SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Thousands of Winter Texans in folding lawn chairs marveled at a blue sky full of colorful kites, which produced a mammoth spectacle Saturday on the sand flats north of the South Padre Island Convention Centre.
Herb Nelson, a Winter Texan from Merrifield, Minn., said he and wife Lori have been coming to the Island for about 10 years.
He and his wife love to attend SPI Kite Fest just to socialize and meet other retirees from back home, he said. He doesn’t have a knack for photography but knows people who attend to take colorful photos of kites, he said.
Bill Doan said he and wife Susie began SPI Kite Fest 13 years ago and it has swelled in size.
“It’s growing,” he said of the free event. “In the last six years, it has quadrupled in size.”
Four octopus kites, measuring 150 feet long, were flying. Those cost between $5,000 and $6,000 apiece, Doan said.
There is no competition and there are no prizes, he said. The whole event is just for fun.
Traffic was backed up on the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge and Texas Highway 100 all the way to the Port Isabel city limits and, at times, almost to Laguna Vista on Saturday.
Doan said two other events — a Rotary Club fish fry and a chili cook-off at Louie’s Backyard — contributed to the traffic congestion, as well as the fact that the causeway had one lane blocked in each direction for road repairs.
But, the many motor vehicles parked in rows on the flats and the impromptu gallery of folding chairs was impressive.
“We started this to let us all be kids,” said Doan, who along with his wife operate B&S Kite Shop on the Island.
Visitors include Winter Texans from all over, Doan said.
“Do you see any kids?” he asked. “If a kid shows up, I’ll give him a kite.”
Lyn Seifried of Nebraska said she has attended SPI Kite Fest for the past seven years.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” she said of the picture-perfect weather. “We have a group of 17 people here. We’re staying at a condo on the Island. We enjoy the weather; we enjoy the kites. It’s just amazing. There’s nothing like this at home. I’ve never seen this many people, and the cars, oh my.”