Each year, for one weekend in September, for the last twenty-seven years, the North Fork town of Greenport is host to the East End Maritime Festival, a three-day community-wide celebration of local nautical history. A fundraiser to support the good works of the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, the line-up includes cultural and history-themed events, activities for children, classic boat exhibitions, an old-fashioned fish toss, and just plain fun. “This year the festival will have more of a maritime focus than it has in recent years,” says Arlene Klein, the event’s co-chair. On the agenda: educational programs and mermaids galore. Here’s our guide to an ideal festival weekend.
Friday, September 23
Get your feet wet (but not your party dress). The Land & Sea Gala cocktail party, at Greenport Yacht, marks the start of the revelry. An $85 ticket ($75 for museum members) features live music, a raw bar, and tastings from over twenty-three restaurants.
Saturday & Sunday, September 24th & 25th
Head to Mitchell Park Marina to see the Ice and Classic Boat Exhibit. Curated by Captain Pat Mundus, a former oil-tanker captain who spent years at sea before settling in Greenport in 2007, the exhibit brings together roughly two dozen exemplary boats, including antique Chris-Craft runabouts, sailing dinghies, and, back by popular demand, a 39-foot Gil Smith racing sailboat (“a thing of beauty,” says Captain Mundus). Don’t miss the 1937 Picket Patrol yacht Zaida down at the dock. “We try to get a nice mix of sailboats and power boats from local boat builders and restorers,” says Captain Mundus, a daughter of the legendary Captain Frank Mundus, the inspiration for Quint in Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws. She’ll also be giving festival-goers sailing pointers. Also taking questions will be craftsmen from Greenport’s Wooden Boatworks and Anders Langendal Boatbuilder & Sons, builders and restorers of world-class yachts. eastendcharters.com; woodenboatworks.com; langendalboatbuilders.com
Saturday, September 24
Watch the parade. Starting at 11:00 a.m., pipe bands, fire trucks, and cadets from the Merchant Marine Academy will march down Main Street. And that mermaid princess surrounded by sea creatures? Those are the members of the Merry Merfolk Parade, which Arlene Klein describes as “a parade within a parade,” founded by local gallerist Caroline Waloski. To join the latter, contact Waloski at [email protected]. Mermaids, fairies, dolphins, and octopi are welcome. Prizes for best costume will be awarded in a ceremony at Mitchell Park.
Broaden Your Horizons. Learn about dive history and early ocean exploration equipment, local shipwrecks, and marine life through a display at the East End Seaport Museum.
Room with a View. Take a sunset cruise and tour Bug Light, between Orient Harbor and Gardiner’s Bay, one of the few lighthouses in which visitors can go inside. The tour will be guided by a direct descendant of the Lighthouse Keeper. Tickets $50 – $85.
Send your young ones to Pirate School. In his debut appearance at the Festival, Dave Engel will be teaching children the fine points of pirate craft. “Kids will learn how to walk, talk, and laugh like good pirates,” says Engel. How does a good pirate laugh? Engel isn’t telling, explaining that such top-secret information is only for initiates. He does say, however, that his students leave the school having “fulfilled their swashbuckling dreams.” Caveat emptor: Prepare for soap bubbles.
Sunday, September 25, 9:00 and 11:00a.m.
Eat like a pirate. Head to Front Street Station for the Breakfast Experience with Pirates and Mermaids, a local tradition involving pirate music, children in pirate garb, pirate face painting and pirate music. Tickets $12 to $15.
Eat like a grown-up. Come lunch time, grab a bite at one of the swanky food trucks stationed along the north end of Main Street. Vendors include Rolling Smoke Grill, A newyoricanthing, and Whole Le Crêpe.
Get out your fishing rod. Children, ages 8 and under (from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and ages 9 to 16 (from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.) can compete in the snapper fishing contest at the railroad dock.
And a good time was had by all. Gather in the amphitheater behind the carousel to witness the closing ceremony, which, as in years past, will be low on pomp and circumstance and heavy with Merry Merfolk.
Where To Stay
Harborfront Inn. Located just a few blocks from the train station and the North Ferry, the thirty-five-room ultra-modern Harborfront Hotel, on Front Street, is right in the thick of things (As the name suggests, it overlooks the harbor.) If you’re driving, you can leave your car in the hotel’s lot and not have to deal with parking for the rest of your stay. And when you’ve had your fill of festival carousing, you can relax in the hotel’s heated pool. theharborfrontinn.com
Looking for something with a mid-century modern vibe? Try The Greenporter. The thirty- room hotel, close to the center of town, has an outdoor swimming pool, a hot tub, and a casual yet serious restaurant. greenporterhotel.com