Special Long Island Railroad trains and a free shuttle bus service across the North Fork brought at least 1,000 tourists to the region over the three-day Veterans Day weekend, increasing business for wineries, local restaurants and other businesses.
“It was a test to see if people would take a free shuttle,” said Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council. “One winery said their business was up 28 percent.”
Bate spent some time at the Mattituck railroad station watching people come off the train and said it showed there was a big potential market for such events. His group is seeking a $285,000 grant to hold four similar events next year, two in the spring and two in the fall.
He said that, of the1,000 people who rode the shuttle, about half came from New York City and about a quarter from New England, getting to Long Island by ferry.
The Suffolk County Executive’s office, which sponsored the “Taste of the North Fork” campaign along with the East End Tourism Alliance, said the money to run the shuttle was part of a $335,000 Empire State Development grant.
County Executive Steve Bellone said in a prepared statement that it was “precisely what well-designed economic development is meant to accomplish — to drive increased economic development in ways that benefit and engage an entire community.”
About half of the 40 wineries on the North Fork took part in the event, as did many area restaurants and bed and breakfast inns and stores in the village of Greenport.