Greenport’s Maritime Festival may be rescheduled after cancellation

Greenport’s annual Maritime Festival, which was canceled last weekend due forecasts of high winds and heavy rain, may be rescheduled pending approval from the Village Board.

Diane Tucci, event coordinator at the East End Seaport Museum, which runs the festival, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the tentative new dates are Oct. 21 and 22.

“The museum as an organization, and myself, have definitely determined that we can logistically pull off a new date,” Ms. Tucci said. “Right now, it is in the hands of the Greenport Village [Board] and other officials just to get an official board vote … everybody is in favor, we just have to go through those official processes as well.”

Ms. Tucci has been working for the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation organizing the festival for two years and has organized similar community events in the area, such as Riverhead’s Alive on 25 street festival. She added that the board needs to get approval from the state to close down the roads on those tentative dates.

“I wish it was as simple as just being like, ‘hey, okay, let’s just redo it.’ But we do have to go through that red tape … none of us foresee any reason why this won’t be a go once we just go through all those processes,” she added.

Village trustees have a meeting scheduled for this Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m.

Ms. Tucci added that organizers are working to bring back all of the activities that were originally scheduled for the Maritime Festival but much depends on availability.

“We hope that we can have the parade, but it may not be on the same level the parade would have been because … we already know a couple of people who just can not make the new date. So we’re really going to try our hardest to maintain the integrity of the activities, including, hopefully, the kayak races and cardboard regatta,” she said.

In the 34 years since the festival began, this is the first time the “rain or shine” event has been canceled due to weather. The only other time the festival was called off was in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no precedent for it — it was never at the point where the festival was pretty much planned and ready to go and then we had such a horrendous weather forecast come in, where it just literally became a matter of safety,” Ms. Tucci said. “If it was just rain, everybody would have stood out in the rain and kind of dealt with a bad weekend but with the forecast of up to 40 mph gusts, that really makes it impossible for vendors to put tents out,” she said.

Ms. Tucci said the organizers were working with roughly 100 vendors, sponsors, nonprofits and other groups who donate services or products to the festival. All the funds raised for the Sept. 23-24 event will transfer to the new dates for the festival, should it be approved, she added.

“I have to recognize the fact that there was some [backlash] immediately following the cancellation and we just really appreciate the people who had some patience with us through a completely unprecedented situation,” Ms. Tucci said. “It’s really hard to take a festival that large, and be able to have a rain date, to move as many things as we’re moving. I think it’s just a miraculous situation that we’re able to get everybody mostly on board to do it this year.”

This year’s top sponsor is Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. Every year, the hospital’s auxiliary uses the Maritime Festival as a key opportunity to sell the last batch of the tickets for their Dream Green raffle. Now in its 31st year, the fundraiser is the auxiliary’s biggest annual fundraising event. Despite the dreary weather and quiet streets, the auxiliary raised approximately $100,000 from the fundraiser.

SBELIH chief administrative officer Paul Conner said rescheduling the festival would be “terrific.”

“While everyone was disappointed, we understand,” he said. “The [organizers] make that call, they have the liability. There’s always a risk when sponsoring an outdoor event, and we’ve been very lucky in the past … While we took it on the chin for sponsorship, our Dream Green still went off without a hitch.”

In the village, the cancellation was a disappointment for residents and businesses alike. For boutique shops in the heart of Greenport , the annual affair that caps the summer season typically provides the last big boost to their books for the year.

“The Maritime Festival is one of the biggest weekends for all of us,” said Patty Carlos, the owner of Di Angela Leather on Main Street. “We set up in front of the store, we put a lot of merchandise out and we make a lot of sales. So many people come. We’re sad.”

While Ms. Carlos and other boutique owners are disappointed they missed out on the influx of late September shoppers, they are more concerned for restaurants that were gearing up for the event.

“I do feel really bad for the restaurants,” Mr. Carlos added. “We sell a lot of merchandise [during the festival], especially whatever was left from the summer, it’s huge for us. But at least the merchandise is not going to go bad.”

Green Hill Kitchen & Que stockpiled wings, tacos and corn to sell outdoors at the festivities. Now, Sarah Smith, the restaurant’s staff supervisor, said Green Hill is offering these items as specials so they don’t go to waste.

“[The Maritime Festival] is probably the top event that we prepare for all year. That’s like the last hurrah before things start to really slow down. [The restaurants] all work together to make that extra special.

Chef Jennie Werts of Ellen’s on Front said she anticipated the cancellation and prepared accordingly.

“It was unfortunate, but I think it’s like what they had to do based on the forecast,” Ms. Werts said. “Fortunately, I didn’t bite too much for it. I was gonna serve hot dogs. I was lucky compared to some other places around here.”

While the possibility of rescheduling the Maritime Festival is still pending, the general consensus is the community is eager for the celebration to kick off the fall season.

“We lost money, all of us bartenders,” said Sharon Harbin, a Greenport resident and a bartender at Whiskey Wind. “Other than Fourth of July, this is our biggest weekend out here … I was kind of counting on that.”

Although much of the backlash to canceling the festival stems from lost revenue, there is a deeper sense of disappointment clouding the downtown community.

“It’s not even so much the financial part of it,” Ms. Smith explained. “It’s a celebration for all of Greenport that we got through the summer, here’s Maritime, enjoy it. It’s not so much we lost so much money, we lost people that come out here to experience our food and what we have to offer.”