One of San Ramon's oldest traditions is returning to Central Park this year, which is set to be awash with high-flying and brightly colored art and kites in a well-known marker of Memorial Day weekend in the Tri-Valley.
The Art and Wind Festival is making its annual return with four stages featuring an array of live performances, two food courts and carnival rides, in addition to signature activities such as free kite-making for children and 150 arts-and-crafts vendors.
While there are a range of options for on-the-ground entertainment on tap, participants also flock to the popular event for a glimpse at sky-born spectacles in the form of kites.
"One of the most exciting elements of the Art and Wind Festival is the professional, choreographed kite flying," said Amalia Kulczyck, recreation marketing coordinator for the city of San Ramon. "These world-class kite flyers come from throughout the Western U.S. and put on demonstrations throughout the entire festival."
The unique twist on spring and summer celebrations has made the Art and Wind Festival an increasingly beloved crowd-pleaser for participants across the Tri-Valley as well as the greater Bay Area.
"The things people come back for every year are definitely the professional kite flying, the kids' kite making, and that's always really fun because the winds always seem to be so high in the park," Kulczyck said.
The event first took shape decades ago in 1989, in the form of a small street fair showcasing visual arts just six years after San Ramon's incorporation, drawing artists and revelers to the growing city ever since.
"It was such a popular event that it became a full festival filling most of San Ramon's 40-acre Central Park," Kulczyck said.
In addition to kites, art, food and entertainment, highlights of this year's festival include hot air balloon launches both days of the event and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter landing that Sunday (May 28) at 2 p.m.
As the festival has solidified itself as a San Ramon tradition in the decades since its inception, the city's Arts Advisory Committee now commissions an art piece to represent each year's event, with Bay Area artist Malti B. Lee selected to create the piece representing this year's event that is currently on display in City Hall.
In addition to being based in the Bay Area, Lee's overall focus on the comparison, contrast and complementary aspects of flowers with cityscapes makes her a natural fit for San Ramon in the late spring as the city's urban landscape continues to take shape.
"Having lived exclusively in large metropolitan cities, pockets of vibrant flowers were always found against the backdrop of buildings," Lee said in her artist's statement. "The same way that noticing the fusion and contrasts of urban environments brought me moments of joy, calmness and reflection, my hope is that I can help others feel the same."
A range of Lee's work is on display in a solo exhibition that debuted on May 2 coming to its end at the end of the holiday weekend on May 30 at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Art Gallery in the San Ramon Community Center, with the artist making an on-site appearance at the gallery from 12-4 p.m. on May 29.
"Each painting is inspired by somewhere I've been first-hand, there's a story behind each one," Lee said.
Another major attraction of the festival is its Memorial Day program honoring lost service members and veterans on May 29. In addition to the hour-long ceremony, the day will see the "Commemorative Field of Flags" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. allowing those with loved ones lost during or after military service to have a flag placed and displayed throughout the morning and early afternoon in their honor.
The festival's main events are set to run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday (May 28) and Monday (May 29). More information, including a schedule of performances and activities, is available at www.sanramon.ca.gov.