Greenport learned a lot in the three years between 2012 and 2015 about hosting Tall Ships of America events.
While the village and the Greenport Business Improvement District worked together on organizing the event the first time the Tall Ships came to town, they developed a stronger partnership for the 2015 celebration. And instead of just six months, they had a whole year to plan for the ships’ second visit.
The effort to coordinate such a massive event — with tens of thousands visiting the tiny seaport to tour six Tall Ships this past July 4 weekend — hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Tall Ships America has recognized Greenport with its Port of the Year Award for 2015.
Mayor George Hubbard Jr. described the prestigious award as an honor Greenport should be proud of.
“It’s pretty special for a small community like us to pull it off,” he said, adding that “four beautiful days of good weather” also helped make the event a success.
Tall Ships Challenge manager Erin Short said each port that participated in last year’s Atlantic Coast challenge went through a self-nominating process for the awards, which involved submitting details about how they hosted a successful event. The race started in Cape Charles, Va., and continued to the Port of Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., Greenport and finally Portland, Maine.
Greenport won half of the six awards Tall Ships America presented Jan. 30 at its annual conference in Quebec City.
Ms. Short said the village earned the Operations & Logistics Award for demonstrating how efficiently it executed the event. She visited Greenport when the Tall Ships dropped anchor there in both 2012 and 2015 and said she noticed the extent to which the village had expanded and enhanced its efforts to accommodate the ships and visitors.
“They learned what worked and what didn’t — you can definitely tell,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
Her favorite was Crew Night, a joint event held with the village’s Dances in the Park event, to which local residents brought food for the sailors.
The third accolade Greenport received was the Economic Impact Award, which is given to a port host that shows how it benefited financially from Tall Ships.
“For a village of about 2,000 people to bring in over 50,000 visitors — that’s obvious,” Ms. Short said of Greenport’s ability to make the event successful. “I couldn’t be more thrilled they were honored.”
Among the long list of people to whom Mr. Hubbard attributes the event’s success are the more than 100 volunteers and members of the steering committee who helped organize it.
Former BID president Peter Clarke and former mayor David Nyce served on the committee and said they enjoyed participating in the planning process.
During Mr. Nyce’s tenure, he helped organize both events and said more collaboration and help from Southold Town, its police department, the Greenport Fire Department and others aided Greenport with planning to make the event more successful.
“We didn’t have a template to work from in 2012,” Mr. Nyce said. “We went with what worked and tried to make improvements.”
Another factor the former mayor believes enhanced the popularity of Tall Ships was a better economy this time around.
Business owners said they noticed customers remarking on how they returned to Greenport because they had so much fun during Tall Ships, he said.
“Having run an event successfully is easier to build on,” Mr. Nyce said. “[The Port of the Year Award] should be a really proud moment for the village.”
Mr. Clarke was also involved with the Tall Ships planning process during his three-year tenure as BID president and described the former mayor as “the mastermind” behind developing the village’s model to host the event.
“The playbook David Nyce put together in 2012 helped 2015,” he said. “Earlier coordination from David Nyce for 2015 helped us become better prepared and raise more money.”
Most notably, Mr. Clarke said, the last event again focused on using village vendors to provide food and supplies, which he described as a successful model first introduced a few years ago.
And the BID agreed to raise funds for last summer’s Tall Ships event by pledging $100,000.
As for the event itself, Mr. Clarke said his favorite part was the arrival of the The Hermione, a handmade replica of French general Marquis de Lafayette’s 18th-century frigate.
“We watched it arrive and saw crowds of people waving French and American flags on Claudio’s dock,” he said. “It was a beautiful ceremony.”
In particular, Mr. Clarke said he was intrigued by how the captain and crew sailed the ship manually with ropes — and without computer navigational equipment.
He was also honored to have met Herve Blanchard, mayor of Rochefort, France, and Bertrand Lortholary, consul general of France in New York.
Many considered the 2015 Tall Ships event a major gamble after it was scheduled for Fourth of July weekend, already one of the village’s busiest times of the year, and was expanded to four days.
Buoyed by $102,000 in sponsorship deals and $225,987 in ticket sales, the village pulled in a profit of nearly $59,000 from the event.
Mr. Hubbard said $8,000 of that profit is going to a shop class at Greenport High School, where students will make flower pots to beautify the village.
“The community helped us make it a success,” the mayor said. “Now we’re giving back.”
Since no one from the village was able to attend the awards ceremony, a formal presentation in Greenport is tentatively scheduled for March 24.
The Tall Ships are next expected to sail along the Atlantic coast in 2020.
Photo: The 2015 Tall Ships event in Greenport attracted tens of thousands of visitors from across Long Island and beyond. (Credit: Grant Parpan, file)