There’s a perk to South Portland’s Bug Light Park that isn’t even visible.

Visitors to the coastal park usually notice the scenic views of Casco Bay, the picnic-perfect mound of a hill, the benches keeping watch over Portland and the comings and goings of passing ships.

But the park has another asset: the wind. And not just any wind — kite-flying wind.

It’s not uncommon for locals to happen upon kite fliers in the park when conditions are good. And kite connoisseurs know that Bug Light Park is an ideal place to fly.

“This is considered one of the premiere kite-flying destinations in the Northeast,” said Kathryn DiPhilippo, director of the South Portland Historical Society. “It’s right on the ocean, so it gets regular breezes, even on relatively calm days.” Another bonus, she said: No power lines.

So it’s no surprise that Bug Light Park is home to next weekend’s Bug Light Kite Festival, organized by the South Portland Historical Society. The event is dedicated to kites and the people who love them — and hopefully some people who will be flying for the first time.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the sky above the park will be busy with color from air-puffed, animal-shaped kites that hover overhead and slender squidlike kites with long tentacle tails that dart through the air without ever really going anywhere.

The event began last year as a way to entice people out to Bug Light Park. DiPhilippo hopes festival attendees will also take the opportunity to check out the historical society museum, which is located at the park in the historic Cushing’s Point House.

“Our mission is to collect and preserve, to educate the public. The best way to do that is to get people to come into the building,” she said. “The kite festival brings people down.”

Two area kite clubs — the Nor’easters Kite Club and Kites Above New England (KONE) — will be on hand to offer kite demonstrations, a kite hospital for kite assembly and repairs, and a “How to Fly a Kite” workshop. They’ll also show off their colorful kite collections.

Club members are a knowledgeable and fun group of people who are happy to offer tips to new fliers, DiPhilippo said. “There’s such camaraderie with that group. They’re so welcoming. You find someone who’s passionate about something, it makes it more interesting.”

Sugar dreams will come true during the two candy drops scheduled for the afternoon. Kites will go up, loaded with candy. At the right moment, a tug of a cord will bring candy falling to the ground, where kids can scramble to scoop it up.

Interested fliers are welcome to bring their own kites to fly, and kites will also be available for purchase at the museum for $10 to $20. While inside the museum, visitors can check out the informative South Portland-centric exhibits, including the shipyard exhibit, the history of Spring Point Lighthouse and Bug Light, and the Knightville and Mill Creek neighborhood exhibit. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, there is also an exhibit highlighting South Portland’s role in the war.

“People can come in and walk around, look at the pictures,” DiPhilippo said. “But really, you could spend an hour in here.”

Visitors are likely to learn a few things while at the museum, like how the area known as Bug Light Park wasn’t always there. “Where the museum is is all filled land,” DiPhilippo said. “If you were here before the war, you’d be in the water.”

The park’s namesake, Bug Light, also known as Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, will also be open during the festival, thanks to volunteers from the South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club.

“That is a big deal. Bug Light is almost never open,” DiPhilippo said.

This year the lighthouse will only be open on two days: during the kite festival and in September for Maine Lighthouse Day. It’s a rare opportunity to see the structure from the inside.

“It’s a small lighthouse, too,” DiPhilippo said. “The lines are just incredible on Lighthouse Day. This gives locals a chance to go see it without the lines.”

Touring the lighthouse is free, though donations are welcomed.

The Bug Light Kite Festival will keep the skies busy for the afternoon, and visitors can take advantage of the open lighthouse, the expert fliers and hopefully the supreme kite- flying conditions.

“It’s a lot of fun. The only drawback is you’ve got to watch the weather and pray,” DiPhilippo said. “Fingers crossed for just the right amount of wind.”

 

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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