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D.C.’s Blossom Kite Festival offers a chance to fly with the pros

People fly kites during the annual Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall. (Hector Emanuel for The Washington Post)
3 min

For one day each year, tens of thousands of kites fill the air from the Washington Monument down to the Tidal Basin for the Blossom Kite Festival. Part of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, the event March 25 brings together amateur and professional kite fliers sending aloft an array of kites in nearly every shape, color and size imaginable.

Michigan-based professional kite flying team the Windjammers are planning to stage several aerial performances choreographed to music, each pilot flying stacks of up to a dozen red, white and blue diamond-shaped kites with long tails trailing off each one. Members of the local Wings Over Washington Kite Club will fly sport kites — controlled by multiple lines and by two to six or more fliers — coordinating flights to music.

Keep an eye skyward for specialty kites, usually flown by pros: large, triangular-shaped deltas; those shaped like dinosaurs, dragons, pegasuses, octopuses, pop-culture characters and other creatures; bow-tie-shaped sport kites; large inflatables, reminiscent of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. On a more terrestrial level, round or animal-shaped ground bouncers stay earthbound and inflate with the wind.

Kite enthusiasts of all levels are invited to participate. For attendees with little flying experience, Jim Cosca, founding president of the Wings Over Washington Kite Club, has a simple mantra for success: “If the wind is in your face, you’re in the wrong place,” he says. “If the wind is at your back, you’re on the right track. This way, the kite will be in front of you, so you can see it and guide it.”

To get a single-line kite airborne, simply hold it up by the bridle (the point where the short lines attached to the kite join with the long line) and let the long line out. If there is enough wind, the kite will rise. Let it fly away a little, then pull the line in a bit so the kite points upward and begins to ascend. Repeat this process until your kite gets high enough to engage with strong, steady wind.

If the kite begins to dive toward the ground or veer off toward a tree, Cosca recommends letting line out to take pressure off it, which should turn it upward. Unfortunately, lots of kites don’t survive the festival intact. “By the end of the day, the trees will be covered with so many kites it’ll look like they’re decorated for Christmas,” says Cosca, who advises attendees with damaged kites to take them to the on-site “hospital” for repairs and to get pointers on proper flying techniques.

Flying is wind dependent. Calm breezes below 5 mph won’t get a kite up, while winds gusting 25 mph or higher are challenging conditions, especially for newbies. The sweet spot is somewhere in between, creating enough power to lift kites and give them movement.

Regardless of what’s happening in the air, the festival has more to offer on the ground. The Sakura Taiko Fest at Sylvan Theater features traditional Japanese drumming, while the family field area features kid-friendly activities, such as kite making, face painting and watercolor painting.

Free. March 25 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Rain date March 26.) Festival takes place from the Washington Monument at 2 15th St. NW to the Tidal Basin.