By Joe Payne
Santa Maria’s gusty winds usually results in bent palm trees and the occasional downed eucalyptus, but the powerful currents that sweep across the flat valley also inspired the beginning of the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s Free Family Kite Festival six years ago.
The annual event brings local families, organizations, businesses, and kite experts together to fly through a wind-driven afternoon of low-tech aviation at Rotary Centennial Park, explained Discovery Museum Executive Director Chris Slaughter.
“We get up to 3,000 people there in Rotary Centennial Park, kids and families enjoying the outdoors and doing something they enjoy,” she said. “It’s all about getting kids and their families outdoors for an activity they can do together, and all those smiling faces and kids running around with kites in hand, it’s a glorious thing to see.”
The festival, scheduled for April 19 from noon to 4 p.m. this year, is designed to maximize fun for the families in attendance. Rotary Park is relatively treeless, offering a wide vista and open field for kite flying. April is also National Kite Flying month, and the festival is one of many events happening nationally this month.
The Discovery Museum’s event includes not just a wide-open space for flying, but booths by food vendors, organizations, and other businesses. A new addition this year, explained Slaughter, is the “kite hospital” booth, which will help repair damaged kites.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing a very sad face on a child and a very frustrated face for a dad not knowing how to fix his kite,” she said. “Also, in the past, we have had professional kite fliers do this beautiful ballet performance with their kites, but we aren’t doing that this year. We are bringing the professional kite fliers onto the field to fly beside the families and also help them understand how to fly a kite.”
Glenn Rothstein, the American Kitefliers Association’s (AKA) region 12 director, will showcase his skills with a variety of kites during the festival. He owns more than 80 kites, from simple single-line kites to more involved dual- or quad-line kites, and he will demonstrate the strengths of each kind. Rothstein will also lead some competitions, which involve skillful acrobatics and piloting of the tethered aircraft.
“The Santa Maria festival is one of my favorite events of the year,” Rothstein said. “The festival is the epitome of a nice, local, friendly kite festival that brings people together outdoors, sharing the wind, and just having a good time.”
The Discovery Museum receives support from the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and P.L.A.Y. Inc. for the annual event, which falls in line with the department’s efforts to get local families out and enjoying public parks. The festival is preceded by a week of activities at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum for kids, including kite making and a visit from Mary Poppins.
The Family Kite Festival also serves the Discovery Museum’s mission of providing local kids with multi-faceted, hands-on learning experiences, Slaughter explained.
“We’re all about STEAM, which is science, technology, engineering, art, and math, because it’s all important,” she said. “There’s so much science that goes into kite flying, from the construction of the kite, to aerodynamics, to physics; we try to share a little bit of all of that with our kids and families.”
“We like it when kids are having fun and they don’t even know that they are learning,” she added.
Arts Editor Joe Payne opts for a box kite. Contact him at email@example.com.