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.
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
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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Zilker Kite Festival
These 2 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 ;-)
E-book special of the month (25% off)...
e-book takes you step-by-step through making a 119cm (4 ft) wide
Parachute kite. It's not quite that wide in the air since the
canopy takes on a distinct curved shape when inflated. This 14-cell
kite performs best in moderate to fresh wind speeds. That's 20 to
38kph or 13 to 24mph. In gentle winds, this kite will hang in
the air at fairly low line angles. In fresh winds, it pulls
firmly for it's size, so small kids should only fly it while
Every kite design in
the MBK Soft Series satisfies the following points...
- Materials are
plastic sheet, tape and line – and nothing more!
- Tools are a ruler,
scissors and a marker pen - and nothing more!
- All cuts are
along straight lines.
For the greatest chance
of success, I make recommendations regarding the materials. For
example, the type/weight of plastic, type/width of tape and line
type/strength. Close enough should nearly always be good enough,
since the design is well-tested and should be tolerant of small
differences from my original.
Get the e-book for making the MBK Parafoil kite. After making your first one in plastic and seeing how it performs, you can try soft Tyvek or rip-stop nylon for your next build.
The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.
Jun 24, 17 08:27 AM
It was down at Knox Park on the last Saturday of the month, as is my custom...
Except that the weather has not cooperated on the last couple of occasions. Even today the breeze was barely there. A frie…
Return to Been To A Kite Festival? from The Zilker Kite Festival
All the way back to Home Page