Kite Festival at Grand Haven State Park

by Elizabeth Granger 
Photos: Tena Veihl

An easy-flyer with a tail. What kid hasn’t felt the thrill of flying one, and the despair of having it take a nosedive? 

Kids’ kites will fly above the beach during Grand Haven’s Kite Festival May 20-21. But the event will also showcase fancier, bigger kites in the hands of extraordinarily talented adult kite fliers. Think giant show kites the size of two school buses — as a giant octopus, manta ray, trilobite — each 80 to 120 feet in length. Think ballet kites choreographed to music. Think art kites, with their creators showing their artistry.  

What started more than 30 years ago as the Great Lakes Kite Festival (hosted by the owners of MACkite, a kite-and-other-toys store in Grand Haven) continues now as the Kite Festival at Grand Haven.  

“It’s like a party,” said Ann Vondriska, one of the coordinators. “The general public brings their kites, we fly our kites — it’s a gathering of fun surrounding kites. People generally bring their chairs and blankets and sit at the ballet field to watch the choreographed flying.”

Cows await their turn to fly
Cows await their turn to fly

New this year

Stunt kite duo Bi-Dance — Californians Mark and Jeanette Lummas — previously competed as part of the world champion team Sky Dance, flying at festivals around the world. 

Some returning favorites

Windjammers do their thing
Windjammers do their thing

The Detroit Windjammers Kite Team, with six members, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Each member guides a train of several kites tied to a single line that “dances” with kites guided by other team members. 

The seven-member Chicago Fire Kite Team, just three years younger than the Windjammers, also performs synchronized kite ballet. Theirs is similar to the Blue Angels precision airplane flying.

Sam Ritter and Lee Sedgwick will fly big stacks with (perhaps) 10 kites on a train. 

The logistical lowdown

The event is free. Parking at Grand Haven State Park is not: Michigan vehicles must have a Recreation Passport. Out-of-state vehicles will be charged $11/day. Harbor Transit will provide free shuttle service to and from the park. There is no fee for walk-ins. 

Kids play with a T-Rex
Kids play with a T-Rex

Kids and adults are welcome to fly their own kites in the public areas, as spectators ooh and ahh over the skill and artistry of a variety of kites and maneuvers in adult hands in nearby designated kite fields: one for show kites, another for art kites, and one more for ballet kites. The ballet kite field has music. 

Layered clothing is recommended as lakeside temperatures may be cooler than those inland. People are encouraged to check the festival’s Facebook site for weather updates. “We’re wind- and weather-dependent,” Vondriska said. “If it’s thundering and lightning, we won’t be putting kites in the sky — electricity was already invented.” 

May 20-21
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Grand Haven State Park
1001 S. Harbor Drive