For Greenport native Chris Hamilton, the 29th Annual East End Maritime Festival signals the celebration of his heritage, and will also give him a platform for speaking about environmental issues that are close to his heart.
He will serve as the 2018 Grand Marshal and will lead the parade Saturday through Greenport Village.
“I’m happy to be able to represent my community. I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life,” Mr. Hamilton said. “To be able to represent Greenport, it’s an honor to do that.”
Mr. Hamilton’s father, Bob, is one of the few commercial fishermen left in Greenport. Mr. Hamilton grew up watching his father work on his boat, and is now a bayman himself. He is well-known in the community as a photographer, taking photos of his life on the boat and documenting his father.
“That’s kind of my medium for awareness now,” he said. “I’m hoping that the images that I share are ways for people to connect to our culture here as fishermen. It’s a dying breed.”
He wants to use this opportunity to bring awareness to issues in the community caused by being a popular tourist destination, mostly trash.
“Trash is one of the biggest issues that concern me out here,” he said. “Being grand marshal is hopefully a way for me to continue the conversation of getting back to our roots.”
Organizers of the festival originally wanted Bob Hamilton to act as grand marshal, but he declined.
“My dad is very old school. One of the things my father struggles with is that we lost track of what we’re celebrating,” Mr. Hamilton said.
“My hope is that one day, my dad would be happy to be grand marshal, because that would mean that we’re actually celebrating the heritage of Greenport rather than just catering to tourists,” he added.
Mr. Hamilton has been working with the East End Seaport Museum for about a year and half, showing his photographs there and also donating a new landscape to the museum through a scholarship fund in memory of his brother who died in 2010.
Mr. Hamilton and his father both want to see the festival become more connected to Greenport’s roots as a fishing village. They fear that has been lost.
“The focus is more on retail and drinking and everyone having a good time, which is awesome, but I think it’s been lacking in some of the other aspects which is really unfortunate because the reason we’re celebrating the Maritime Festival is to celebrate our culture,” Mr. Hamilton said.
He hasn’t had an opportunity to be part of the festival over the past few years because has bartended, so this will be the first year he can truly partake in the activities.
Mr. Hamilton has always gravitated towards environmentalism, majoring in environmental science and marine affairs at the University of Rhode Island.
Mr. Hamilton will be photographing the Land and Sea Gala Friday night, and said he would consider making a statement there to talk about environmental issues and Greenport heritage itself.
“Being the son of a fisherman, there are environmental issues we face today that are serious concerns,” he said. “There’s a lot less fish to catch out here than there used to be. I’ve always been a champion of the environment and want to do my part to keep this place clean.”
Photo caption: Chris Hamilton on board the Jeremy H., his father’s boat, which is named for his late brother. (David Benthal photo)