Eat, drink and be maritime.
Sea and land lovers will have ample reason to navigate to Greenport this weekend, when 30,000-plus people are expected at the 27th annual East End Maritime Festival, which kicks off Friday, Sept. 23.
Hosted by the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, the event aims to promote awareness of the area’s nautical heritage, says event co-chairwoman and organizer Linda Kessler.
“Greenport goes back to boat building, oyster farming, fishing,” Kessler says. “All of these things were the heartbeat of Greenport back in the day.”
And they still are. The festival averages 85 to 90 vendors each year and more than 30,000 visitors over the three-day span. The family-friendly event features dozens of attractions, including a boat exhibit, a demolition derby, kayak races, a fishing contest, children’s games on the green and a wide-range of food from area restaurants.
The maritime festival is the largest fundraiser of the East End Seaport Museum and helps make available its education programs.
Here are seven things to look forward to at this year’s festival:
1. LAND AND SEA SOIREE This tented gathering is the official kickoff to the maritime festival and one of few attractions that come at a cost. The evening fundraiser features food from more than 23 of the East End’s restaurants, drinks from six of its wineries and a live raffle auction ($85, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23).
2. MERRY MERFOLK PARADE What’s a maritime festival without mermaids and marching? The Merry Merfolk Parade aims to appeal to the kid in everyone. Paradegoers typically dress in mermaid and other underwater creature costumes (noon Saturday, Mitchell Park Inner Circle, 115 Front St.).
3. ICE AND CLASSIC BOATS Start your day down at the dock, where handcrafted wooden boats will be in view at Mitchell Park Marina. The vessels will range from Antique Chris-Craft runabouts to Gil Smith sailboats to dinghies, rowboats and kayaks. Community boat shops and groups such as the Orient Ice Yacht Club and the Great South Bay Scooter Club will be on hand to discuss boat restoration tips and advise on how to sail through the winter (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Front Street).
4. KAYAK DERBY One of the most popular festival events is the kayak derby, which was started more than a decade ago by longtime Greenport craftsman Otto Schoenstein. As part of the two-part contest, teams of two must assemble wooden kayaks built by Schoenstein, then paddle out on the course. In part two, all the kayaks are staged in the water, with competitors attempting to strategically sink each other’s kayaks using their oars. The last boat floating wins (3-4 p.m. Saturday at Mitchell Park).
5. GO FISHIN’ Rush down to the railroad dock, where children up to 16 years old can be outfitted with everything they’ll need for an hourlong snapper fishing derby. Note: There are separate events for children 8 and younger and for those ages 9 to 16 (1 p.m. Sunday for ages 8 and younger; 2 p.m. ages 9-16 at 104 Rte. 114).
6. FOOD AND GAMES The festival’s food court, which was introduced three years ago, includes Eat Me Drink Me and Whole Le Crepe food trucks. North Fork Smoked Fish, NOFO Crunch, Holy Schmitt’s, Greenport Jerky Company also will be on hand during the festival weekend. On Saturday, there’ll be two sessions of children’s games and relays on the green. Children and adults are invited to try their hands at centuries-old lawn games such as hoop rolling, bean bag tossing, stilt walking, fish hurling, pitching pirate doubloons, relay races and sack races (Food trucks daily on Main Street near Emilio’s Pizzeria; lawn games 1:15-2 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. Saturday at Mitchell Park).
7. PIRATE SCHOOL If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a pirate, now’s the time to find out. Three 30-minute courses offered Saturday feature mischief and magic as taught by professor Billy Bones, with audience participation, Kessler says. Students can expect to learn how to stand, sing and speak like buccaneers, among other thing (12:15, 2 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mitchell Park Kid’s Stage).
East End Maritime Festival
WHEN | WHERE 6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23-25 in Greenport
ADMISSION Free (fee for some activities)