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Freeport's Nautical Mile festival cut to one day

Freeport Village officials have decided to shorten the annual Nautical Mile festival from two days to one, citing increased costs associated with public safety.

The festival along the waterfront has become a mainstay in the village since it was organized by local business owners in the early 1980s, according to merchants and village officials.

The explosive growth in attendance at the festival - which saw some 200,000 visitors last year, police estimated - coupled with an incident last year in which an ambulance had to navigate a crowd to respond to a call to help a woman who later died, prompted village officials to boost its projected spending on public safety.

With those added costs, the price tag of the festival was to balloon from $140,000 last year to a projected $180,000 to $200,000 this year, deputy Mayor Robert T. Kennedy said. And with a loss of about $50,000 after revenue last year, village officials decided the projected cost was too great for taxpayers to bear.

"Last year, the merchants contributed to the village $5,400 towards the festival," Kennedy said. "We're glad that we're having the festival and we were able to save a good percentage of the taxpayers' dollars."

Officials did not have an estimate of the cost of this year's festival, which will be June 5, from noon to 10 p.m.

This year, the village plans to close South Ocean Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to the Seabreeze Marina for emergency vehicle access. And there will be more police.

The village took over the sponsorship of the festival in the late 1990s, said trustee William H. White, who opposed the move to shorten it. "It's a decades-old tradition on the Nautical Mile and we should've been able to find a way to keep the tradition going," he said.

Thursday, some business owners along the waterfront said the change would hurt their bottom line, given the brief summer season.

"I'm very concerned about turning a profit," said Irwin Krasnow, owner of Blue 42 and Landshark restaurants. "It's going to hurt us tremendously."

A Facebook page dedicated to saving the festival cropped up last month, drawing more than 3,400 fans.

Freeport Chamber of Commerce president Jerri Quibell said the group chose not to take a position because some members don't back the festival and others want it held in the off-season to generate traffic.

Ilona Jagnow, owner of Ahab's Attic and the Crow's Nest Cove shop and miniature golf, said she worried patrons would show up the day after the Saturday festival.

Mayor Andrew Hardwick has said the village will not sponsor the festival next year, Kennedy said.

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