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34th Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival: A Century of Flight—Looking Ahead

I trace my mechanical insecurities to childhood experiences with the most baffling, frustrating, and nerve-racking recreational activity ever created: kite flying. I’d get my old-style diamond-shaped monster ready, wait for a gust of wind, and…nothing. Within two minutes, it was always broken—either from contact with a neighboring tree or from my own rage. Last summer, I jealously spied on a father and two children having fun—sand-prancing, high-pitched squealing joy, dammit—as their colorful winged beauty danced above a North Carolina beach. That same afternoon, I walked into Kitty Hawk Kites and headed straight for a sleek, purple-and-black Prism Vapor stunt kite. “That’s 425 bucks,” the hackeysack-kicking sales clerk said. I didn’t have that much to prove, I decided. After listening to my neuroses-inducing stories, the clerk sold me a beginner’s parafoil kite for $19.99. Making it fly, he assured me, would be no problem. The next day, my brother and I unfurled the kite less than a mile from where the Wright brothers made aviation history. I grabbed the string, raised the kite in the air, and…nada. It took 20 minutes, two referrals with passersby, and a little common sense—a breakthrough in aviatorial engineering not found in the instructions—to finally get the thing airborne. So maybe I’ll just watch at the 34th Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival, in which contestants will enter their own handmade kites, at 10 a.m. (kite registration is from 10 a.m. to noon) Saturday, March 25, at the Washington Monument’s West side. Free. (202) 357-3030. (Elissa Silverman)