09/16/13 5:18pm
09/16/2013 5:18 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bill Claudio at the bar at Claudio's.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bill Claudio at the bar at Claudio’s.

Bill Claudio remembers receiving a phone call from his brother-in-law one spring day in 1989, asking if he’d have any interest in partnering to purchase their family’s restaurant in Greenport.

Mr. Claudio says he didn’t have to think much before giving his initial answer.

“I told him, ‘No I don’t [have any interest],’” he recalled in a recent interview.

Today, he’s glad he changed his mind.

Claudio’s is recognized by the National Restaurant Association as the oldest, same-family run restaurant in America. Now owned by the fourth generation of Claudio family members, this year marked 143 years since the popular eatery, located at the end of Main Street, was first opened as Claudio’s Tavern.

For the past 24 years, Claudio’s has been perhaps most closely associated with Mr. Claudio, though his family’s business, which has expanded to include the neighboring Claudio’s Clam Bar and Crabby Jerry’s, is owned by a corporation that includes his wife, Jan, sisters Kathy and Beatrice, and Jerry Tuthill, the brother-in-law who first approached him about purchasing Claudio’s from Bill’s father, William Claudio Sr.

This year, Bill Claudio, 75, is being honored as Grand Marshal of the annual Greenport Maritime Festival Parade. Though his office is located just below his childhood bedroom, newcomers to the area might be surprised to learn he hasn’t spent his entire career in the restaurant business. In fact, after a successful career in sales, largely in the aviation industry, it’s easy to understand why Mr. Claudio first told his brother-in-law “no.”

Mr. Claudio’s love of planes stems largely from his adolescent dream of flying in the Air Force. After a brief stint at the Coast Guard Academy, he spent four years in the Air Force and then attended Parks College of Aeronautical Technology at St. Louis University. In 1963, he re-enlisted and spent seven more as an Air Force  fighter pilot.

As a Vietnam war-era captain, he flew 216 combat missions for the Air Force, earning 20 air medals among his various citations.

He describes his time in the military as among the most exhilarating in his life. “Only wild and crazy guys get to fly fighters,” he said with a smile, before detailing some of the harrowing circumstances he and his fellow pilots were forced to endure.

After leaving the the military in 1970, he turned down an opportunity to fly for Delta Airlines because, he says, he’d already done the best type of flying there is.

Later, after several years in real estate in Atlanta and Colorado, he returned to an aviation-related field in his native Long Island, when he went to work for the Hazeltine Corporation in Greenlawn. He served four years as Hazeltine’s director of international marketing, focusing mostly on selling black box equipment for aircraft throughout Asia. He left to take a job with MCI when it was just a startup in Washington, D.C.

In the later stages of his career before the restaurant, he bought and sold jets for an aircraft company in Maryland. (He says he once bought a jet from a Saudi prince and flipped it to international crooner Julio Iglesias.)

After returning to Long Island to work for Beechcraft, Mr. Claudio received that 1989 phone call from Mr. Tuthill. After he demurred on purchasing the restaurant his father had owned since 1930, his brother-in-law convinced him to consider an idea he had for expanding the business. Just a year earlier, Mr. Tuthill and his wife, Beatrice, known as “Beatsy,” had opened a smaller Claudio’s Clam Bar adjacent to the main restaurant.

Mr. Claudio said Mr. Tuthill drove him to Island Park, showed him the Paddy McGee’s restaurant complex and explained that this was something he envisioned Claudio’s could become. Suddenly intrigued by the idea of owning multiple waterfront bars and restaurants around a marina in his hometown, Mr. Claudio was on board. It was a business plan he believed could work.

“In today’s economy, you grow or you die,” he said.

But it’s not just change that he credits with keeping his family business as successful as ever, despite the many other great restaurants that have popped up on the North Fork. He says a combination that also includes a level of consistency has been the secret to the Claudios’ success.

“What makes this place work is that it’s been run by the same family,” he said. “But we’ve also hired superb employees, some who have been with us since day one in 1989. If you don’t have talent on your side, it doesn’t work.”

Though initially reluctant to return to the family business, Mr. Claudio said he’s always had a fondness for Greenport. That’s why he’ll be smiling from ear to ear when he leads the parade through the one downtown that’s always been home.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” he says of the village. “I have a deep admiration for Sydney, Australia, and the Australian people. I once could have settled there. I also love Singapore. I could have settled there, too. But wherever I was in this world, and I’ve been to so many countries, I was always thinking of Greenport.”

[email protected]

09/12/13 4:00pm
09/12/2013 4:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The crew from the Blue Canoe giving out samples of their chowder during last year’s festival.

