Dark Day In California and a deeply divided America there is one thing that we can all agree on. The COVID 19 pandemic changed everything. Politics, education, business, travel and even shopping were transformed. And there is a very real possibility that nothing will ever be the same.

For the kite flying enthusiast, there was a silver lining. People rediscovered the simple pleasures of shopping at a kite store like Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas, the fun of a childhood summer spent chasing and flying kites, and how the cares of the world melt away while sending a kite higher and higher on an afternoon breeze.

But the pandemic, the shut downs, and the related issues also left in their wake an array of problems, of tragedies and cancellations. The Berkeley Kite Festival has been a west coast tradition since 1986.

The festival was the brain child of Tom McAlister. He was selling kites out of his truck at the Berkley Marina. That was the cornerstone for the Berkley Kite Festival and for his shop, Highline Kites Kite Show on Wheels. In a recent interview he said, “Most of us spend our days, our work lives and play lives, looking at the horizon or looking down at our work. Kites force us to look up, both physiologically and metaphorically.”

The festival held annually on the last weekend in July grew in size and scope every year. It is estimated that before the first cancellation in 2020, the festival was attracting more than 30,000 spectators and participants from throughout the world. There were expert sport kite demonstrations, kite fighting, custom kites, kites that presented the illusion of floating creatures and performances by the Berkeley Kite Wranglers and the Kite Team of Japan.

The festival was put on pause due to the pandemic in 2020. And then, reluctantly, McAlister announced that it was cancelled in 2021 resultant of a COVID surge. It was recently announced that the festival is being cancelled for 2022. The announcement also noted that this may be a permanent suspension of the event.

The culprit is an increase in special event fees approved three years ago by the city to offset the soaring debts of the Berkley Marina. In an interview for Berkleyside McAlister noted that in 2019 he was able to use César Chávez Park for just a few thousand dollars. The new fews would push his expense for the free event to about $45,000 to offset what the city needs to cover the cost of providing parking, custodial, and firefighting staff.

But McAlister who will keep his kite store on wheels in the park on weekend afternoons has kept the focus on what is most important. From his website.

Dark Day In California which in any way we don’t want to diminish the challenges facing us today, it really is this simple: getting outdoors, flying a kite, and looking up are good for us. They have always been good for us, and are more important now than ever before. 

For over three decades, the Berkeley Kite Festival has been an important part of the rich cultural heritage and diversity that make Berkeley such an exciting place to live. We will miss seeing all of you, and will especially miss working with our volunteer team that tops 100 members. Best wishes and health to all of you. 

Here at kitesandhobbies.com we hope that our efforts to encourage kite flying and kite making this summer can do just a little bit to make our world brighter, stronger, today and into the future. 

Dark Day In California, Please Stay Safe and Happy Flying, 

Tom McAlister and the Berkeley Kite Festival Team

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America