The running of the kites

As another cold, dark winter begins its long stay in the city, Southwest residents are turning to bright and colorful activities to keep their spirits warm. On Jan. 12, from 12–4 p.m., the Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival will hit the ice for the seventh year with dozens of beautiful, high-flying kites.

Last year, the festival was cancelled due to thin ice. According to Craig Christiansen, vice president of the Minnesota Kite Society (MKS), one of the event sponsors, they weren’t able to move the festival to a different location last year because lakes are the only vast, treeless spaces in the city. "There’s something about kites and trees," he joked. "I don’t know which one likes each other the best."

Christiansen is truly a kite master. He wears a big top hat to the festival and flies massive dragons, frogs and birds up to 450 feet long. They’re made out of rip-stop nylon, the same material as spinnakers on sailboats, he explains, and they weigh about as much as parachutes.

"I was amazed," recalled Matt Perry, president of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association (EHFNA), which is also sponsoring the event. "Not only the size is absolutely impressive, but the costs of these kites. These are thousands of dollars."

Attendees are invited to bring their own kites or purchase kites at the lake. For beginners, Christiansen recommends plastic deltas about 3 feet across, which range from $5–$10.

In addition to the aerial display, participants can enjoy free hot chocolate, marshmallow roasting, a horse and buggy ride down the parkway, and an ice fishing house set up by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), a co-sponsor of the event.

The festival’s sponsors also include the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, Southwest Activities Council, Lyndale Farmstead Park, and Linden Hills Park.

In the case of bad weather, an alternate date has been set for Jan. 19, though organizers predict they won’t have to use it.

Six- to 12-mph wind conditions are optimal, said Christiansen. "If it’s too windy, then the big stuff gets very, very hard to handle."

He offers the following tips for kite fliers: keep the wind on your back so that the kite flies away from you; running usually isn’t necessary to keep the kite afloat; and dress warmly in boots, gloves and a thick coat.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.