I've lived in Melbourne for the past 8 years. In that time, I've learned a lot about this wonderful city. One interesting fact that I didn't know until last January, was that Melbourne has a Sister City in China. Melbourne's Chinese Sister City is Tianjin. Each year to celebrate this special relationship, the good folks at the Chinese Museum in conjunction with the City of Melbourne put on the Tianjin Dancing Kite Festival. We stumbled upon this event last year and had so much fun that we made a point of attending the festival again today.
The festival is held in the Native Garden of Royal Park in the Melbourne suburb of Parkville just on the city's northern edge. It's a gorgeous setting for a festival. There are expansive grass areas and a small pond in the centre with large shady trees throughout. Today's weather was perfect festival weather too--warm, sunny with a gentle breeze (perfect for kite flying).
The first thing we noticed when we arrived are the white tents dotting the landscape. Each tent houses one of the many activities on offer: kite making, Chinese lantern making, face painting, fortune telling, and Chinese calligraphy. There was also several performance spaces where the entertainment ranged from Tai Chi and Karate demonstrations to choirs and Dragon dancers. There was something for everyone and the best news is--it's FREE!!!
Speaking of something for everyone, the Handsome Australian loves food and there was some of that too. There was a small selection of Chinese stirfrys and dim sims and because this is Melbourne--a coffee stand.
Our favourite part of the festival are the hands on activities. Our children love the kite making and the Chinese lantern making workshops. Each of these tents is staffed with a dozen or so volunteers who guide you through the process one on one. Most of the supplies needed to make both of these items are prepared in advance and it's just a matter of piecing everything together on the day. This means wait times aren't too bad and it doesn't take too long to complete--perfect for the short attention span most little people seem to have.
Kite Making Workshop
Our little people learn from the Kite Master
The Kite Master demonstrates the technique
The Chinese Lantern Workshop
My little one's little hands decorating her lantern
When you finish making your kite or lantern, you can take it to the Chinese Calligraphy tent where a lovely lady will write your name or a special message in beautiful Chinese Calligraphy on your kite or lantern. How special is that?
The kites that you make in the workshops aren't just for looks. They are fully functioning, if somewhat delicate, kites. There is a large open grassy field at the top of the Native Gardens where people adjourn to fly their newly constructed kites.
KITES! KITES EVERYWHERE!
We had a ball flying our kites today. The kids had a great time helping us get them up and going. Then they had a go at holding the string themselves--the looks of determination on their little faces was priceless. It was also really beautiful to look up in the sky and see so many kites "dancing".
If you find yourself in Melbourne in mid-January, the Tianjin Dancing Kite Festival is definitely worth a visit. Especially if you have small children. They'll love the activities. Pack a picnic and enjoy a day of cultural celebration!
(As an aside, we waited for ages in the face painting line and finally aborted our mission after an hour long wait left us behind 8 others still waiting for a turn. The faces coming out of the tent were amazing, but they took too long and the line just didn't move. So you might skip that part next year or perhaps they'll have wised up by then and gotten faster face painters or more of them!).
The terrible queue for a face painting =(