Flying kites at Bondi's Festival of the Winds

Flying kites at Bondi's Festival of the Winds

Airborne spectacle marks start of spring for Sydney's soaraway set
Bondi Festival of the Winds
Bondi's Festival of the Winds: Douglas Adams would be proud.

Sydneysiders will be hoping wind god Aeolus plays his part to the full this weekend, delivering a gale or two for Bondi’s annual Festival of The Winds mass kite-flying extravaganza.

Now in its 34th year, it’s Australia’s premiere kite event -- a colorful spectacle attracting some 50,000 spectators and hundreds of kite-makers.

The festival includes a free multicultural entertainment program staged across the many rooms, exhibition halls and amphitheatres of the voluminous Bondi Pavilion Community Centre.

This year’s lineup includes a Chinese Lion Dance and Kung Fu acrobatic display, the Gypsy Dub Sound System, Aboriginal culture showcases, glassblowing, food from around the world, kite-making workshops, special kids’ activities and an art exhibition celebrating Bondi’s colorful birdlife.

In keeping with the aerial theme, there will even be an aerobatic flyover by Sydney’s own Red Baron.

“There is this whole cross-cultural information exchange that’s been part of the festival for many years,” says Roz Newton of event organizer, Waverley Council.

“That wasn’t the case when it started, but that’s what it’s become.”

More on CNN: Flying high and upside down with the Red Baron

Kites through the ages

Bondi Festival of the WindsThe truth is UP there.It’s generally accepted that kites were a Chinese invention, with the earliest written record dating back more than 2,000 years.

Surrounded by overwhelming enemy forces, a Chinese general ordered his men to build hundreds of kites fitted with bamboo whistles.

In the dark of night, the kites were flown above the enemy troops. The unearthly wailing so frightened them that they panicked and fled ... or so the story goes.

The history of the Festival of the Winds dates back to 1978, according to the Australian Kiteflyers Society (AKS).

A small group of local kite enthusiasts sought permission from the authorities to hold a community kite-flying event on the promenade.

That year, more than 50 diamond kites and windsocks filled the skies of Bondi, proving such a draw the event later became annual.

“A lot of new technology has been introduced to kite-flying,” says AKS president Raymond Wong.

“In the old days, we used sticks and plastic sheeting to make kites. Today we use carbon fiber and durable “ripstop” nylon to make beautiful and exotic kites shaped like dragons, spaceships, teddy bears ... anything you can get your mind around.”

Night kites

Bondi Festival of the WindsKite enthusiasts from around the world mark Bondi in their diaries.

This year’s international guests include Jan and Jolanda Van Leeuwen from the Netherlands who, along with 20 AKS members, will fly their kites in front of the Bondi Pavilion.

Another area is reserved for Peter Lynn Kites, a New Zealand company that holds the Guinness record for making the world’s largest kite -- a 1,019 square-meter Kuwaiti flag.

Members of the public are invited to the fly their kites in a third area.

At 3 p.m., prizes will be awarded for the highest-flown kite, the most beautiful kite, the public's choice, the president’s choice and the most unusual kite of the day.

Bondi Festival of the Winds"Angry Birds" has nothing on the Festival of the Winds.

“We have not advertised or promoted it on the official program, but this year we are going to add a night flight to the event,” says Wong.

“On Saturday night, members will launch kites and illuminate them with bright, multi-colored LEDs. Weather permitting, we’ll also do a practice run on Friday night too.”

Here’s hoping for high winds, for once.

Festival of the Winds takes place on Sunday, September 9, 2012, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Bondi Park, Bondi Beach and Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach. Call +61 (0) 2 8362 3400 for more information.

More on CNN: Amazing images of Bondi Beach

Ian Lloyd Neubauer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist specializing in adventure travel. He has reported extensively across East Asia and the South Pacific and is the author of two travel novels, Getafix (2004) and Maquis (2006), which is being turned into a feature film in consultation with Fox Studios.

Read more about Ian Lloyd Neubauer
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