There’s a sharp tug on the string as my kite catches a strong lakefront breeze. It ascends quickly, then bobs and dips before soaring. All the string lets out and the kite is tethered to the spool by one slim knot. Success!
Pick up a kite and you hold a piece of ancient history; its invention dates to nearly 3,000 years ago in China. Fly a kite and you hold one of life’s simplest pleasures. No matter your age, it’s a relaxing way to spend time outdoors, and Chicago offers many nice spots for launching. Fly solo or attend a kite festival, where beginners and experts meet to soar the skies together.
Whatever your level of skill, a trip to Chicago Kite/Kite Harbor is a good way to get started. Owner Bob Zavell left his career as a manufacturing sales rep to buy Kite Harbor, a small North Pier store, more than 20 years ago. He is knowledgeable and helpful, pointing out kites best suited to a customer’s needs. Although pre-made kites are available at many local toy stores, Chicago Kite/Kite Harbor offers the largest selection in the area. Shop in the store at 5445 N. Harlem in Chicago or buy online at chicagokite.com.
After a few years in the business, Zavell was inspired to start kite festivals in the city. He worked with the mayor’s office to launch the Chicago Kids and Kites Festival at Montrose Harbor, and other festivals followed.
Other good online sources for kites include intothewind.com, kiteworld.com, and breezechasers.com. (Zavell’s Kite Tip: Delta and Parafoil are the best kites for beginners. The traditional diamond shape is the most difficult to fly.)
Should you decide to make your own kite, simple instructions can be found at mybestkite.com, which features kite making and flying, as well as other useful kite information and interesting trivia. The American Kitefliers Association maintains a detailed website aka.kite.org with lots of free information.
Most of the Chicago kite festivals take place between May and September. For more information, visit chicagokite.com. Admission is free.