"It's fun the kids have. And that's what you'd like to see: get the kids outside experiencing stuff, doing stuff, and off their computer games. It's really good," said kiteflying lover Tony Walker.
SYDNEY, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Waving farewell to a chill winter and welcoming a new spring, the Festival of the Winds returned to Australia's Sydney just in time on Sunday, with many visitors descending on the crescent-shaped Bondi Beach and lost in the allure of kites filling a cloudless azure sky.
At Australia's largest kiteflying carnival, a collection of sea life, such as humpback whales, manta rays and octopus, were floating side-by-side on the stable breeze along with mammals like zebras and husky dogs. Penguins no longer waddled in the world of kites but flapped wings for space against falcons, seagulls, rainbow lorikeets, and even an alien.
When professional artists took massive pride in showcasing their creative patterns and skills, visitors also found their joy by buying a diamond-shaped kite on site, sending it up high, and then reveling in a cozy vibe along with the sound of ocean waves splashing against the shore.
Since its kick-off on Sept. 10, 1978, the Festival of the Winds has marked its 45th anniversary becoming one of the major attractions on Sydney's event calendar.
With over four decades slipping by, generations of local Australians grew up visiting the festival as a family tradition, joined by kite lovers from other parts of the world for this annual reunion at Bondi Beach.
For many of them, flying or making kites is a hobby that can date back to their childhood but provides enduring delight throughout their lifetime.
"I grew up in Bondi here, and I've always been coming to the Festival of the Winds, I guess, since I was born," 31-year-old Australian Janis Lejins told Xinhua.
During his childhood, Lejins used to fly the kids' kites. But for this year's event, he tried "something with a little bit more energy" for the first time.
Unlike many commonly seen single-thread kites, the one that Lejins brought to the beach is a kitesurfing trainer kite. Carrying a control bar tied with three lines, he made delicate adjustments to keep the kite aloft.
When the kite touched the ground, Lejins' father would hold it up and help him with another relaunch.
"At the moment, I'm living in Austria, and I came back to visit my parents. My dad, who's a very keen windsurfer, has this kite for kitesurfing," said Lejins.
Despite his lack of experience in kitesurfing, Lejins found a similarity between his hobby, paragliding, and his father's. "It's not so bad because it's exactly like a paraglider," he said.
For the Aussie born and raised in Bondi, what's incredible about the festival is the whole community comes together.
"It's at the end of the winter. So it's the first big event that we have here at Bondi. It's just nice to see all of your family, friends and everyone come from all of Sydney and all around Australia to come and see the kites," said Lejins.
"It's not every day that you get to do something like this," he added.
Roger Stevens, a Belgian kite artist, set off on his maiden trip to Australia at the age of 58 for a debut at the Festival of the Winds, where four kites jointly designed and hand-made by his wife Karin and him were proudly presented to the coming visitors.
Measuring 12 meters long and 1.2 meters wide, their rectangle-shaped artworks featured the same geometric patterns in a modern and abstract style, but each of them showed a different color palette.
"I designed kites from the age of 12. I am now 58 years old already," Stevens told Xinhua while looking up at the kites hovering in the air.
Speaking of his first introduction to this tethered gliding craft, the Belgian still remembered the defining moment as if a love at first sight.
"I met some young people in my hometown when I was walking my dog. I saw, for the first time, kites and I got interested. I asked her for holding them, and I was in love with kites, of course, and never lost it again," said Stevens.
In his words, kites conquered the whole heart of the 12-year-old teenager "like a virus." "If you've got a virus, you can't lose it anymore. And my wife got infected too with the same virus for kite flying," he joked.
A kite, in the eyes of Stevens, is seen as a canvas and kite-making is a process of matching art with kites. He never took size as his priority but buckled down to the task of expressing art through his flying canvas.
Stevens roughly estimated that he had created more than 150 kites. During the couple's ongoing worldwide tour to display their works, some of the kites were given away as gifts to those who kindly hosted them.
"We met a lot of people and have a lot of kite friends all over the world," said Stevens. "The making of the kites is the thing that I enjoy most, and of course, flying at kite festivals."
Currently working as a public officer, Tony Walker has already spent 30 years in the Australian Kiteflyers Society, a non-profit body responsible for organizing the Festival of the Winds since 1978.
"I started in kite flying when I was a kid. We made kites at school, or we made kites during the scouts and the Cub Scouts, and then I just moved on," said Walker.
However, the string between Walker and kiteflying wasn't cut off, as he would make kites for his friends at that time when they needed a kite.
"I got addicted to kites. I got bigger kites and started playing two-line stunt kites and foil kites. Then I found out about kite festivals, and it just took it to a whole new dimension," he said.
For Walker, kite has taken his artistic talent into a medium that he can do, fly and have fun with.
"I personally have more than 200 kites that I fly at different times in my van and that all depends on the weather. So, I have a range of light wind kites, medium wind kites, and heavy wind kites. I've always got something to fly no matter what the day and the weather is doing," he noted.
"It's an art form and kinetic art that moves. A kite is just the medium you display your art on. So instead of doing a painting that we use or applicate symbol recruiting techniques on and hanging out on a wall in an art gallery, we'll fly it," said Walker.
Over the 45 years, Bondi Beach has gone through both great and bad days.
"One year, we had 18 inches of hail. We've had tropical downpours, and we've had gales. It's an outdoor event so it's weather-dependent," Walker noted.
But the Australian Kiteflyers Society has managed to bring back the Festival of the Winds almost every year, except for one that was missed with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apart from the annual event, the society also took little diamond kites into schools, encouraging kids to make kites and do the coloring in their own way.
While running the society's stall at the festival, Walker sold more than 100 kites and patiently taught his young customers how to assemble a kite from parts.
He felt pleased to see more kids join in as he regarded them as the next generation of kite fliers.
"It's fun the kids have. And that's what you'd like to see: get the kids outside experiencing stuff, doing stuff, and off their computer games. It's really good," said Walker.