Let’s go fly a kite: Clear Lake’s Color the Wind festival

Clear Lake
Dozens of kites filled the sky during Clear Lake’s annual Color the Wind festival

Kites sure have changed since I was a kid. For a few cents (definitely a dollar or less), you could get a plastic kite. You put the wooden T-frame in the kite’s pockets, make a tail out of some string and what not, and then head outside to fly it. You were lucky if it survived the outing.

The kites we saw last weekend in Clear Lake, Iowa, were impressive. Their costs ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. They varied from traditional-looking kites to inflatable models. Some of the kites resembled hot air balloons.

Clear Lake

There had to be close to a hundred balloons on the frozen portion of Clear Lake during the Color the Wind festival. Spectators – almost 7,000 were expected – walked on the ice and the slushy shoreline to get closer looks at the kites. Most people stayed on the dry sidewalk that rings the lake’s main area. We did a little of both – sidewalk and shoreline. We took one look at water on the lake and thought, “Uh uh.”

Clear Lake
We were not among the brave souls venturing out on the ice to get closer looks at the kites

The kite festival has been hosted annually since 2001. It’s been canceled only twice in 16 years. It originated after a local couple took in a kite show in Door County, Wisconsin. Since 2001, the event has grown in popularity.

Clear Lake
The nation’s symbol flying high above the lake

When we planned our trip to Clear Lake in the middle of February, our initial worry was with the weather being too cold or nasty for us to make it from Omaha. A weather warning was posted on the event’s website the day before – warmer than expected weather conditions could create a slushy situation with standing water on the lake. We packed coats, sweatshirts and jackets, just to be prepared for any weather condition. As we got out of our car, parked on the main street, about three blocks from the lake, we expected it to be cold at 10 a.m. Wow! Were we ever wrong. It was already about 42 degrees. It was sunny. We went with the coats in the morning, just to play it safe. But, it didn’t take long to feel quite warm.

The view along the lake was spectacular. Kites of all sizes and shapes flew above the lake, from only a few feet to several feet high. The kites were beautiful. We noticed some of the kites had sailboat shapes, appropriate for Clear Lake.

Clear Lake
Is it a kite? A sail boat?

A couple of inflatable kites in the shapes of horses (one white and one brown) were attached to each other. They flew high above several other kites.

Clear Lake
The inflatable horses really stood out among the other kites

An alligator-shaped kite looked like it was ready for a meal, so it may have been a smart idea of some of the pilots to keep their animal-shaped devices away from it.

Clear Lake
Anyone see Captain Hook?

Speaking of hunger, we decided to check out a place for lunch. We figured taking a lunch break would give us some down time while additional people were prepping their kites for afternoon flights.

We had been told we needed to check out Starboard Market for some good deli food. The recommendation was spot on. Lisa and I each tried a chicken salad croissant. She had a small fruit salad as a side. I went with a Caprese salad. The Starboard has dozens of sandwich choices.

Clear Lake
Delicious lunch at Starboard Market

After enjoying our break, it was back to the lake for a couple more hours of “oohing and aahing” at the kites in the sky.

Clear Lake
Love the kites and their alignment

We were impressed with the new kites that appeared. There were whales, sharks, fish and lobsters. Even a teddy bear made an appearance.

Clear Lake
This was a brave kid – you can see the standing water on the lake, while he hangs out underneath the blue whale

Clear Lake has a winning tradition with the kite festival. Fans seemed to love it. The sidewalks and streets were full of onlookers during the peak of the flying.

Clear Lake
Kites of all designs

Color the Wind is one of the winter activities the city offers to keep attracting visitors during the offseason. The annual winter dance party in early February celebrates the lives of three early rock-and-roll stars who died in 1959, following a Clear lake concert performance. A snowmobile competition is also held during the winter.

Staying assertive with attractions, Clear Lake is planning a “Restaurant Week” in late May, before the summer lake season starts. We have plans to visit during our trip to the Twin Cities and take in some of the great food the city’s eateries have to offer.

Clear Lake has several reasons to visit. The Color the Wind kite festival is a fun one. We recommend attending it.

Clear Lake
A kid flying his own kite along the shoreline

For more information on Clear Lake and the kite festival, visit www.clearlakeiowa.com and www.colorthewind.org.