The skies will be filled with colorful kites over West Lake Okoboji during the last weekend of January. In 2023, they expect up to 120 kites to fly at a time! Here’s a guide to help you know where to be, where to park, and things you should consider bringing to the Boji Kite Festival.
What is the Boji Kite Festival?
It’s becoming one the largest winter kite festivals in the Midwest as they not only have a large number of kites, but the event also features four days worth of kite flying. In 2023, they are also conducting a night flight on the last evening of the event. The event is free – however, each day’s flights will depend on the weather.
When and where is the Boji Kite Festival?
When: Thursday, Jan 26th, 2023 through Sunday, Jan 29th. Thursday through Sunday, depending on the weather, the kites will be flying between 10 am and 4 pm. In addition, they have Night Kites (where kites are flown and lit up just after sunset) on Saturday, Jan 28th and that’s currently listed for 6 pm to 10 pm.
Where: It’s held on the ice of West Lake Okoboji, just offshore from Arnolds Amusement Park. Here’s exact Google Maps location for the Boji Kite Festival.
Where do we check for up-to-date information on whether kites will be flying?
For the best up-to-date flight information, check the Okoboji Winter Games Kite Festival Facebook Page.
Where do we park?
Parking is available at Arnolds Park Amusement Park, then walk to the lakeshore to see the action.
How did the kite festival get started?
The first Boji Kite Festival took place in 2019. It was organized by Steve Boote with Eagle Construction. The event continues to grow each year.
What should we bring?
If this is your first winter kite festival, here are my personal recommendations:
- First, you need to dress warm. I mean really warm with lots of layers.
- Sunglasses. Even if it’s cloudy, it can be extremely bright on the ice-covered lake. Bring your shades to keep from squinting all afternoon.
- Bring your camera. For your cell phone or extra batteries for other cameras – I would recommend keeping them in a secure pocket with a hand warmer (like these Hot Hands from Amazon) The battery in cell phones can die really quickly in extremely cold temps. I remember my first winter kite festival as I literally watched my iPhone start at 80% and drain down to nothing in a matter of minutes. I was able to solve the problem by keeping it close to my body and using a hand warmer. Also doesn’t hurt to throw a few hand warmers in your gloves/mittens.
- Are you bringing kids with you? (I hope you do, kids of all ages will love this event). When bringing kids, I would recommend dressing them as if they are going sledding – meaning that you don’t just want a jacket/hat/gloves, put on the snow pants if you have them. Why snow pants? Are they planning to roll around in the snow? Yes, I actually think they will want to roll around in the snow. Not just because they are kids and it happens naturally. But also because they feature some low-flying, spiraling kites hovering just off the ground – and kids will be gathering under these kites. In fact, I bet it’s one of their favorite things they remember from the kite festival.
- If you’re bringing younger kids – bring a sled that has a rope tied to it. The surface of the ice isn’t quite as smooth as you think, so a stroller isn’t ideal. Instead, put the kids in a sled and you can easily pull them along through the festival to see all the kites. As a bonus – have the lay on their back, facing up to the sky – and they will be treated to the best view as they get pulled along. Oh, and since we have the sled, bring a thermos of hot chocolate and pull it along in the sled!
What should we expect at the Boji Kite Festival?
In 2023, they are hoping for up to 120 kites in flight. But it’s the size, style and colors of the kites that will surprise you. These are not your standard kites – they have a variety on hand ranging from large whales, octopuses, and other animals. Long streaming kites and as I mentioned earlier, low-flying spiraling kites.
What is the Night Kites and what should we expect during that?
This event is scheduled from 6pm to 10pm on Saturday, Jan 28th. The kites that fly during this time are lit up. I don’t have any photos from this event to post, but check out their webpage https://www.uofowintergames.com/boji-kite-festival/ , they have some sample photos to show you what the event looks like.
It’s also important to note that the Night Kite is also held during the same time as the Burning of the Green and the fireworks. In case you’re not familiar the burning of the greens is when locals donate their Christmas tree and other greenery to the winter games and they are set on fire to create a large bonfire on top of the ice.
Is it part of the larger Okoboji Winter Games?
Yes, the Okoboji Kite Festival is run as a part of the University of Okoboji Winter Games. The winter game began in 1981 with a small broomball tournament on the ice. Today, the winter games feature a number of events and attracts up to 30,000 people.