Go fly a kite in Naperville on Sunday

The 8th Annual Naperville Park District Kite Fly Festival returns to Frontier Sports Complex on Sunday, June 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The 8th Annual Naperville Park District Kite Fly Festival returns to Frontier Sports Complex on Sunday, June 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

In Polynesia they used to carry fishing lines out past the shallow waters near shore to where the bigger fish are. The Chinese General Han Hsin reportedly used one to measure the distance to an enemy’s fortress. Guglielmo Marconi used one to elevate an antenna during the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission.

Leonardo da Vinci used one to design a way to carry bridge lines across a gorge. Ben Franklin supposedly used one to demonstrate that lightning was just another form of electricity. Kites have been used for a lot of things, but I believe they’re put to no higher or better use than when local families use them to welcome the first warm days of summer.

Named after a graceful bird of prey, kites have been flown for thousands of years to do everything from announcing the birth of a child to carrying prayers closer to heaven. Unlike almost every other type of entertainment, they appeal to people of every language and nationality, every station in life, and every age. I like them because they’re simple, cheap, and have absolutely nothing to do with smartphones or tablets.

As you might suspect, I have been told to go fly one many times, and I have. In fact, my dad’s cousins used to spend all winter secretly building kites in their basements, competing to see who could come up with the most beautiful and elaborate design when the spring winds began to blow.

Those guys would have loved the Naperville Park District’s Kite Fly Festival, which this year will be held at the Frontier Sports Complex next Sunday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Now in its eighth year, it has also become a showcase for the kite experts from Chicagokite and the red-shirted Illinois Kite Enthusiasts Club who fly kites as large as 85 or 90 feet long.

The Kite Fly has become one of my favorite events in part because it’s free, there’s lots of parking, and there are food trucks offering Aurelio’s pizza, Kona Ice treats and traditional Indian cuisine from OMango. In addition, there’s entertainment by School of Rock, the Neuqua Valley High School Steel Band, singer and acoustic guitarist Andrew Huber, and the eclectic Bluefish Movement.

If all that’s not enough, multiple times during the day they fly small planes overhead and drop candy. If the kids get all hyped up on the candy, you can let them burn it off in the inflatable play area. Five dollars gets them as much time there as they want, and you a little peace.

Because I have a soft spot in my heart, or maybe it’s in my head, for sunsets, Tiki bars, and island music, I’m especially looking forward to the steel band. I saw them last year and they’re pretty good. If there’s anyone visiting from Trinidad, however, where the instruments were invented, they’re going to insist that they be called “pans.” Fuh true!

I must confess, however, that it’s the families and their hundreds of ordinary kites that are the real reason I go every year. Kite Fly attracts a different mix of people than what you usually see at a summer event around here. It’s a more diverse mix, and perhaps a happier and a bit more accepting one. There’s a solid core of families that make this town what it is and shape what it will become, and you’ll find it represented at Kite Fly.

No matter how many times you’ve done it, getting a kite into the air always feels like an accomplishment. When the littlest kids do it for the first time, when they accomplish something that they thought only older people could do, it’s neat to watch because it suddenly dawns on them that if they can do something like this, they can do anything.

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