Renewed kite museum takes flight

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>With a wide selection of many cultural kites, including some from Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, The International Kite Museum has a lot to offer its visitors.

LONG BEACH - Though the weather and scenery outdoors become more and more beautiful everyday as spring arrives, there's still plenty of time to stay indoors with April and May showers. A good option in these cases may be to check out the beautiful scenery indoors at the World Kite Museum in its new location at 303 Sid Snyder Drive SW, near the beach approach.

With spring break underway, Museum Director Kay Buesing said they are ahead of previous years' attendance figures for this time of year, however, she said she would still like to see more.

"We should have tried to make a package with some of the (local hotels), which tend to draw families. Because this really is intended to draw families."

During the weeks of spring break for the north coast, the museum is offering its "spring fling" for students. For those who want to take part there is a list of things to look for and find in the museum. Once completed, the list can be turned in for a drawing to take place when the event ends in a few weeks. The winner of the drawing will receive a free stunt kite and flying lessons.

"It's kind of like a mystery game and they have to find the answers," said Buesing.

The event began about five years ago as a spring break activity, though Buesing admits that it may be just as interesting for adults as for kids. And while the opportunity to build your own kite is a staple at the museum, during the "fling" on Saturdays at 2 p.m. people are offered the chance to make their own box kite.

The museum moved to its new building a few months back and they are now pretty much all set-up. The main exhibit right now is a feature on kites of World War II, five in all, plus a training film video.

"This is a very popular place, particularly for the retired people, because many of them remember that, even if they were only little kids."

The video screens are set up throughout the museum, offering additional information on what you're looking at. It is advised that people look up as they are touring the facility as many of the kites are hanging among the rafters and ceiling beams, something Buesing said some have yet to notice.

"This is all a learning experience. Some people come down and have not seen the stuff that's in the rafters."

Other displays show a wide variety of kites from throughout Asia, including Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Thailand. These are some of the biggest and most fantastically beautiful kites in the museum. In their old building, the biggest kite they could display was a 6-foot tall Japanese kite, which now pales to some that are more than 20-feet in length. A good portion of these - about 700 in all -were donated to the museum by a collector's widow from Seattle and are rotated through the displays. The kites are made of paper, stretched across bent bamboo.

Buesing said that sometimes people seem disappointed that they don't have all 1,300 of their kites on display, but she said that even with their new space it would be difficult to display that many kites. The kites not on display are kept in storage downstairs.

She said they are planning for some more display units which can be moved during events. The units will go on the main floor upstairs. Buesing said that the ability to rent out the space for different events is helping to keep them financially afloat.

"Renting space is part of our income strategy. Our bills are five times as much as they were in our other building. We have to work very hard to have enough income to afford the building."

Already they have hosted a lecture and reception for artist Maya Linn and the Long Beach Visitors Bureau annual meeting. This past weekend the museum was the site of the annual Peninsula Arts Association spring art show, and Buesing said they have a reservation made for a wedding party as well.

"I don't know if I'm more proud of being able to buy the building or the fact that we have not had to borrow a cent to keep afloat."

And as the busy time of the year quickly approaches, Buesing said they are ready and have a few things planned. One event will be an exhibit that honors a famous kite flier who was supposedly "shocked" by what he found in the sky.

"This is the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin this year so we're going to do some fun stuff around him and his kite-flying events."

Through April 16, the World Kite Museum is open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 642-4020.

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