Montauk is distinct from the rest of the East End.
Laraine Creegan, the executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, explains that it’s because “the people who live here are special. Everyone who lives here loves Montauk!”
It isn’t difficult to love the Hamptons, but Montauk’s pride outshines any other town’s. Montauk locals and visitors alike are often found proudly wearing their Montauk gear, even on the sidewalks of Montauk itself. It seems as though it would be impossible to find a single person living in Montauk who doesn’t love the town. But why?
“It’s so laid back,” Creegan answers. “It’s flip flops… it’s a relaxed atmosphere.” While a Hamptons summer is certainly relaxing, Creegan says, “it’s just different” than a summer in Montauk. The Hamptons are often a destination for high-end shopping, but “Montauk is Montauk. That’s the appeal.”
Montauk has always been this way. Creegan didn’t live in Montauk as a child, but she did summer here. Every year she and her family traveled from their Brooklyn home to spend July and August at her grandfather’s house in Montauk. Creegan says, like herself, “a lot of people grew up out here and they always come back. They say ‘I always loved Montauk.’”
Naturally, the town has grown since then, and Creegan says that some people have mixed feelings about the increased population and more crowded beaches. To this, Creegan replies, “It has changed, yes. But it also has remained a lot of the same.” And around 70% of the town will never change, because the land is preserved. “70%, if not more, is preserved and cannot be built on so you’ll never get a 15-story apartment or a hotel or anything like that here. That really helps keeps Montauk—Montauk.”
One important aspect of the town that certainly has not changed is the focus on fishing. “Montauk was a fishing village and fishing is still a big part of Montauk. [The town] has been enhanced now because people have discovered the beach and surfing and water activities and sports and just how beautiful Montauk is.”
In the midst of these new activities, however, the Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to preserving the fishing community in Montauk. Part of the Chamber’s building includes a harbor information center, which offers virtually unlimited information on fishing and boating. The Chamber also runs and sponsors events including fishing and shark tournaments and a legendary fisherman’s dinner.
Event planning is what the Chamber of Commerce is largely about. Creegan and the 15-member Chamber board work with many different committees to plan events that are special to Montauk. In recent years, the Chamber has developed many new events, one of which is taking off this summer.
“Take a Kid Sailing” is a new program that introduces sailing techniques to children ages six to sixteen. Montauk’s charter boat captains and mates will take first-time sailors out for two-hour-long sails for free through the end of August. The hope is to expose children to the techniques of sailing and to encourage kids to engage in fun, outdoor water activities in Montauk. The program was inspired by the Chamber’s popular “Take a Kid Fishing” event, which is now in its third season.
The event that Creegan is most looking forward to this summer, however, is the upcoming Taste of Montauk. Twelve Montauk restaurants will offer guests bites of their best meals, alongside beverages supplied by the wineries of the North Fork and the Southampton Publick House. The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on July 20 at the Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course. Tickets are $65.
The Chamber of Commerce is also responsible for two of Montauk’s most iconic events, the Fall Festival and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. These two events occur outside of the summer season, but the colder weather doesn’t deter attendance. The Festival and Parade are always packed; people return to Montauk year-round. That’s just one more example of how Montauk is special.