Fly a kite – and kick off the 100th anniversary of Zilker Park – this weekend

Christian Burrows throws his nephew Atticus Staats, 5, at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Fest. This year's festival is set for Sunday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Christian Burrows throws his nephew Atticus Staats, 5, at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Fest. This year’s festival is set for Sunday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

As you unfurl the string of your high-flying masterpiece at the ABC Kite Fest at Zilker Park this Sunday, consider this: The park where you’re standing marks its centennial anniversary this year.

Yep, Zilker Park turns 100.

The Austin Parks Foundation, along with a slew of organizations that operate within Zilker Park, are kicking off a year-long celebration with a proclamation read by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo the morning of the festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Kites soar at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Festival in Zilker Park. The event was first held in 1929 and is the longest contiuously running kite festival in the United States JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kites soar at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Festival in Zilker Park. The event was first held in 1929 and is the longest contiuously running kite festival in the United States JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Until then, here’s what you need to know: In 1917, local businessman and politician Andrew Zilker pledged to donate more than 350 acres of his own land to create the park. Since then it’s grown into the crown jewel of the city’s park system, a place for soccer games, scout visits, a miniature train and one of the best spring-fed pools on the planet.

And did we mention kite flying? That’s been going on here for decades. Maps printed in 1937 label the grassy expanse between Barton Springs Road and Lady Bird Lake, where this year’s Kite Fest will take place, as the kite-flying fields. The event is free, and anyone can bring a kite to fly, or buy one from a seller at the festival. The event also includes food vendors and kite-building workshops.

Jef Czekaj launches a Hello Kitty kite at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Fest. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jef Czekaj launches a Hello Kitty kite at the 2016 ABC Zilker Kite Fest. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Feeling competitive? The fest also features a contest, where kite flyers can square off in a 50-yard dash or vie for honors including most unusual kite, steadiest kite, strongest pulling kite, smallest kite, largest kite and highest angle kite. Awards will also go to the oldest and youngest kite fliers.

Kite contest registration starts at 11 a.m.; the contest begins at 1 p.m. and only homemade single-line kites can enter.

The free festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Don’t plan to park at Zilker Park, either; space is extremely limited. Park elsewhere and walk, take a bus or ride a bike. For more information go here. https://www.abckitefestival.org/get-a-kite/

Here’s a schedule:

  • 9 a.m. – Breakfast begins and Fun Run registration opens
  • 9:30 – Fun Run starts
  • 9:45 a.m. – Buses arrive
  • 10 a.m. – Festival opens, MossFest music begins and display kites begin flying
  • 11 a.m. – Kite contest registration begins
  • 1 p.m. – Kite contest begins and MossFest music ends
  • 3 p.m. – Display kites quit flying
  • 5 p.m. – Kite Fest ends
  • 5:30 p.m. – Last bus departs
Monica Little launches her kite at the ABC Zilker Kite Festival in Zilker Park on Sunday March 6, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Monica Little launches her kite at the ABC Zilker Kite Festival in Zilker Park on Sunday March 6, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

We’ve written a lot about Zilker Park – and of course Barton Springs – through the years here at the Statesman. Want to study up?

Read about hidden sites inside Zilker Park, from Lookout Point to an old pistol range used by law enforcement officers and a prototype fallout shelter meant to show Austinites how to survive a nuclear attack.

Read about current and former lifeguards at Barton Springs here.

Always wondered what it’s like to skinny dip at Barton Springs? We’ve done that, too! Read more here.

The Zilker holiday tree tradition is only half as old as the park. It celebrated its 50th lighting this past season.

And learn about the city’s moonlight towers, like the one that provides the base of that tree, here.

Here’s an interview with Colin Wallis, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

Organizations including the Austin Parks Foundation, Barton Springs Conservancy, City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and Hill Country Conservancy are teaming up to mark Zilker’s 100th. Other partners include Austin Sunshine Camps, Save Our Springs, The Trail Foundation, Trail of Lights, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, the Zilker Kite Festival and Zilker Theater Productions.

A website will be launch later this week at zilkerpark100.org, where you can find more information about Zilker 100 activities and find a calendar of events.

The park is located at 2100 Barton Springs Road.


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