Issue 68: Family Day Kite Festival

Months of planning go into this event, as it’s unlike many kite festivals that we as kite flyers are accustomed to attending. How? The festival proudly boast more food, kite, and misc. vendors than you’ll see at many US kite festivals. It has inflatable jump rides for the children, a FREE “Make-a-Kite tent, and it is one of the most beautiful and scenic locations you’ll ever attend at a US kite festival.

The FDKF takes place at in San Francisco, California, USA, at Marina Green Park, which is located on the north side off downtown, and right next to the San Francisco Bay. While flying kites or watching the kites at the festival, you can look to the north and see the world famous “Alcatraz” prison, which is on a small island in the middle of the Bay. Look a mile or two west, and you see the world famous “Golden Gate Bridge” or as the locals like to call it “The GGB”. Directly next to the flying field on the Bay/north side at Marina Green, is of course a marina, that is filled with very expensive yachts, with some worth millions of us dollars. Just 400 meters to the west is St. Francis Yacht Club, which is one of the top 3 most prestigious yacht clubs in the world, and where the FDKF Chairman “Ron Young” has been a member for a few decades. Just recently the St Francis Yacht Club hosted the very first, “World Kite Surfing Championships”, and a couple weeks later, hosted the “World sailing Championships”.

For the fourth year in a row, I was asked by the FDKF Chairman “Ron Young”, to be the FDKF’s Chief Judge, and also the kite flyer liaison/developer, and I gladly accepted… Even though the FDKF is a free event, open to anyone that wants to attend, and/or participate, I was asked to invite kite flyers to the festival that could contribute in different ways.

We were able to have well known and respected kite flyers/artist/performers join us this year, including: Scott Skinner, who is Founder and President of the Drachen Foundation, and past AKA Kite Flyer of the Year, Jose Sainz, who is also a well respected kite builder/artist and AKA award winner, from Southern CA, Dean Jordan from Florida whom has built both sport kites and large single line kites, Dave & Susan Gomberg from Oregon, who is a former ten term AKA President, former KTAI President, and Vice Chair of the International Kite Federation (IKF), based in Weifang, China (I also serve on the IKF competitions committee with David). Barry and Karen Ogletree came all the way from the Houston, Texas area to fly their very large inflatable kites and bowls, including a large shark that was chasing scuba divers! Richard & Jackie Marvine came all the way from California, Maryland, which when I asked them where California, Maryland is located, they said “Just down the road from Hollywood, Maryland”. No, they weren’t joking. From the state of North Carolina, we had Jared Haworth and Brian Bishop. Brian said when he flew his sport kite demos at our festival, it was the largest crowd he had ever flown in front of!

Our MC was Warren Harris from Dallas, TX. Warren used to own a kite business in the Dallas area, and organized a small festival for a few years. Warren is also a part time DJ at KNON radio station in Dallas and host the Sonic Burrito show on Sunday nights from 10-12pm. Warren MC’s the nations oldest kite fest in Austin Texas each year (Zilker Park Kite Fest), and accepted my invitation to MC the FDKF event with just one week notice. Warren plays more interesting music during the festivals he MC’s than any kite fest MC I heard, anywhere, and he did an excellent job at FDKF! Many excellent California local kiters also attended, including Brian Champie, Dave Sabilino, Jim Strealy, Mike Hagen, Rhonda Davidson, John Gillespie, GWTW Kites owners Steve Hall and Chris, and AKA Region 12 Director and Revolution Kites GM Ben D’Antonio, etc…

On the west end of the field were the large kites of the Gombergs, Ogletrees, Champie, Mark Baker, etc…, just down wind to the east of them were the art kiters (Scott Skinner, Jose Sainz, Dean Jordan, Dave Sabilino, and Mike Hagen, etc….) Of special interest was the Pointer kites that Scott, Jose, and Dean had made from plans shared by Jon Trennepohl of Michigan and Leong Chee Wan of Malaysia (original designer). The pointer kite is not only a beautiful kite, it is capable of flying in feather light winds, or very strong winds! Dean Jordan also was flying many of his custom made Pyro Deltas.

