2013-08-23 / Front Page

No beer, no problem for Bug Light Fest

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Nina Henrikson, a martial arts instructor with the Riverview Foundation, leads a demonstration for Eleanor Wells, 4, of South Portland. (Jack Flagler photo) Nina Henrikson, a martial arts instructor with the Riverview Foundation, leads a demonstration for Eleanor Wells, 4, of South Portland. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, 5-year-old Miles Canto came from his home in Cape Elizabeth with his dad and his dog to Bug Light Park to fly a kite, as he does many weekends.

Canto was surrounded by spectators who watched sailboats glide through Casco Bay in the MS Harborfest Regatta, and visitors lined up on stone steps for free tours of the lighthouse. In many ways, it was a typical August afternoon at the picturesque location on South Portland’s pier.

But on the opposite side of the park from Canto’s kite, barbecue smoke rose up from a cluster of white tents in a scene frequent visitors to the park may not have recognized. Under the tents, representatives from dozens of South Portland’s local businesses offered food, drink and various activities for visitors at the first Buy Local Bug Light Festival, which organizers described as a “signature event” for local businesses.


Miles Canto, 5, of Cape Elizabeth, often comes to Bug Light Park on the weekends to fly a kite with his father, Chris. (Jack Flagler photo) Miles Canto, 5, of Cape Elizabeth, often comes to Bug Light Park on the weekends to fly a kite with his father, Chris. (Jack Flagler photo) “We have a really great, diverse business population and it’s such a beautiful area,” said April Cohen-Tracy, a local real estate broker and president of South Portland Buy Local. “I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that,” she added, gesturing toward the lighthouse.

The festival featured events throughout the morning and afternoon such as a K-9 demonstration with Officer Kevin Theriault of the South Portland Police Department and his dog Trigger, as well as sack races hosted by Cia cafe and a story time with South Portland Public Library children’s librarian Jessica Milton.


Gene and Carolyn Kucinkas were not aware the Buy Local Bug Light Festival was being held, so they were pleasantly surprised when they stopped by the park to enjoy the afternoon watching sailboats glide past the lighthouse on Saturday, Aug. 17. (Jack Flagler photo) Gene and Carolyn Kucinkas were not aware the Buy Local Bug Light Festival was being held, so they were pleasantly surprised when they stopped by the park to enjoy the afternoon watching sailboats glide past the lighthouse on Saturday, Aug. 17. (Jack Flagler photo) Meanwhile, visitors had a variety of lunch options, including burgers and bratwurst from the Rotary Club of South Portland Sunrise, Mexican food from Taco Trio and pizza from J.P. Thornton’s Cafe and Deli.

However, absent from the park’s offerings was a beer garden area, which organizers originally envisioned for Sea Dog Brewing Co. to offer microbrews to 21-and-older festival goers. The South Portland City Council decided in June not to move forward with an ordinance change that would allow vendors to sell alcohol on public property.

“There are enough places in this town you can go have a beer,” said Councilor Michael Pock at an April meeting. “I don’t think drinking is a family value.”

Despite the beer ban, Sea Dog Brewing Co. did participate in the festival. The restaurant and pub offered lobster rolls for what General Manager Dale Carrier called an “excellent” event.

“It’s been an awesome festival. We got a great turnout, the vibe is really great,” Carrier said.

Carrier said he would be thrilled if the city ultimately decides to allow Sea Dog to offer beer in future years at the event, but until then, he is happy for the restaurant to participate in any way it can.

“Whatever the festival allows, we’re happy to do. If that’s the route the city wants to go (without beer), we’re here to help,” he said.

Linda Cohen, president of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Regional Chamber and a member of the South Portland City Council, expressed her gratitude to Sea Dog Brewing Co. for attending the festival despite the alcohol ban.

“They’re great members of our community. We want all businesses to be able to participate,” Cohen said.

Many business representatives and visitors said they expect turnout to grow significantly in future years as more residents learn about the festival and more businesses become involved. Jona Pillsbury of Portland said she came to the park because she knew there would be child-friendly activities such as a bounce house and martial arts demonstrations from Riverview Foundation for her son Simon, 6. Pillsbury said adding a few more children’s activities, such as face painting, could generate a significant attendance boost in future years.

Laurel LaBauve, owner of The Whole Dog Market, agreed there was enormous potential for growth at the festival. LaBauve organized this year’s WillardFest, a block party festival that brought nearly 1,000 residents to the Willard Square neighborhood last month. LaBauve said the three-hour long WillardFest, now in its third year, had a more condensed feel than the six-hour Bug Light event, but she sees the same opportunity for the Buy Local Festival to expand.

For more information the South Portland Buy Local group, visit its website at sopobuylocal.com.

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