BERKELEY -- Kites will fill the skies this weekend, as one of the largest kite festivals in the Western Hemisphere takes flight.

The free Berkeley Kite Festival, which was founded in 1986, helps give back to the community each year and promotes passion in kiting, said Tom McAlister, founder of the festival and owner of Highline Kites of Berkeley. The 28th annual festival, which initially drew 500 spectators, is expected to attract more than 25,000 kite lovers over two days at the Cesar Chavez Park.

"It's steadily been growing," McAlister said. "We never dreamed we'd be sharing it with so many people, but it's pretty exciting."

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Some of the highlights include a candy drop, where kites will drop more than 300 pounds of candy, a Taiko drummer performance and arts and crafts booths.

Festival planning has gone on all year long and it is run almost entirely by volunteers. There are about 80 volunteers who return each year to help with the festival, McAlister said.

Parking is available at Golden Gate Fields for $15 (proceeds benefit local charities) and free shuttles will be available. Attendees can also enjoy food, free kite making and bounce houses for the children. McAlister said he is excited to share his love for kiting with others.

"When you take someone outside and put a kite in their hand, in almost every case they're surprised how much fun it is," McAlister said. "The kite festival is an opportunity to share that excitement with as many people as we can."