In the center demonstration field/arena, sport kite flyers Jared Haworth, Brian Bishop, Richard Mervine, Ben D’antonio, Joan Laurino, Jim and Alex Swanon, and myself (Troy Gunn), flew various demos with and without music. Ben D’antonio from Revolution Kites gave many Revolution quad line kite flying lessons all weekend.

All down the outside field boundaries many of the dedicated kiters set up impressive ground displays with some great hand crafted banners, including fabulous banners by Jose Sainz, Dave Sabilino, and Catherine Gabrel (from Oklahoma). I had invited Catherine “Cat” Gabrel to the FDKF to serve with me as one of the judges during the fun kite contest (biggest, smallest, most unusual, funniest, longest tail, best ground display, etc…), and to help work the festival where needed. Cat did an excellent job with whatever we asked her to help with, even if it meant setting up tents, or loading a truck!

Anyway, just east of the center demo field, was the public flying area, and the “Make-a Kite” tent, where anyone could step in and make paper fold kites for free. I believe over 2,000 kites were made and flown during the weekend, and countless numbers of smiling faces of families, whom many had never even flown kites before until FDKF.

Directly east of the kite making tent were four large inflatable kids rides, also known as the FDKF “Jump Zone”, where children could crawl inside each of the for rides, and bounce, slide, jump, and climb. just east of the jump zone was a second public flying field.

Along the bay side of he festival field was vendor row, where food vendors, Old City Kites from Sacramento, CA, et……. where set up and doing booming business.

This years FDKF was advertised as an eco friendly green energy event, and so a large display of wind turbines were on display. Their was a prototype eco friendly ferry that people could ride, named the Whistle Blower, that pulled up right next to the festival to offer rides around the bay.

During the festival one of the nations largest sailing regattas took place out on the bay, to give FDKF attendees even more eye candy to view!

One of the festival sponsors was Anchor Steam Brewery, owned by Fritz Maytag. Fritz started the micro brewery movement a long time ago in San Francisco, and even helped many other micro breweries get started. Fritz hosted a thank you social gathering at his Anchor Beer Brewery, where kite flyers, volunteers, and sponsors, could meet, try the various flavors of beer, and tour the brewery! Thanks Fritz!

Sunday was kite contest day. 8 categories were flown by anyone who wanted to participate, and then were judged by myself (Troy Gunn – Texas), Cat Gabrel (Oklahoma), and Rhonda Davidson (California). Most of the winners were children, who flew some great kites. Longest tail was one by a man from Brazil, who flew his hand made Brazilian fighter kite, with a 225 ft tail attached! One of the contest was won by a man visiting from Australia. But the best of show winner was won by a women and her friends who designed a kite in the spirit of the festival’s eco friendly theme. they made a kite out of a discarded plastic grocery store bag, a discarded FDKF info paper sheet, and discarded string they found on the ground. they tied the string to the bags handles, made winds out of the paper info flyer, and it flew. basically they recycled other people’s litter and made a very eco friendly kite, that fit the theme and spirit of the FDKF, and therefore myself, Cat and Rhonda, unanimously chose them as the “Best of Show” winner! You see, it’s not always about the biggest and the best, but instead, it’s what sets you apart from the rest!

Of the four years I’ve been involved with the Family Day Kite Festival, this year’s event had the best weather (temps in the 70’s, winds 8-15 mph), the most spectators, the most vendors, and the best and most versatile group of kite flyers. When many festivals are disappearing or struggling to survive, FDKF keeps growing and thriving. Already plans are in the works for next years event, and how to make it more enjoyable, kiter friendly, and safer! Next year we may be inviting a few international kite flyers to the event, according to FDKF Chairman Ron Young.

Thanks to Ron & Barbara Young, and all of the other volunteers, staff, and sponsors for helping create a wonderfully unique event and kite festival!

If you are a kiter and you haven’t yet attended the FDKF, you owe it to yourself to attend in 2010!

For more info about the festival, please visit the official Family Day Kite Festival website, at:

Troy Gunn