The Great Boston Kite Festival

Clara Wainwright
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For two years in the 1960s I was the assistant to Benjamin Thompson, the Chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. Each spring the students held a Beaux Arts weekend which included a Kite Flight on the banks of the Charles River. There were elaborate and beautiful kites and silly prizes. It occurred to me at the time that the Kite Flight could be expanded to both sides of the river and hundreds of people could participate.

A couple of years later the Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, appointed John Warner to be the Parks Commissioner. The story of his appointment in the Boston Globe suggested a man who might be up for a kite festival. I wrote him a letter including a vision for a huge event which combined a kite festival and a Venetian inspired water festival.

He responded immediately, but said the festival should take place in Franklin Park in the Roxbury/Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. He felt that Franklin Park, Boston’s largest and most underutilized park, would benefit enormously. My husband Bill, a professor at the School of Design, and I set to work – forming the Committee for the Better Use of Air – composed of architect and design friends. We chose May 17th as the date of the first Festival and recruited additional friends to staff three Saturdays of workshops at the Parks Department Recreation Centers, where we taught kids to make simple kites, guaranteed to fly, such as the Scott Sled.

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