Kites fill the sky at Crissy Field to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the park’s renovation

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From afar, the kites floating above Crissy Field on Saturday looked like birds, but as soon as Will Paulson saw what they were, the 4-year-old started running, as fast as his legs could. Kites are great, he explained, “because they go so high.”

Will and his parents had come to the park on a whim, the perfect setting for a beautiful day. “We try to come often,” said her mother, Chantal Paulson. “It’s so pretty here…it’s just the best park.”

Little did they know the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy was giving away free kites to mark the end of the park’s 20-year renovation, but soon enough they had joined hundreds of others in the field, assembling kites and throwing them in the breeze – there was a good wind blowing, so it didn’t take much effort to get them “really high”.

Will’s father, Tony Paulson, remembers when the land was still a concrete airstrip, before children played on the green lawn and ducks swam in the restored marsh.

The reserve celebrated the park’s 20th anniversary throughout the year and Free Kite Day was the final event – a callback to similar events that marked the park’s opening and its 10th anniversary.

The staff had 1,500 kites on hand and were handing them out at a brisk pace, both to people who had planned to come and to others who came across the site of hundreds of people flying kites. flying with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop.

Albert Chang, the owner of Chinatown Kite Shop for 50 years now, produced the kites. On Saturday afternoon, he watched them fly overhead. Crissy Field was the perfect place to fly a kite, he said, all flat and wide open. He was not surprised that the event attracted so many participants.

“It’s easy. You get the outdoors, the fresh air, the family,” he says. “Flying a kite doesn’t require any specific technique.”

Many people said it made them feel like kids again.

Neal Barrina had come from Hayward with Hillary Hoang. They had found the event online. It was nice, Barrina said, “watching everyone run around like kids. Honestly, it makes us feel like kids again.

Hoang joked that it was a bit “stressful” to put the kite in the sky.

“You’re totally at the mercy of the wind,” Barrina said.

Not far from there, Stephen Lynch had come from Richmond with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. She danced around the kite as her father tried to take off.

“I had no idea what 1,500 kites would look like.” Maybe they weren’t all flying, Lynch said, but “that’s pretty cool.”

Blanca Brosig and her housemates had also read about free kites online, on a list of fun and cheap things to do.

“It’s a beautiful day and that’s rare in San Francisco,” she said. Spending an afternoon flying kites turned out to be “so much fun. It’s so nice to go out and be around people. Everyone was friendly and in good spirits, she said. A person she had never met had been helping her assemble the kite, when they saw her struggling.

Brosig looked at the terrain, the kites in the sky and the sailboats in the bay.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

Ryan Kost is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @RyanKost

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