LIVINGSTON -- Recent stormy weather could've been the demise of a revived kite festival, but the sky opened up just in time Sunday for the event that drew thousands from around the area.
The inaugural Livingston Kite Festival was modeled after a similar function that was held in Merced for several years, said Julio Valadez, a Livingston recreation commissioner and a member of the Knights of Columbus, which helped organized the event.
Valadez estimated that throughout the day, more than 3,000 people came to the event at Livingston Middle School from all around the Valley.
Workers gave away 400 kites in the morning, and they were gone within 30 minutes, he noted.
Councilman Gurpal Samra was on hand to enjoy the festivities and the weather, which he described as "perfect." Later, he helped judge a pie-eating contest along with Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza and Chief Ruben Chavez of the Livingston Police Department.
Samra said Sunday also served as a good opportunity for residents to get acquainted with local public safety agencies that came out to the event, including the Livingston Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Riggs Ambulance Service, Merced County Fire Department and the Merced County Probation Department.
City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez said the Livingston Kite Festival fits with the city's goal of encouraging healthy living.
"What we want to do in Livingston is create a lot of opportunities for families to come out and enjoy time with their kids," he said.
There are future projects in the works, Ramirez said. Those plans are aimed at bringing families together and living a healthy lifestyle. The still-developing idea could involve the temporary closure of some city streets, but nothing's been confirmed.
Regardless of future events, city leaders say they want to foster activities that encourage community involvement.
Sunday's festivities included face painting, a kite judging contest, bounce houses and several vendors.
Valadez said any proceeds from the event will go toward funding youth sports in Livingston.
While Merced's kite festival hit the ground a few years back, Valadez and other city leaders hope theirs will continue to fly high.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar. com.