A grassroots movement to return the beloved chowder contest to this year’s Maritime Festival is underway in Greenport.

With the blessing of festival organizers and a little more than a week left until the big day, the Greenport Farmers’ Market is rushing to confirm enough contestants to revive the competition.

“The chowder contest is inline with our mission at the market as a community food vendor,” said manager KiKi Hurst. “It’s iconic.”

Ms. Hurst said she and fellow residents were inspired to bring back the long-running competition after the East End Seaport Museum decided to replace it with an oyster shucking event for the first time this year.

Last month, Seaport Museum chairman Ron Breuer said the move was not only an effort to better reflect Greenport’s legacy as an oystering community, but also because of the burdensome logistics of organizing the contest.

Participating restaurants were responsible for preparing up to 25 gallons of chowder each, not to mention delivering and properly heating it during the contest.

Establishing a space and covering the expense of renting tents to house the competition was also problematic.

Ms. Hurst said the farmers’ market already has in place a lot of the necessary elements needed to host the contest.

Mr. Breuer said the festival committee supports the endeavor.

“If they can get the resources, they are definitely a part of the festival,” he said.

Ms. Hurst said all the pieces of the puzzle are in place to make the chowder contest happen, but they still need to confirm the contestants.

“We don’t have enough chefs,” she said. “It’s not an event until we have participants.”

Ms. Hurst is in the process of reaching out to local restaurants, but said there would need to be at least eight confirmed contestants to make the contest viable.

The short notice isn’t deterring First & South in Greenport, who participated last year. Owner Sarah Phillips said she is in the process of finalizing the paperwork and fully intends to compete.

“It was definitely short notice, but we want to be a part of the tradition,” she said. “We couldn’t understand why they stopped it in the first place.”

Following a previous article published by the Suffolk Times, a number of readers agreed that ending the chowder contest was a bad idea.

“What’s wrong with clam chowder?” one commenter said. “It’s part of our life and maritime tradition. Why can’t we have both the chowder contest [and oysters]?”

If Ms. Hurst is successful, it appears that just might be the case.

Unlike previous years, the winner would not be crowned by a panel of judges, but rather a voting public. If the contest does happen, tasters would be charged $5 to enter, Ms. Hurst said.

The 24th annual Maritime Festival is scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22, with the opening reception the evening of Sept. 20.

[email protected]

08/22/13 10:00am
08/22/2013 10:00 AM
JAY WEBSTER PHOTO | A Mano's chef Tom Schaudel accepts the trophy for Best in Show from chef John Ross as judge Paula Croteau looks on at the 2010 Maritime Festival.

JAY WEBSTER PHOTO | A Mano’s chef Tom Schaudel accepts the trophy for Best in Show from chef John Ross as judge Paula Croteau looks on at the 2010 Maritime Festival.

In what organizers are calling an effort to better reflect Greenport’s legacy as an oystering community, this year’s Maritime Festival will no longer feature the popular chowder contest.

Instead, local oyster farmers will shuck hundreds of oysters for the two-day festival, which people can pair with local wines or beers, according to East End Seaport Museum chairman Ron Breuer.

“At this point the change would be in the best interest of the festival,” he said. “We want to reflect the maritime history of Greenport.”

Mr. Breuer said the museum also wanted to recognize the hardworking oyster farmers who help preserve Greenport’s working waterfront today.

Along with the shucking there will be an exhibit detailing the village’s days as an oystering hub at the turn of the century. At one time, as many as 14 oyster-processing companies operated in the village.

Organizers said the move is not just about historical relevance but also involves the logistics of conducting the long-running chowder contest. Participating restaurants were responsible for preparing up to 25 gallons of chowder each, not to mention delivering and properly heating it during the contest.

“[Chowderfest] was a huge success,” said chef John Ross, a longtime contest judge. “It brought in a lot of revenue, but it was a big commitment for restaurants. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to change.”

The news did come as a surprise to some former contestants.

“We’re bummed,” said Keith Bavaro, owner of SALT Waterfront Bar and Grill on Shelter Island. The restaurant took home the top prize at Chowderfest last year. “We had a couple of recipe ideas we wanted to try this year. We were really looking forward to winning it again, but we’ll try to get involved with whatever they decided to do.”

The theme of this year’s Maritime Festival is “Land & Sea,” with local fisherman, farmers restaurants and vineyards displaying their wares. It’s an important tie-in as Greenport celebrates its 175th anniversary as an incorporated village, Mr. Breuer said.

