival.

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JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer
Gem-like kites decorated a sunny afternoon last week.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer Gem-like kites decorated a sunny afternoon last week.

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Sunshine the Clown made an appearance at the 38th Washington State International Kite Festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Sunshine the Clown made an appearance at the 38th Washington State International Kite Festival.

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A mix of shapes, sizes, patterns and colors of kites take flight during the 38th Washington State International Kite Festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

A mix of shapes, sizes, patterns and colors of kites take flight during the 38th Washington State International Kite Festival.

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Zygen Brooks flew a kite for the first time at the 38th Kite Festival.

JESSICA DOUGLAS/For the Observer

Zygen Brooks flew a kite for the first time at the 38th Kite Festival.

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LONG BEACH — “I’ve always said when it stops being fun, I’m not going to do it any longer,” said Jane Holeman, chairwoman of the Washington State International Kite Festival for more than 20 years.

Amongst the kite fliers, food vendors and tourists, Holeman can be found on any day of the festival, weaving in and out of the celebration.

On the first day, Holeman walked down the gravel road leading to the beach, where colorful kites were spiraling and spinning in the air, with a stack of lawn signs detailing festival events under her arm. On the way, she stopped to meet new kite fliers, embrace old friends and have a laugh.

“My job is to make sure everybody has what they need to do their job,” Holeman said.

Whether it’s placing festival signs in the sand, running to the store to buy bandages or sitting down to make some last-minute name tags, Holeman fills all of the empty spots.

At the Washington State International Kite Festival, kite-fliers from all over the world come to compete, visit with friends and enjoy the unique, week-long experience. The festival is in its 38th year of operation and drew around 30,000 attendees throughout the week, according to Holeman.

“It’s like a seven-day picnic on the beach,” said Holeman. “It’s just spectacular.”


38th year


In its nearly four decades, the festival has dealt with all kinds of weather but has never had quite the issue it experienced some days last week — wildfire smoke, which reached unhealthy levels during the event’s first half.

By the weekend, skies cleared and breezes picked up, making Friday and Saturday close to ideal. Minor rainfall seemed to schedule itself to avoid most impacts on kite fliers.

The festival’s 38th year included everything from a wedding to semi-tame deer wandering through the grounds. Once things got going, the overall motif was one of happy participants, wowed attendees and crowded downtown businesses.

The festival started when Harry Osborne, an instructor at Edmonds Community College and a member of the Edmonds kite-flying team, wanted to set a record the “Guinness Book of World Records.”

With the help of the Long Beach Merchants Association and City Council, the festival took place at Long Beach for the first time in 1981. It brought small crowds in the first years but eventually grew to attract fliers from far-reaching places such Japan, Australia, Italy, Great Britain, Indonesia and more.

Jean Nitzel, owner of the The Picture Attic, remembered helping Osburne and the Edmonds kite-flying team at the first festival.

“We were all out there unrolling kite tail for the longest time in the world! It was so hot that day!”

Each year Nitzel frames the kite festival’s poster and hangs it in her shop.

However, for the past few years Nitzel no longer attends the festival.

“I wish they’d fly their kites later in the day because everybody that works doesn’t get a chance to see anything during the week. It would be neat if they flew their kites until 7 p.m.,” Nitzel said.


Kite family


Most spectators come to the festival to view vibrant kites flying high in the sky or to see the seemingly effortless “kite-dancing” routines that are set to music.

Donna Wendt, of Puyallup, calls her fellow fliers her “kite family.”

“We come to a festival and it’s like another reunion,” she said. “This morning everybody was hugging everybody because we haven’t seen each other in a while.”

Wendt has been coming to the festival since 1997.

Unlike a large portion of kite fliers who attend, she competes in the indoor-flying competition.

People often ask Wendt, “How do you fly a kite indoors? Is there a fan?”

Nope.

“No way,” said Wendt. “It’s all aerobic. It’s me pulling the kite, this way or that, up and around and over. I don’t run but I do walk backwards slowly.”

Indoor flying involves performing a choreographed routine to a song ranging in length from two to four minutes. The kites have shorter strings, bringing the flier and kite closer together.

The flyers are expected to be judged on their costume too.

Wendt still flies kites outdoors, but doesn’t compete. Her husband, Bob Wendt, is the announcer this year.

“I guess what surprised me the most (was) the nature of the group that gets together,” said Wendt.

“We’re all supporting each other.”























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