12 Cool Things About Washington State International Kite Festival

Jul 31, 2023 | Events, Family Fun

Every third full week in August, the shoreline and skies of our hometown are ablaze with the Washington State International Kite Festival. For 42 years, people have come from miles around to participate and enjoy a full roster of experiences. This year, a slew of new activities, old favorites, and special tributes will fly over the 7-day event. Here are a few of our favorite lesser-known tidbits about the festival and some things you shouldn’t miss this year!

What is the Washington State International Kite Festival?

The Washington State International Kite Festival is a 7-day kite-flying extravaganza that celebrates the culture and passion of kiting. It draws people from all over the world who love kites. The multi-day schedule is gusting with competitions, activities, vendors, and music.

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Attendees look forward to sky-born events all year. Step through a beautiful 10-foot arch completely strung with lines of fluttering kite trains. There are fierce Rokkaku battles, where Japanese fighter kites are expertly whipped against each other as they attempt to slice the strings of their opponents. You’ll marvel at the flying of historic and vintage kites, which will be an eclectic mix of kites that are at least 25 years or older. Be amazed at the synchronized aerial pirouettes of the mystery ballet performances. Pull your camera out during one of the four mass ascensions when the skies bloom with a field of kites flying all at once. And feel like you’re at the bottom of the ocean as you lay in the dark sand at night during the lighted kite fly, where bobbing, oversized kites glow like exotic jellyfish. Every day of the festival is an airborne celebration that people have come to know and love.

Let’s dive into some little-known facts and fun things you must see this year!

Washington State International Kite’s Festival is as Old as MTV

The first kite festival was held in 1981, the same year MTV went on the air. It is the largest and longest running kite festival in North America, held on the sands of Long Beach, WA. Long Beach has been dubbed the “kite flying capital of the United States,” which is a banner we proudly fly!

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The Washington State International Kite Festival Can’t Start Without This

Every festival begins with a field blessing the day before the event kicks off. Each year, the Washington State International Kite Festival Director of Events will go out on the field with a handful of crushed red chili peppers in her palm. She will blow the peppers into the temperamental Pacific Northwest sky and ask for fair winds and good flying. It’s a tradition from the former owner of Long Beach Kites and beloved kiter, Kay Buesing, that is lovingly recreated every year before the festival begins.

A Washington-City-Sized Attendance

The number of people that attend the Washington State International Kite Festival is larger than the population of some Washington cities. More than 148,000 people attended last year’s event, more than the 2022 population of Kent, WA.

Glenda the Kite Fairy

Every year kids look forward to finding the infamous Kite Fairy Glenda. She is full of smiles and prizes for the little ones that spy her at the Washington State International Kite Festival. But did you know that she isn’t the first Glenda to don the magical fairy wings? In 2001, Glenda Kleppin became the original WSIKF Kite Fairy. She spread fairy joy until 2019 when she passed her wand to yet another Glenda! Glenda Davenport now proudly wears the wings. And the rumor is that the next fairy must carry the magical moniker.

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Three High-Flying Musical Stages

This year the Washington State International Kite Festival grounds will feature three stages of musical entertainment. Local and regional acts will take the mic during the week and entertain guests with live music during the aloft action. Have a front-row seat to blues, swing, country, rock-and-roll, folk, and international tunes. The main stage is in the Beer Garden Pavilion, where you can grab a frosty beverage while grooving.

WSIKF International Featured Flier: A Kite Flier Fit for Rock Stars and a Queen

As the only 5-time World Sport Kite Champion, it makes perfect sense that Carl Robertshaw is the Washington State International Kite Festival featured international guest. But Carl is much more than simply a master kite flier. As a transdisciplinary designer and artist, Carl specializes in art, costuming, and engineering. He boasts a resume that includes collaborations with Kylie Minogue and Björk. And he was involved in developing the Hatchling, one of the world’s largest non-mechanical flying puppets, which led the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

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WSIKF Domestic Featured Flier: Growing a Wind Garden

The Washington State International Kite Festival featured domestic flier, Scott Hampton, has a gusty, green thumb. Scott’s distinctive kites are instantly recognizable. Known for the bold, brilliant colors of his hand-painted kites, he has been decorating the skies for years. Kiting was an early passion that spun into competitions that have taken him worldwide. Over time his signature style also branched into “wind gardens,” which are elaborate displays of kites staked into the ground like vibrant flower fields. The wind breathes life into the kites, animating them into wavering, brilliant orchards.

Camera Workshop by Local Photographer and an Emmy Award Winner

The cherished activity tent is back. This year, it’s open all week! One of the eagerly anticipated activities is the camera workshop. Two of Pacific County’s favorite artists are leading the charge, Jace Walker and J Brunner. Our talented hometown artists each bring a unique eye to the event. They will teach you how to capture amazing photos on your camera and phone. And with the bounty of available subject matter at the festival and in this photogenic part of the world, you’ll be snapping like a pro in no time. To fully appreciate the experience, you must understand the teachers’ talent.

Jace is an avid outdoor enthusiast and lover of birds, which serve as vibrant muses for many of his photos. He started birding at nine years old, which was when he first picked up a camera. His passion for capturing the imagery spurred a business, and at 19 years old, he opened the Jace Walker Gallery in downtown Long Beach.

J Brunner, a former 4-time Emmy award winner, now owns J Brunner Fine Art in Ilwaco. There you will find his beautifully moody prints of stunning landscapes. His technical background in cinematography and media laid a foundation for a life behind the lens. He considers himself a printmaker first, working behind the scenes to create a finished product that is lush, haunting, and more than meets the eye.

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Kite Decorating with the “First Wheelism Artist”

For the first time at the Washington State International Kite Festival, attendees can decorate kites with the “first wheelism artist,” Brian Beck. Brian is a multi-discipline artist specializing in glass, animation, and painting. He also owns The Color Wheels, the only mobile art studio in the region. During the festival, Brian will guide guests through decorating their own Drachen Kites, which are traditional Japanese kites donated by The World Kite Museum.

Randy Tom Mega Fly Tribute

Randy Tom was a beloved, well-known kite manufacturer and a flier for over half his life. Sadly, Randy recently passed away, and the Washington State International Kite Festival will honor him with a Mega Flight that is sponsored by The World Kite Museum.

Randy fell in love with kiting while living in California and turned his passion into a business. He created Hyperkites and designed for Disney and Revolution, to name a few. Randy was famous for his striking stained glass appliqué technique. His genuine personality and incredible skill earned him friends and fans from all over the world. With the number of people he touched during his legacy, the field and the skies will be flying full in homage to Randy Tom.

Skydiving Teddy Bears

Amidst the whirlwind schedule of whirling kites, kids can also look forward to the Teddy Bear Drop. Fifteen of the infamous Long Beach Bears will skydive into the arms of a few selected children. These bears are looking forward to trading in their parachutes for kid cuddles.

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Foster a Grandparent

One of the nostalgic strings wrapped around core-memory kite flying is learning to pull the cord with a grandparent. During the Foster Grandparents Fun Fly, children pair up with a kite and honorary “grandparent,” who will teach them the art of kite flying. The Washington State International Kite Festival understands that you can be a grandchild at any age, so “kids” from infant to 45 can capture this sentimental moment.

Keeping Up to Date with the Washington State International Kite Festival

Exciting details keep coming to the 7-days of airborne adventure. For the most updated schedule, be sure to check the spectator guide. We look forward to seeing you underneath the fluttering skies! And don’t forget to tag us in your pictures!


By: Danelle Dodds

Danelle is an international traveler, road tripper, writer, and artist. She firmly believes in testing the limits of word count, mileage, and AYCE sushi.




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