September 6, 2012

Off Beat: Kite tale at Ogunquit's Capriccio Festival

Ogunquit's annual celebration of wind-powered flight happens Saturday as part of Capriccio.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

It would be Charlie Brown's dream.

click image to enlarge

Capriccio kites come in exotic shapes and sizes.

Courtesy photo

CAPRICCIO FESTIVAL OF KITES

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The "mass ascension" of more than 300 kites at one time is scheduled for noon. Rain date is Sunday, same time.

WHERE: Ogunquit Beach near the Main Beach Parking Lot, off Beach Street

HOW MUCH: Free

INFO: maine.info/cities/ogunquit/events.php; parking lot map can be found at townofogunquit.org

And his nightmare.

Each year around this time, the skies over Ogunquit Beach are filled with more than 300 kites, tails flickering in the wind and kite strings everywhere.

The unlucky hero of the "Peanuts" comic strip would love the idea of so many kites soaring overhead. But he would inevitably get into a tangled mess, what with so many other kites and strings nearby.

"We give away a lot of prizes, and one is the Charlie Brown prize for the most tangled string," said Tracy Smith, organizer of the annual Capriccio Festival of Kites at Ogunquit Beach. "The judges give away about 75 prizes, and some of them they sort of make up as they go along."

This year's Festival of Kites is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with a mass ascension of more than 300 kites slated for noon. Organizers can be pretty sure about the number 300, because they're planning to give at least 320 free kites out to children who show up for the event.

The kites, purchased for the event by Kennebunk Savings, are "Frustrationless Flyer" models made by Cobra Kites. So there is little chance of having a lot of Charlie Brown imitators on the beach.

"These kites are fabulous, and most of the time, they go right up," said Smith.

People can bring their own kites too. The event, now in its 14th year, attracts lots of area kite clubs and kite aficionados.

"We'll have a 25-foot lobster kite, or there's a gentleman with a 60-foot whale kite," said Smith. "We'll have an area roped off for people with stunt kites."

So basically, the sky will be full of kites, in every imaginable size and shape.

The Festival of Kites is part of the larger Capriccio Festival of the Arts, taking place at various locations around Ogunquit through Sept. 16. Other events include a concert by the Ryan Montbleau Band at Jonathan's on Friday, a "Classics to Ragtime" piano recital at the Dunaway Center on Saturday, and an antique show and sale at the Dunaway Center Sept. 14-15. For more info on the events, go online at maine.info/cities/ogunquit/events.php.

Capriccio (the word is used to define a short, free-form piece of music) is in its 22nd year, and was started as a way to celebrate Ogunquit's 10th anniversary of being its own town.

Yes, Ogunquit is that new. It's been a famous kite-flying, beach-combing resort spot for generations. But until 1980, it was technically a village within the town of Wells. Apparently, the people of Ogunquit wanted to fly free, like a kite, so they voted to cut the strings that tied them to Wells.

The Festival of Kites began when a selectman, Larry Smith, wanted to do something good for the town with his $1,000 selectman's salary. So he started the kite festival and eventually passed the duties of running it along to his daughter, Tracy.

The major expense today is buying the 300 or so kites, which kids get to keep. The Ogunquit Rotary Club assembles the kites, and an army of volunteers help give them out, along with prizes.

Smith said that last year, they had 300 kites and gave out every one. So this year, they ordered 320. But they always seem to be able to find a kite, and so far in the event's history, no child has been left kiteless.

The kites won't fly if it's raining -- the rain date is Sunday. But other than that, very little can stop these kites from covering the beach.

"One year, the tides weren't in our favor, and everyone was in water to their knees. But the kites still flew," Smith said.

Which just goes to prove that when it comes to something as spirit-raising as the promise of a kite flying free among the clouds, we all have a little Charlie Brown in us.

And Charlie Brown doesn't give up.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

Twitter: RayRouthier

 

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