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Go Fly a Kite, On a Frozen Lake

Go fly a kite. It isn’t like I haven’t been told that a few times over the years.

I once made my own kite when I was in grade school from some scrap pieces of wood I found in the garage, tape, string and an old newspaper. It looked pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I never got it off the ground.

Photo of large kites that look like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Iron Man
Clifford, the Big Red Dog, is doing his best run from Iron Man. Actually, they were just beginning to get Clifford off the ground. **

I flew a kite on a cold Iowa New Year’s Day, six months after moving into my new home, a celebration of a new beginning. It still hangs from the ceiling, its tail trailing down, a kind of talisman of good fortune for all who enter.

In retirement my uncle became quite the collector of kites. He flew them along the Pacific coast not far from his home in Seattle until diabetes overtook him and he was no longer able to do so.

None of those kites, from my homemade version to those in my uncle’s collection, compare to the ones flying over a frozen, ice-covered lake in northern Iowa every February. The Clear Lake Kite Festival is home to some of the largest kites you’ll ever hope to see.

Clear Lake is situated just 25 miles south of the Iowa/Minnesota border. The town of Clear Lake, nestled beside the lake, began the kite festival in 2002 and, with the exception of the 2019 covid year, has held it continuously ever since, making this the 20th celebration.

The festival is, literally, held on the lake. The kite flyers set up out on the frozen pond with spectators joining them to enjoy the view.

Photo of large kites that look like an alien flying a UFO and an octopus.
Aliens and squid, oh my! **

Kite enthusiasts from all over come in for the celebration with one this year coming all the way from England.

These are not your average, every day, buy-it-at-the-convenience-store kites. Some rival a car in their size, and there are dozens of them.

They also come in all sorts of designs, from astronauts and aliens to unicorns and flying pigs.

The larger kites are anchored down into the ice. Festival volunteers drill holes in the ice using an auger, the same as you use when out ice fishing. They then place a stick down into the hole, that is longer than the hole is wide, once they pull up on the attached rope, the stick locks the kite in place.

In case you’re worried about how thick that ice is, talking to one of the fellas drilling holes he estimated it at 18 inches. That’s three times thicker than the needed recommendation for walking on it and well above the requirement for driving on it as well. Several of the kite flyers had driven their vehicles out on the ice, making it much easier to unload those large creations.

Photo of large kite that looks like a flying pig with wings. Many other kites in background.
When pigs fly! At the kite festival, they really do. **

Kite flying is not reserved for just those with the large kites. Everyone is encouraged to get in on the fun with many families bringing and flying smaller kites as well.

The only provision is you are asked to keep your distance from the big ones so kites don’t end tangled together. Along that same line, spectators should keep an eye out for where they are walking.

Occasionally the cords from a low flying kite will be pretty close to the ice and it’s easy not to notice when looking upward, admiring the kites above.

You can drive by and see the kites without getting out and onto the ice but bring along a large dose of patience, as you might expect the traffic does get backed up considerably. There are food trucks nearby, a BBQ tent was even set up out on the ice.

The event is free of charge. The 2023 festival has already been set for February 18.

Short video clip from the festival:


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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