It was cold and blustery on our first night at the cape. As I was playing housekeeper and setting out the bedding ready for nighttime the wind was howling around the tent, hurling itself against the walls, forcing itself beneath the floor, and doing a fine job of turning the ground sheet into what resembled a tumultuous ocean around me. I piled all of our kit bags along the windward side and hoped the barricade of heavy clothes and gear would block the gale and keep our tent anchored. Camp ready we then hopped back into the car and immediately abandoned our weekend home in search of warmth, chef prepared meals and a recce into neighbouring Long Beach.
Leaving the state park we first drove through a very closed and bleak looking Ilwaco and acquired some supplies at the only open convenience store, which was lacklustre at best, before heading a short drive to the north hoping for a bit more evidence of life. As we drove along the downtown strip in Long Beach I was beginning to wonder if I had been mistaken about the seaside town’s big kite festival as there was little sign of festivity. Long Beach was looking very sleepy and a glimpse down a side road towards the seafront revealing a kite festival banner was the only hint of celebration. We decided to find somewhere to eat that had wifi so we could pull up the festival information on the ipad and try to figure out our weekend.
Over a pizza dinner we determined that there was indeed a festival happening and that people must be out on the beach for the lighted kite flight that evening. Unfortunately we also realised that we’d completely unpacked the car and then mistakenly left Sam and Daddy’s warm fleeces in the tent weighing down the groundsheet. It was cold and they couldn’t bear the wind whipping up along the seafront in just their t-shirts so we decided to return to camp, bed down for the night and plan to visit the festival the next day. A firework display was on the schedule for Saturday evening, so we put the kids to bed with sweet promises of the sky filling with pretty sparkles, noise and the cordite smell of pyrotechnics.
Tucked up in nice new cosy sleeping bags we survived the night with a soundtrack of crashing waves and a howling gale, and awoke to sunbeams gently warming the tent. The wind had eased and the day was very fine indeed.
After a post pancake breakfast jaunt to the beach where two delighted children played a game of secret hideouts in the amazing driftwood structures that faced the ocean, we returned to Long Beach to see the kites. This time the sun’s cheer painted the town in a much brighter light. People were filling the pavements, and once you stepped away from the stores and traversed the giant dunes a multitude of colourful fluttering and dancing kites became visible.
The kids loved it. We loved it. We saw all sorts of different kites. Some huge ones needed their giant weighted spools to be buried in the sand, too strong for a man to anchor alone lest they fly away together. Others, more angular and fleet, soared and screeched like birds on a mission. Some skillfully choreographed groups performed kite ballet to music.
Particularly impressive was one man who flew three kites in tight display on his own. After much strolling along the beach, which claims to be the world’s longest, Sam and Bea eventually rebelled against walking any further and started major beach construction work at the corner of one of the cordoned off flying fields. We were camped out there taking a break when a sun beaten, old guy with a stiff leg shuffled out into the sand and with little todo launched his three kites dancing in the sky. He deftly controlled one kite with each hand, and the third with his leg.
It was a great day. Sam and Bea even got to make their own kites to take home, we had ice cream and fish and chips, and of course there was the much anticipated fireworks in the evening too.
Except there wasn’t.
Sadly, we were informed that the fireworks had been a misprint and the display had actually happened the night before!
The kids weren’t disappointed for too long though. It was a long day for them so heading back to the tent wasn’t so terrible, especially when they could help build a camp fire, and toast marshmallows over open flames until they were blackened and gooey instead.