See why kites took over the sky on Sunday


A kite-flying event hosted by the Long Beach Latino Civic Association last Sunday took the city’s celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month to new heights — literally.

With a backdrop of waves and sand, the gathering took over Laurelton Boulevard beach. The association partnered with the City of Long Beach, which sponsored 100 kites for the event.

It was inspired by association Vice President Nicole Fader’s recent visits to Puerto Rico. On the sunlit Great Lawn of El Morro in Old San Juan, kites dotting the sky are a familiar sight.

“That’s when I thought, why can’t we do that here in Long Beach?” Fader recalled. “I don’t think anyone has ever done a kite-flying event in Long Beach, and I thought it would be great to bring our community together.”

The Latino Civic Association was founded in 1995, but last year’s kite celebration was the first Hispanic Heritage Month event on the city calendar in at least a decade. The association’s website states that it focuses on health and welfare, education, civic engagement and philanthropic events. According to the latest U.S. Census figures, about 13 percent of Long Beach’s approximately 34,000 residents identify as Latino or Hispanic.

The day began with an opening ceremony, featuring members of the civic association and City Council members Elizabeth Treston and Tina Posterli. Around 100 flyers took part, and despite the windy conditions, most of the flights were successful, though some were less than fully controlled, the association’s executive director, Helen Dorado Alessi, acknowledged.

“It was so incredibly windy, kites were just going every which way, and the kids just kept persevering,” Alessi said. “I just thought of it as a metaphor for life. We keep talking about what it means to dare to soar, which is our tagline, our motto. To sit there and be hit by the winds left and right, and your kite isn’t going the right way — you have to keep trying.”

The wind occasionally sent a kite tumbling into the dunes, prompting young volunteers to hop over the fence and rescue them before they blew into the ocean. But even as they battled the pesky breezes, kites soared high. The association gave away some 200 kites during the event, and many children, with the help of their parents, experienced the joy of flying a kite for the first time.

Participants showcased their creativity, with one even employing a fishing pole to fly his kite, recalling that this was how he did it in his childhood.

While the kites took center stage, the attendees also had the chance to get a health assessment. Health First, a non-profit health insurer — had a mobile unit on site for screenings of a variety of medical conditions.

For Alessi, the day was a relaxing and fun one. “I think it was an extraordinary event,” she said. “It was just a calm day,” she added, referring not to the weather, but the atmosphere, “with people just wanting to hang out with their family and do something fun.”

After the event wrapped up at 2 p.m., the participants were invited to the Long Beach Public Library for an art exhibit and readings of inspiring stories written by Latino community members, detailing their journeys of immigration to the United States. Three artists whose works were on display shared their insight.

Alessi offered some context on the writings on display and read one of the stories aloud.

“I'm so proud that our folks felt that their stories had to be heard. The stories had to be read,” Alessi said. “I think this was a very brave step to begin with.”