“Our mission is to showcase the East End and Greenport itself as a waterfront community,” he said.

It is in that spirit that the festival will exclude most out-of-area vendors. This year, organizers tried to restrict the market space primarily to local artisans and craftspeople, Mr. Breuer said.

“We are not looking for the vendor who sells T-shirts and sunglasses,” he said. “We are looking for the vendor who is glass blowing, woodcarving, making handmade jewelry, things that accent what Greenport is about.”

The changes will be seen across the board, including at the annual Friday night reception, which has traditionally been the unofficial opening of the popular festival. The reception, now titled “A Taste of Greenport,” will feature signature dishes from various area restaurants, local wines and craft beers.

Also new this year are children’s shows, a pie-baking competition and the “merfolk contest,” a costume competition in which children ages 5-12 will dress up as mermaids or Poseidon for the annual parade. Winners will be chosen, but the contest will also serve as an educational opportunity.

“We’re going to teach the kids the difference between facts and fantasies,” he said. “It’s really a kickoff of the whole idea of mermaids in Greenport. In the future you will see a lot of mermaids and oysters at the festival.”

The 24th annual Maritime Festival is scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22, with the opening reception the evening of Sept. 20.

[email protected] 

09/27/12 2:00pm
09/27/2012 2:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Cutchogue residents Karen Nicholson and Courtney Meringer of the New Challenge team strain at the oars during Sunday’s whaleboat race.

Greenport Maritime Festival organizers are estimating that about 40,000 people visited the village this past weekend for the 23rd annual festival, which strived to be more about ships and the sea than in previous years.

The event, an annual fundraiser for the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, featured tall ships, antique boats and iceboats, as well as downtown vendors and family activities.

East End Seaport Museum chairman Ronald Breuer said he believed the festival’s success was a result of his group working closely with village officials and local businesses to plan “one of the best years yet.”

“In general, we were very happy with the turnout,” Mr. Breuer said. “It shows we’re moving in the right direction with trying to get back to more of our nautical roots.”

Visitors were able to tour several tall ships at Mitchell Park Marina, including the Privateer Lynx, a replica of a historic ship from the War of 1812; the U.S. Coast Guard’s barque Eagle; and the U.S. Coast Guard’s barque Zaida, one of the last remaining yachts from the all-volunteer Picket Patrol — known as the “Hooligan Navy” — that patrolled the waters off of Long Island during World War II.

Throughout the two-day festival, 35 classic boats and iceboats — many antique — were also on display in the park.

Greenport Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke said he believes the museum’s decision to promote downtown stores this year as opposed to hiring outside food vendors as it had in the past helped make the festival more of a community event.

“The maritime focus was very positive,” Mr. Clarke said. “It’s what Greenport is all about.”

Although visitors wined and dined downtown, no rowdiness was reported at the festival.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said no arrests, emergencies, accidents or other incidents were reported over the weekend. The only issues police had to deal with were related to parking, he said.

Mr. Breuer said the festival was well-received because it also focused on family-friendly activities, including Captain Kidd’s Craft Alley, Kings of the Coast pirate shows, a Mitchell Park treasure chest and other various street events.

There were chowder, snapper-fishing and dory race contests, too.

North Fork chef John Ross was the lead judge for the chowder competition and awarded Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill in Shelter Island the first-place prize. The winner of the People’s Choice first-place award was Blue Canoe Oyster Bar and Grill, a new downtown waterfront restaurant.

Over at the fishing contest, Dougie Corazzini won first place in the 8 and under age category for catching a 5.95-ounce fish. Hannah Guenther took first in the 9-16 age group for catching a 5.23-ounce catch. Each child received a certificate of participation and prizes donated by Wego Fishing in Southold.

Sag Harbor residents Bill Martin and Ray Pettigrew won first place in the men’s dory race and Southold resident Amanda Weil and Noemi Bonazzi of Greenport won first place in the women’s category. [See below for a list of all the dory race winners].

While many people raved about the maritime event, some were less than thrilled with one of the festival’s newest attraction.

During a Village Board meeting Monday night, resident Bill Swiskey expressed his disgust with the village’s approval of Greenport Harbor Brewery’s request to have a beer garden in the park. The brewery sponsored the museum’s traditional Land and Sea reception Friday night.

Mayor David Nyce and Mr. Breuer disagreed with Mr. Swiskey’s comments and said they believed the operations went smoothly because the brewery fenced off the beer garden and hired its own security.

“I have grandchildren, so I’m very concerned about that,” Mr. Breuer said. “The majority of people enjoyed it and we’d love to have them back.”

