LONG BEACH, Wash. - It all began at Christmastime in 1979, when Long Beach schoolteacher Kay Buesing was looking for a special gift. She purchased a Spiro-Gyro kite for her husband and former high school sweetheart, Jim. For him, it was love at first flight - and the rest is history.

In 1984, Jim Buesing and Lawrence Lessard opened the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame, and they and volunteers including Frances O'Neill began a kite festival. The first fest was highlighted by a Guinness Book of World's Records kite flight of more than 180 continuous hours by a group of students from Edmonds, Wash. About 30 people attended.

Four years later, CNN Cable News featured the event on a national broadcast and the Washington State International Kite Festival soared to unbelievable heights as 100,000 people from all over the world swarmed to Long Beach.

The 2003 WSIKF truly offered something fun for everyone.The 21st annual WSIKF runs through Sunday, Aug. 22, with food booths and exhibits lining the Bolstad beach approach. Kite flying competitions and exhibitions will be held throughout the week on the beach to the west of Long Beach. This year, an estimated 150,000 people will view the skies and more than 4,000 kites will be aloft. Some of the volunteers from year one are still actively involved in the festival, such as O'Neill, who handles promotion, and Kay Buesing, now the director of the World Kite Museum.

The 2004 festival began earlier this week with themed events, competitions and workshops, including a "pun fun" contest Tuesday for kite groups forming visual puns, and a patriotic kite fly Wednesday.

Thursday is Handcrafted Kite Day, when fighter kites take center stage for their frays and stunt demos, and single-line showoffs provide more tranquil fun. More demos and trick flying will be highlighted Friday, with junior dual line competition and Circoflex (ring-shaped) kite flies. The evening will end with fireworks and lighted kite flying that can easily be viewed from the Boardwalk.

An octopus kite reared into the sky behind two young festivalgoers in 2003.On Saturday, a mystery stunt kite ballet challenges kiters to choreograph routines "on the fly" - they won't know what song they'll be performing to until the music starts. At noon, 15 lucky kids will get to take home a member of the 1st Squadron of the Long Beach Bears - teddy bears, that is - who "skydive" from kites into the waiting arms of their new owners. The World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame holds its auction and awards ceremony Saturday evening at the Long Beach Elks Club, with the cost of $12 per person going to benefit the museum. More fireworks on the beach will follow the gala.

The WSIKF winds down Sunday with a memorial fly and final mass ascension.

The World Kite Museum is seeking funds for a proposed move to a new location. One of the exhibits in its $1 million new home is kite aerial photography, or "kitetography." In the late 1800s, men would send a camera up in a kite. Aiming took ingenuity and luck, as the shutter was timed to go off when a wick that was lighted on the ground burned to its end. Present-day kitetography is an electronic marvel of 360-degree angles, ground-based focusing and precise shutter settings and timing. Kitetography is still employed to take pictures of wetlands, volcanoes, cliff bird nesting and archeological surveys.

Traditional diamond-shaped kites have given way to countless new kite shapes and designs, including these three-dimensional figures from last year's festival that resemble Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. File photo by Timm Collins, the Chinook Observer.In the festival headquarters, kites from childhoods past will be decoratively displayed, including those that advertised Buster Brown Shoes, Jolly Green Giant Peas and Oscar Mayer Wieners.

Call the Kite Museum at (360) 642-4020 for information or to donate for the new facility. And bring your camera, sunscreen, and of course, your own favorite kite.

The Long Beach Peninsula will supply the sand and the ocean breeze.

Colorful characters

Washington State International Kite Festival goers are just as colorful as their kites, as evidenced by this kiter from the 2003 WSIKF.Featured flyers at the Washington State International Kite Festival include Team TKO, with performers from Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oregon. Team TKO members have finished from first to third place in the American Kite Fliers Association national championships since 1996, and were among the world leaders in the first Kite Challenge in 1997 in the French West Indies.

Their identical kites are made of carbon and graphite materials and are capable of speeds up to 80 miles per hour. A team leader calls a cadence to go with music, and a wing and a tail man follow suit. The fliers purposely fly formations that tangle and untangle the two-string kites during their half-hour winning performances.

Jean-Marie and Marthe Simonnet from France create geometric and abstract art with their large kites using the spaces between the cloth and intense flowing colors and shapes. Their work will be on display at the Kite Museum on Sid Snyder Drive and in flight on the beach.

Israel's Ralph Resnek designs, builds, and flies fighter kites and will again probably travel the farthest to be at the Long Beach kite extravaganza. He will demonstrate kite making at the museum and will be involved with fighter-kite competition on the sand, with his competitive creations being "a combination of simplicity, beauty, precision and magic."

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