The Zilker Kite Festival

Oldest In The U.S.A.!

What's more, the Zilker Kite Festival is the longest continuously running kite festival in the United States. Since the event runs in Austin, Texas, how did it get that name? The answer goes right back to 1917, when one Andrew Jackson Zilker donated a parcel of land to the city, near the southern region. The area became a public park in the 1930s and is now known as the Zilker Metropolitan Park, or just Zilker Park. It's huge, at 142 ha (350 acres)!

One day in the not-too-distant future, the sequential number of this event will tick over to a 3-digit number. In 2011 it had reached 83 consecutive events! Wow.

The Exchange Club of Austin oversees the event these days, and since the Millennium has seen it grow a lot in size and scope. Currently, it runs on the 1st weekend in March, each year.

Booths scattered around the venue sell all kinds of items, including food, T-shirts and of course, kites. The proceeds go to programs designed to prevent child abuse, helping abuse victims and awarding scholarships to high school students.

Being inland, the Zilker Kite Festival has quite a different 'look and feel' to a typical beach festival too. Like the Adelaide International event at Semaphore Beach that we like to attend most years, here in South Australia.





Bloggers Report

This notable kiting event attracts thousand of kite fliers and onlookers each and every year! So it's not surprising that a few individuals who have blogs faithfully post on their experiences at the festival. I've waded through quite a few photos and videos from such posts, in order to boil it all down a bit for you.

The Zilker Kite Festival is one of the very largest public events put on by the city of Austin. Someone has even started a Facebook page for the festival!

From bloggers' photos it is clear that 100s of kites take to the air simultaneously on a typical day. I don't know about thousands as is sometimes described. Only a minority of those present are actually holding the string of a flying kite, from what I've seen.

One wide photo had nearly 100 kite images that could be counted, but that would still have been only a fraction of the total number in the air.

Another photo clearly shows the backdrop of hi-rise buildings in the southern area of Austin.

A mention of the 'masses of people' or some similar phrase commonly pops up in posts. From looking at a variety of photos of the event, that was certainly my impression too. In fact, the whole event comes across as 'by the public, for the public'. The Zilker Kite Festival contrasts with many International events which are more of a big show featuring big kites which is put on for masses of spectators. Public flying is usually included. However, to use a circus analogy, it's a kind of side-ring act to 'the big stuff'!





Videos From The Zilker Kite Festival

There's a number of videos online which give a glimpse into the event. Here's some notes on a few of these, starting from 2011 and working back. The thing about capturing kites with a camera is that most of them end up as far-away dots in the sky! But occasionally something happens to be close enough to get a good glimpse.

From 2011

  • A nice slow 360 pan-around-and-back again captures a minute or so of the action.
  • Many Deltas, no 2 the same, are being flown everywhere.
  • Other kites seen include a few butterflies, a Hexagonal Box Kite being prepped for launch and a medium-sized parafoil being launched.
  • An absolute sea of people enjoying the sun and light winds!
  • Not many big show kites to be seen, but a few of these do make an appearance at the Zilker Kite Festival on most days.
  • An awesome big circular cellular kite hung in the air at a fairly modest height. It had many cells and a had a star-like appearance from a distance.
  • A modern trend: a few kites were evidently from designers who like to blend concepts and come up with interesting hybrid kites that defy an exact description or classification!

From 2009

  • A rolling puff-ball thingy - it looked huge, and must have taken a massive amount of time to construct. A form of wind-art that doesn't fly!
  • People everywhere, occupying or flying kites in grassed areas and patches of dust and dirt. Small groves of trees and bushes are scattered throughout the Zilker Kite Festival.
  • Some quite interesting kites, including a realistic 3D Eagle and several Mini Octopus kites. There was also a fascinating Bee kite that seemed a good size, but nothing to really to measure it against as it flew!
  • The usual colorful Deltas and Diamonds. Mostly on short lines, and not always flying well though!
  • A great variety of small retail kites being flown by the public, with varying degrees of success.
  • Just a few fairly large inflatable show kites. Personally owned and flown perhaps.

From 2007

  • A handful of large inflatables.
  • Plenty of people milling around in the free-for-all atmosphere that is the Zilker Kite Festival.
  • A fairly large brown floppy-eared dog inflatable I haven't seen anywhere before. Although I'm not a dog-lover, this kite was quite a sight. Particularly after the long floppy ears inflated!
  • The usual small Diamonds being flown by the public. Kite pilots of all ages, and all skill levels.




Zilker Kite Festival Contests

Now, if I was going to this event, those first 2 categories would look inviting! It's all about the flight of kites for me. But how about you? Can you imagine one of your creations winning in one of the following categories?

  • Highest Angle Kite (Youth and Adult)
  • Steadiest Kite (Youth and Adult)
  • 50 Yard Dash (Kids only)
  • Strongest Pulling Kite
  • Smallest Kite
  • Most Unusual Kite (Youth and Adult)
  • Largest Kite
  • Oldest and Youngest Kite Fliers Entered




Photos Of The Zilker Kite Festival

These 3 were taken by photography enthusiasts who publish their work on Flikr. Not your usual kite festival shots, since these emphasize 'the people and their kites'. Look carefully, and you will see quite a number of kite types I haven't even mentioned on this page so far. ... Errrrm ... On the other hand, perhaps don't worry about it - not everyone is a kite-classification junkie like me ;-)


At the Zilker Kite Festival - massed kites over the crowd.

Photo courtesy of Robert Banh.



A biplane kite takes to the sky.

Photo courtesy of Joe Van.



A beautiful composition in this photo of kite flying in Zilker Park.

Photo courtesy of Sam Butler.


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