The San Ramon Art and Wind Festival returns this Memorial Day weekend, with a plethora of family-friendly events celebrating a diverse group of artists from around the Bay Area.
Last summer's festival reportedly saw more than 10,000 attendees at the two-day event. This year, organizers expect that number to be closer to 20,000.
The free festival at San Ramon's Central Park will feature fine arts, crafts, specialty food vendors, three entertainment stages headlining international music, children's puppet shows and a kite-making workshop. But the main attractions, as always, are the breathtaking kite stunts performed by some of the nation's top kite fliers.
"We will have kiters flying controllable kites to music, individuals select a piece of music and choreograph the kite's movement to the music. We'll also have two four-person teams and two pairs teams flying in unison to their music," professional kiter Brian Champie said told the Weekly. "We will also put up a few large show kites during the day, wind permitting."
Champie, who has been a kiter for over 25 years, is returning to this year's festival, and will be accompanied by national kite-flying champions, many of whom live right here in the Bay Area.
"Very few people get paid to fly kites so the term 'professional kite flier' doesn't mean money," Champie said. "However, many of us spend a lot of time being invited to different events to do kite shows similar to the San Ramon Art and Wind Festival. This group just did the Morro Bay kite festival last month."
Kids better keep their eyes to the skies, as organizers say that twice a day during the kite performances, the kites will do several aerial candy drops, raining sugary sweets around unsuspecting festival-goers below.
Champie said the park does not offer the best flying conditions, but assures festival-goers that the best kiters in the Bay Area will be sure to put on a great show anyway.
"The wind in Central Park can be very challenging. Mostly because it is located in a tight valley so any wind that does get in there is very squirrelly," he said.
Performances will be held daily on the Lucky A's ball field, the first field behind the skate park.
Kids or adults who are inspired by the performances will be given the opportunity to make their own kites at the Fountain Room inside the San Ramon Community Center.
Kite flying is not the only wind-centered attraction. Last year's popular RE/MAX hot air balloon will be making a return to give participants a higher view of the Tri-Valley. Starting at 9 a.m. on Sunday, the balloon will inflate and allow people to take a tethered ride 50-80 feet in the air. The balloon will be on Ball Field 3 behind the Community Center.
"Folks should come early if they want to see the balloon inflating and hopefully taking off. It will all depend on how windy it is," said Mary Ann Simmons, recreation supervisor of the city's Parks and Community Services Department and festival organizer.
Other event highlights are the new East Bay Regional Park District Mobile Visitors' Center, free bike helmet fittings by Street Smarts, gourmet food courts, free valet bike parking, and of course the over 150 artisans from across the country who will be showing off their work.
"My advice would be for people to ride their bikes to the festival if possible," Simmons said. "Sports Basement will be providing a free bike valet at their store along the Iron Horse Trail. They will also have free giveaways and discount merchandise coupons."
The two-day Art and Wind Festival will be held Sunday and Monday at Central Park, 12501 Alcosta Blvd., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Pets are welcome, and admission is free.