People from across Cambodia spilled onto Koh Pich Thursday morning for the 17th annual Khmer Kite Festival.
The event, which was organized by the Ministry of Culture, saw 66 kite flyers battle it out in front of a cheering crowd of more than 500 people.
With cash prizes up for grabs, participants attempted to woo the judges with homemade kites shaped like birds and planes, adorned with colorful ribbons and intricate drawings of Angkor Wat.
A panel of judges from the Ministry of Culture assessed the kites on their flight, appearance and sound, offering prizes of $100, $75 and $50.
However, Roeung Sarat, dep- uty director of the ministry’s culture department and a member of the judging panel, said the festi- val is about much more than prize money.
“It helps to maintain Cambo- dia’s heritage…and unite the community,” he said.
First-time competitor Hong Ly, 28, agreed.
“I joined the kite flyers because I don’t want Cambodia to lose its history of kite flying. Cambodian people have to take care of their heritage,” he said.
Despite spending two days building his plane-shaped kite, Mr. Ly failed to beat the competition.
“I didn’t win because my kite didn’t fly well and didn’t have sound,” he said. But he explained that with $5 given to every participant, he still walked away a winner. Unfortunately, not everyone was as satisfied with the outcome.
One veteran kite flyer, 58-year-old Krong Nguon Ly, left the site of the festival in a rage. “How can I win? The committee from the Ministry of Culture says my kite is no good, they say that my kite flies badly and with no sound.”
Mr. Nguon Ly, who has taken part in the festival every year since its inception, said the Ministry of Culture unfairly denied him the prize because he had won it twice already—in 2011 and 2012—and threatened that next year might be his final stab at the competition.
“Next year, if they judge me unfairly, I’m not going to take part again.”