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We Austinites welcome spring just a little bit differently than the rest of the planet. We fly kites — hundreds upon hundreds of weird and wonderful kites.

Every year, during the first week of March, ABC Home and Commercial Services, Austin Parks & Recreation, and The Exchange Club of Austin team up to coordinate the longest running kite festival in the nation. On March 1, Zilker Park will play host to the 87th Annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival, a 25,000-strong, family-friendly gathering whose proceeds benefit Communities In Schools Of Central Texas.

The festival is totally focused around enjoying a beautiful day outside alongside neighbors, so don’t expect to hear live music in any official capacity or buy alcohol, although dogs, kites, picnics, and frisbees are highly encouraged!

Rebecca Gindele ABC Zilker Kite Festival

Rebecca Gindele, Event Director. Photo: David King

“Kite Fest is a free, family focused event where people can, if only for a day, put worries aside, come out, and be a kid again, and find the wonder in something as simple as flying a kite,” Rebecca Gindele, the festival’s event director, told Austin.com. “Many families have been making memories at the event for two and three generations.”

It all started with a kite tournament put on by The Exchange Club back in 1929. The club created the competition to encourage community children to get creative, get outside, and get involved in the community — and that vision is still a main driving force for the festival today. Attendees of all ages can craft their own kites and enter them into any of the festival’s kite flying contests, which are divided into Youth and Adult categories. The top three steadiest, strongest, fastest, smallest, weirdest, largest, and highest-flying handmade kites will be crowned in glory, as will the youngest and oldest kite fliers.

If you aren’t sure how to make your own kite, stop by HEB‘s Kite Making Workshop booth before the contests start at 1:00 p.m for free materials and a crash course in kite design. Then, once the young’uns grow bored of kites, let ’em loose in the Kids’ Zone where they can expend their energy playing in bounce houses, jumping on the bungee trampoline, climbing the rock wall, getting temporary tattoos, and having their faces painted.

Beyond kite- and kid-related activities, many of ATX’s beloved eateries have reserved space at the festival, including Hat Creek Burgers, Culver’s Frozen Custard, Amy’s Ice Creams, Chi’lantro, Crepe Crazy, Good Pop, Kebabalicious, and Mmmpanadas. And this year, early birds will get some epic worms — that is, VIP swag bags and breakfast catered by Maudie’s Tex-Mex and Wanderlust Coffee.

Last year’s “Kite Fest” had to be postponed and eventually canceled due to heavy rains, frustrating many aspiring contest winners and loyalists who attend the festival religiously each spring. It was a decision that Gindele and other event organizers agonized over before making the official announcement.

“What many don’t understand is how very hard it is to make that call,” said Gindele. “It was devastating! But we love and respect the home of our event, Zilker Park, so not only could we not send people to the park to fly kites in the rain and storms, but we also could not risk damage to the turf.”

The forecast for March 1 looks a little iffy, but so far, the 87th Annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival is still a go. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the shenanigans will move to March 8, but here’s hoping for clear sunny skies and no mud to speak of!

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To find out more about the festival, check out the official event page.

Featured photo: Flickr user Joe Van, creative commons licensed.

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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