Mr. Breuer said he’s planning an informal meeting with business owners to gather feedback about how the festival went this weekend. He said the meeting is tentatively scheduled for tonight, Sept. 27, at 6:30 p.m. The location wasn’t finalized by presstime. For more information, email [email protected].

[email protected]

Results of the 22nd annual dory races

Men’s Champions: “The Whalers”
Bill Martin, Sag Harbor
Ray Pettigrew, Sag Harbor

2nd place: “Dry Run”
Ed Nicholson, Cutchogue
Amos Meringer, Cutchogue

3rd place: “Showboat”
Gegg Bucher, Jamesport
Keith Jurgens, Jamesport

Women’s Champions: “Team Grog”
Amanda Weil, Southold
Noemi Bonazzi, Greenport

2nd Place: “GMD (Greenport Mother-Daughter)”
Peggy Lauber, Greenport
Kate Criss, Greenport

3rd Place: “New Challenge”
Karen Nicholson, Cutchogue
Courtney Meringer, Cutchogue

09/26/12 8:00am
09/26/2012 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The crew from the Blue Canoe giving out samples of their chowder on Sunday.

The East End Seaport Museum announces the winners of this year’s 2012 Maritime Festival Chowder Contest:

Best in Show: Judged by chefs
1) Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill – Shelter Island, Chef Carrie Mitchum & Darren Boyle
2) Blue Canoe Oyster Bar – Greenport, chef Matty Boudreau
3) Noah’s – Greenport, Chef Noah Schwartz

People’s Choice:
1) Blue Canoe Oyster Bar – Greenport, chef Matty Boudreau
2) Townsend Manor Inn – Greenport, Chef Ian Crowley
3) First and South – Greenport, Chef Taylor Knapp

Judges:
Lead judge John Ross, Tom Scalia, Paula Croteau, Albie De Kerillis, Chris Smith, Mary Morgan and Rosemary Pearce.

“My heart goes out to all the chefs who’ve worked so hard and so creatively to support this event,” said Mr. Ross. “All of the chowders were excellent and showed the public how far we have come as a culinary region. Chowder is truly a soup of the people and as American as apple pie. It was very difficult for us to choose one over the other and we truly appreciate their effort.”

Participating Restaurants:

A Lure- Southold, Chef Tom Schaudel
Bistro 72, Hotel Indigo, Riverhead, Chef Vincent Donofrio
Blue Canoe Oyster Bar – Greenport, chef Matty Boudreau
Cliff’s Elbow Room – Jamesport, Chef Joan Saunders
First and South – Greenport, Chef Taylor Knapp
The Islander, Shelter Island, Chef Chris Chobar
Noah’s – Greenport, Chef Noah Schwartz
Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill – Shelter Island, Chef Carrie Mitchum & Darren Boyle
Townsend Manor Inn – Greenport, Chef Ian Crowley

The chowder contest is sponsored by Albertson Realty.

09/21/12 1:55pm
09/21/2012 1:55 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Coast Guard barque Eagle tied up in Greenport.

There may be no shivering of timbers or 16 men on a dead man’s chest, but Greenport will be all about ships and the sea this weekend during the 23rd annual Maritime Festival, which will feature tall ships, antique boats and iceboats.

A flotilla of tall ships sailed past Bug Light in Orient and into Greenport Harbor Thursday aftenoon. Here for the festival are the privateer Lynx, a replica of a historic ship from the War of 1812; the U.S. Coast Guard’s barque Eagle and Zaida, one of the vessels in the Picket Patrol, which kept a lookout for enemy vessels during World War II.

The Maritime Festival is a fundraiser for the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation.

Lynx was one of six vessels that sailed into Greenport Harbor over Memorial Day weekend in this year’s Tall Ships Challenge. It is also visiting ports along the East Coast to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

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The 114-ton Lynx, launched in 2001 in Rockport, Maine, is an interpretation of the original, built in 1812 by Thomas Kemp in Fell’s Point, Md. — the same place the ship that inspired Pride of Baltimore II was launched.

The current Lynx is operated by a not-for-profit educational foundation based in Newport Beach, Calif. It was hired to train the cast and crew for the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The 122-foot square top-sail schooner will hold daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Monday.

In addition to ship tours, there will be “sailaways” through the harbor will that will allow visitors to experience sailing on a tall ship and help the crew hoist the sails and steer the ship. Sailaways aboard Lynx will take place between 3 and 5 p.m. Friday through Monday.

Tickets for ship tours are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 3 to 12. Sailaway tickets are $65 for adults, $55 for seniors and active military and $35 for children ages 4 to 12.

