The man who first tied something to the end of a string just to watch it fly may have been a Chinese farmer, and what he probably flew was his own straw hat. In the 2,000 years since, kings and generals, thieves and scientists have devised countless practical uses for kites, from mollifying demons to delivering mail. The mysterious appeal of a kite was described in the poem of a ninth century Buddhist monk: "My kite rises to celestial regions,/My soul enters the abode of bliss." The kite fanciers on the following pages, who took part in the Smithsonian's Kite Carnival, might not have phrased it as lyrically, but they would have understood.
A kite-eating tree lies in wait for intrepid kiters of all ages and complexions.
Annapolis midshipmen use leg power to launch their 14-foot barrage kite.
Fluky winds meant some folks never got their kites off the ground, while others wished they hadn't, but most went home happy, dragging their tails behind them.