The Thursday evening before the 33rd Annual Maritime Festival was slated to kick off, Southold Police and Greenport Village officials called an emergency meeting with the leaders of the East End Seaport Museum. Then-Tropical Depression #16 was quickly developing along the Carolina Coast and was threatening to get organized and barrel up the coast for Long Island.
The Maritime Festival had been held rain or shine for 32 years in the heart of hurricane season, by the grace of the weather gods without interruption by a tropical weather event, but the potential for tropical storm-force winds buffeting the port throughout a weekend of festivities was a public safety risk no one at that meeting wanted to take. They called off Saturday and Sunday’s events, but decided to go forward with the Friday night Land & Sea Gala at Crabby Jerry’s.
After the gala, the museum’s Executive Director, Tracey Orlando, couldn’t sleep. She’d heard from throughout the village of the hardship the cancellation would impose on businesses and restaurants, which had stocked up on food for the weekend and count on the influx of Maritime Festival-goers to help them make it through the desolate off-season here, and from vendors upset that they would not be receiving refunds due to the weather being beyond the control of the museum.
By Monday morning, when the East End was still being buffeted by what would end up being four days of gale-force winds, she’d convinced the museum’s board, and village officials, to support scheduling “Maritime Festival Redux” on the weekend of Oct. 21 and 22. On Sept. 28, the Village Board unanimously approved the new dates.
“This is unprecedented. In our the 34 year history, only Covid cancelled our festival,” said Ms. Orlando as she announced the museum’s plans. “Our very small non-for-profit is putting this village before ourselves and want as many people as possible to come to support our local businesses that count on Maritime. The winter in the village is hard enough.”
Ms. Orlando said the festival will remain a rain or shine event, but will perhaps in the future include a caveat for wind-related emergencies.
Nearly all of the events associated with Maritime Festival will be going ahead, including the Mardi Gras-themed parade (at 11 a.m. on Saturday), music in Mitchell Park, kayak (2 p.m. Saturday) and cardboard boat races (1 p.m. Sunday), a snapper fishing contest (1-3 p.m. Sunday on the commercial fishing dock), artisan and food vendors throughout the village, children’s games and Captain Kidd’s Alley, fishing boat, classic boats and historical demonstrations. Full details are at eastendseaport.org.
The U.S. Coast Guard (which happily told the museum they would be willing to show up, even during the gale) will also be returning with a tent filled with demonstrations of the work they do.
At the Greenport Village Board’s Sept. 28 meeting at which they rescheduled the festival, Steven Karl, a realtor, said he was representing the Greenport Business Improvement District and that “neither the village nor the East End Seaport Museum had made any attempt to communicate with the BID,” adding that “we all love the Maritime Festival and the energy it brings to the village in late September,” but wondered if rescheduling the festival would “prove to be an enhancement or a detriment to future festivals.”
Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who owns a fish market and is a member of the BID, said she hadn’t heard anything from the BID about their concerns.
“I’m curious why the BID is objecting to this. October is not a busy time… usually in October, you’re looking for some type of event to be here,” she said. “I’m curious why the BID didn’t reach out to the Maritime Museum and say ‘let’s think what we can do together…’ It’s a two-way street.”
Kim Loper, a co-owner of Harbor Pet, said she believes there should have been “a little more thought process” before rescheduling the festival.
“There’s a risk that if businesses do start buying food again, and it is another crap weekend without a rain date, I personally think it might tarnish the museum more than the businesses,” she added.
“I was a little taken aback that Steven shared this,” said Mayor Kevin Stuessi of Mr. Karl’s comments. “Much of the community was extremely disappointed when the weather was such that it couldn’t happen. I think it’s the right thing to do. I would encourage any business that wants to participate, and if they don’t want to participate, don’t participate. I think it was noble of the Seaport Museum to organize so quickly and try to bring back as many vendors as they can.”
Mr. Stuessi said he was also working on a “direct line to god so we can control the weather.”
East End Seaport Museum Board Member Paul Kreiling said the museum had wanted to get permission from the village and Southold Town Police to reschedule the festival before they began publicizing it, because they didn’t think it was a good idea “to say we are actually doing it without getting permission.”
“My bad,” he said. “I hope everyone can support us.”
A silver lining to the delay? You now have more time to build your cardboard boat.