BERKELEY -- It's time for giant flying fish, micron five stack trains, low wind Zero-G's and the becoming-infamous "Octopile."

Yes, it's the fabulous, free Berkeley Kite Festival, soaring into action at Cesar Chavez Park in the city's marina from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 27-28.

This is no Mary Poppins expedition, although you can bring your leashed, calm-in-crowds-of-35,000-or-more dog for companionship.

With the West Coast Kite Championships' competitive kite-flying, team kite ballet, a Rokkaku battle, a once-each-day 200-pound candy drop for kids and the all important tussle to find a parking space, the BKF is big league terrestrial and aerial action.

On the ground, parking options include limited $15 parking spaces in marina lots operated by the Rotary Club of Berkeley, free parking east of Interstate 80 that require a jaunt across the bike/pedestrian bridge, or a free shuttle from Golden Gate Fields, where parking is also $15 and will be staffed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Once you've made it to the park, the entire day can be devoted to observing lofty miracles and getting a hands-on grip on the art of kite making and flying.

Free workshops from experts in dual- and quad-line flying will satisfy experienced kite fliers, but there are also lessons suitable for children and beginners get lessons from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.


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Highline Kites will have a giant sales tent where you can splurge for a Treczoks Cody Kite, paying tribute to Samuel Cody, who died 100 years ago in 1913, while test flying his early airplane design. Or settle for a classic rainbow diamond kite ($17.95) and leave the house-sized animal kites and Prism Tenors for heavy lifters. There are even low-wind kites, perfect for when rainy days drive the kite-mad to indoor basketball courts or the omnipresent Bay Area breeze is absent.

A delegation from the Sode-cho Kite-Flying Society of Hamamatsu, Japan, will demonstrate their finely crafted paper and bamboo kite designs.

Known as "Machijirushi," the kite's origins date back to a time when families saved for years to purchase a kite bearing the name of their first-born sons. Districts competed in teams and the child whose kite endured to the end was supposed to grow up prosperous and strong. Today, civic pride and the continuity of life are celebrated at the city of Hamamatsu's annual Matsure (festival), which draws 1.5 million people.

If giant, stunt-capable kite displays are not enough, there are bounce houses for children who want to "be a kite and go airborne" and food vendors to bring them back to earth.

A post-fly-day Hornblower Dinner Cruise sets sail from the Berkeley Marina Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center at 7 p.m. on July 28. At a special VIP kite festival rate of $59.95 per person, organizers say it's a steal and includes a banquet, silent auction, awards ceremony and one more reason to look up: the moon and star-filled nighttime sky.