Up to the Highest Height: Chicago and Kites

Spring winds have been kicking up here in the Windy City, and with temperatures climbing, the conditions are ripe for kite flying. Read past blog posts to find many modern books for your family with stories featuring kites or instructions on how to build your own.

Kites originated thousands of years ago in Asia, and they have long been popular in Chicago. The Chicago Park District and its predecessor Park Commissions ran classes at least as far back as the 1920s on how to build your own kite. You can view some of the instructional booklets used in these courses in our Special Collections Reading Room. In addition to telling you how to build many different kinds of kites, these booklets cover the rules for kite competitions held by the Park District over the years. 

A 1934 booklet describes some special events. Flex your forearms because "The 100 yard dash is a race in winding in a kite with a 100 yard kite line." Tone your muscles further with the pulling contest where a "scale is hooked into a loop of the kite line and the pull, in pounds, is recorded." A kite line cutting contest that would almost certainly be deemed too dangerous for young competitors today is also described. "Any cutting device on the line such as knives, razor blades, or ground glass mixed with glue, may be used."

If you're looking for a less ruthless competition, the 1936 Annual Kite Tournament Rules outline how the most Artistic and most Novel kites would be chosen. The most Artistic was awarded based on "beauty of design in shape or form, and beauty of decoration, and in color treatment." A kite's novelty was determined by its "originality, unusual ideas in construction, design, mechanical motion, or unusual materials used." Explore these titles and more:

Craft Plans and Suggestions for Kites


The gallery above shows pages and covers from these booklets, as well as images of Chicagoans enjoying kites in the parks (view more in our Digital Collections). Last year's annual kite festivals were canceled because of Covid-19, but there is hope that this year, the Chicago Kids and Kite Festival at Lincoln Park's Cricket Hill can happen on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Also, the Rainbow Beach Annual Kite Festival is slated for Saturday, October 2, 2021. Be sure to check web listings for confirmation and guidelines before heading out to attend, as pandemic conditions change frequently and may prohibit the events from taking place.

Even without a festival, get outside and fly a kite, and tell us about your favorite kite flying memory in the comments below!