Sailing tours from Mitchell Park Marina on schooner Samanthe will also be available on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

Eagle is a German-made tall ship built in 1936 that was taken as a reparation by the U.S. following World War II. The 295-foot ship then sailed to its current homeport in New London, Conn., where it acts as a training vessel. Russell Drumm, author of “The Barque of Saviors: The History of the Eagle,” will talk about his book and sign copies Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Front Street.

Zaida, which was owned by George Ernest Ratsey, was used during the 1940s in the Picket Patrol — a part of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary made up of motor boats, yachts and other small craft. Mr. Ratsey was the great-grandfather of Greenport residents Jane Ratsey Williams and her brother Colin Ratsey.

Zaida is one of the last remaining yachts from the all-volunteer Picket Patrol — known as the “Hooligan Navy” — that patrolled the waters off of Long Island during the second World War.

Jack Fisher, 90, a resident of Peconic Landing in Greenport and a former member of the Hooligan Navy, has been selected as grand marshal for the festival’s opening parade, which steps off at 11 a.m. Saturday and heads south down Main Street and west on Front Street.

The traditional Land and Sea reception, sponsored by Greenport Harbor Brewery, will open the festival Friday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. at the East End Seaport Museum. Tickets are $30 each; $25 for museum members.

The Greenport Classic Yacht Regatta, as part of the Woodenboat Magazine series and sponsored by the not-for-profit group Sail Greenport and S.T. Preston & Son Chandlers, will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. in Gardiners Bay.

On Sunday there will be a dory race, as well as snapper-fishing and chowder contests. The musical group Dunegrass will give a live performance in Mitchell Park from 1 to 3 p.m.

Throughout the two-day festival, 35 classic boats and iceboats — many antique — will be on display in the park. There will also be various street events as well as Captain Kidd’s Craft Alley, Kings of the Coast pirate shows and a Mitchell Park treasure chest.

Cruises to Long Beach Bar “Bug” Lighthouse are scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. each day of the festival. Last year was the first time in about a decade that the lighthouse was open to the public. The structure was built in 1990 to replace the original Bug Light, so named for the insect-like appearance of its spindly steel legs. That building was destroyed by arsonists on July 4, 1963.

The Greenport Maritime Festival will conclude Sunday with raffle drawings in Mitchell Park.

All proceeds from the festival will offset East End Seaport’s costs to maintain the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse.
Additional information is available at eastendseaport.org.

[email protected]

09/19/12 10:15am
09/19/2012 10:15 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The parade at last year’s Maritime Festival in Greenport.

Southold Town police announced road closures for the 2012 Greenport Maritime Festival this weekend.

Route 25 will be closed to vehicular traffic from Third to Main streets and at the foot of Main Street at Claudio’s to Center Street. The closures will be in effect from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Police advise attendees to use the village streets surrounding the festival for parking.

09/24/11 12:50pm
09/24/2011 12:50 PM

Instead of the washout Maritime Festival organizers feared, Greenport streets are awash with locals and visitors today, enthusiastically applauding the Saturday morning parade.

Without the minions of pipers who participated in recent past festival parades, the line of march seemed shorter, but it didn’t lack for either music or its ability to stir up the crowds.

Grand marshals Lillian and Bob White, lifelong Greenporters involved with the rebuilding of Long Island Beach “Bug” Lighthouse and a host of other services to the community, appeared to enjoy the ovations they received. A contingent of antique and classic vehicles appeared to be crowd favorites, as did the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps of more than 200 cadets from Greenport, Southold and Mattituck, named last spring as the best unit in the nation.

Politicians were aplenty in the crowds, but only elected officials marched in the parade. But Republicans were camped out on southern Main Street and Democrats along Front Street about half way between First and Third streets, took every opportunity to shake every hand and try to make their cases for election in November.

The enthusiastic crowd took no time in  hitting the street to visit vendors as soon as the parade ended.

A full schedule of events for the two-day festival appears on this website.

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KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO

09/23/11 4:57pm
09/23/2011 4:57 PM

This year’s Greenport Maritime Festival will take place as scheduled this weekend, weather or not.

ZOOM IN ON SCHEDULE OF EVENTS BELOW

The festival, a fundraiser for the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, begins Friday night with the Land & Sea Cocktail Reception at the museum at the foot of Third Street, adjacent to the Shelter Island Ferry dock, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 for museum members and $30 for guests.

Email [email protected] or call 477-2100.

The festival takes place in Mitchell Park along the harbor Saturday and Sunday.