Groups won’t join forces for Taste North Fork

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Taste North Fork shuttle bus stops are now scheduled for 25 locations during Veteran’s Day weekend.

Six months after touting their collaboration on the first-ever Taste North Fork weekend in November, organizers from three local tourism and agricultural promotion groups have announced they won’t team up for the event again this year. 

Plans for last year’s festival were unveiled in August by the North Fork Promotion Council, Long Island Wine Council and East End Tourism Alliance. The event was made possible by a portion of a $335,000 “I Love NY” grant that funded shuttle bus trips across the North Fork for three days over Veterans Day weekend. Various farms and wineries participated by hosting special events to attract visitors.

Shuttles made a loop between Riverhead and Greenport, stopping at around 50 hamlet centers, farms and wineries along the way.

But the event was poorly executed and did little to help businesses that weren’t wineries, said promotional council president Joan Bischoff.

According to the promotion council’s internal evaluation of the event, a copy of which Mr. Bischoff provided to the Suffolk Times, “For non-winery North Fork businesses, the primary successes of Veterans Day Weekend — the weekend supported by the bus provided by the grant — resulted from North Fork businesses’ self-organizing, not from the grant-funded components.”

But this news doesn’t signify the end for either the event or the Taste North Fork name.

Throughout the upcoming tourism season, various promotional council events will be branded “Taste North Fork,” although they won’t be affiliated with last year’s grant-funded festival. The first such event, 2014 Season Kick-Off Taste North Fork, is set for Saturday, May 17. Marking the unofficial start of the tourism season, it will feature a meet-and-greet for residents and the media with a host of local chefs, growers, winemakers and bed-and-breakfast owners.

“We cannot wait anymore,” Mr. Bischoff said. “We have to get the North Fork going now, not in November.”

Meanwhile, the Long Island Wine Council has received another “I Love NY” grant to again help fund a three-day event in November.

Wine council president Steven Bate didn’t respond to requests for details about the fall event, but has also said the Wine Council and East End Tourism Alliance will no longer work alongside the North Fork Promotion Council.

East End Tourism Alliance president Bryan DeLuca referred all questions about the upcoming event to the wine council.

Eugene Gluck, the promotion council’s executive director, said a lack of grant money won’t prevent his group from bringing local businesses together in the future.

“Taste North Fork is something the promotional council developed last November — it is not necessarily a part of the grant,” he said. “The grant wasn’t Taste North Fork, it was Taste New York. Taste North Fork is the spin we took from it. It is our branding.”