Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
With your feet on the ground
You're a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite
----Mr. Banks of Mary Poppins
Each year in March as part of the beloved Cherry Blossom Festival, the Smithsonian hosts a kite festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Imagine a sky filled with kites galore whipping through the breeze. There will be kites of every color and shape dancing against the backdrop of clouds. It’s an afternoon of fun reminiscent of the scene in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks suddenly realizes what’s important in his life—his family—and that spending time with them flying a kite is an afternoon better than anything else at all.
As one of the more popular Washington, DC, festivals, the Smithsonian Kite Festival draws visitors from all over the country. At the festival, you mostly find people just flying kites, but there are also handfuls of vendors selling kites and kite supplies. Should you attend the kite festival without your own kite (as I have done many a year), you can purchase one at the National Mall.
Of course, if you wait until the day of the festival to buy your kite, you won’t have much time to practice. The kite festival also features the Rokkaku Kite battle and the Hot Tricks competition, two skill and endurance contests that challenge even those with the highest kite flying abilities. There are also kite maker contests, with a special children’s division, where judges award participants for the most creative handmade entry. While the adult competition is limited to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes, the children’s division awards for the most humorous, patriot, and artistic. There is also a category for the “WOW” award for exceptional and outstanding efforts. Every child participant 11 and under receives a ribbon.
Adults also receive special awards for their kite making ingenuity and creativity. This year, the Smithsonian is encouraging participants to think “green.” Kite entries made of green materials or that reflect a green motif or theme will receive special consideration.
Furthermore, the Smithsonian kite festival sponsors a poetry contest for students from 1st grade to 12th grade. The poem must 150 words or less. Awardees will be invited to read their winning poems on stage at the festival.
As you’ve probably guessed, the major events at the kite festival are the myriad contests. However, this year, the Smithsonian plans to focus more on the “festive,” though no details have been released. One best guess would be that it would focus more on the Asian cultural traditions that influenced the kite and cherry blossom festivals years ago. Furthermore, there’s usually no entertain beyond kite flying. While the details of the improvements of the festival remain unknown, the festival itself is still a great weekend respite. It’s a free event that’s family friendly and one that contest lovers and spectators can equally enjoy.
This year’s Smithsonian Kite Festival will be at the National Mall on Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 10 am to 4 pm. The best way to get there is via metro. Take the orange line to the Smithsonian stop and then look to the sky. The main festivities take place between the Capitol and the Tidal Basin, which is also the best place to enjoy the cherry blossoms if you can get there before the crowds.