Maritime Festival Sails into Greenport This Weekend

Greenport Maritime Festival tall ships
Greenport Maritime Festival tall ships

Pirates and tall ships and sword fights, oh my! The 33rd annual Greenport Maritime Festival will be held September 24–25 on the streets and in the harbor of Greenport Village. This lively weekend event highlights Greenport’s maritime history.

Downtown Greenport will be converted to all things nautical: classic boat displays, kayak races, traditional sea chanteys, Captain Kidd’s Alley and games on the green for children, maritime demonstrations, and hand-crafted wares and local oysters.

Event organizer Diane Tucci says the festival connects community and culture — Greenport’s seafaring past. “The best part,” Tucci says, “is highlighting Greenport’s deep maritime roots.”

The festival begins on Saturday with the Maritime Festival Parade, full of mermaids, pirates, rumrunners and sea creatures. After the parade is the Merry Merfolk contest judging in Mitchell Park.

“Have fun and dress up as anything maritime — pirate, mermaid, crab, whatever — and enjoy!” says Tucci.

Captain Kidd’s Alley, with crafts and a treasure chest, draws children and the young at heart.

Tracey Orlando has attended the festival over the years, first as a community member, then as a volunteer and board member, and this year as interim director of East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation (EESM), which hosts the festival. “It is so much fun, especially Captain Kidd’s Alley,” Orlando says. “Now the kids who used to come bring their kids and they are looking for the same treasure.”

A working fishing boat will be at the dock, and the U.S. Coast Guard is holding demonstrations both days. To cap off Saturday, the EESM is hosting a two-hour boat cruise to Bug Light (register at EESM). A snapper fishing contest is held on Sunday, with prizes for two age groups.

“This year we are ramping up the maritime flavor quite a bit,” according to Tucci. Pirates will roam the streets and many new vendors add a seafaring feel.

Long Beach Bar Lighthouse aka Bug Light off the North Fork
Long Beach Bar Lighthouse aka Bug LightDavid Taylor

Greenport Maritime Festival Attractions

The Amistad

The tall ship Amistad will be docked behind the East End Seaport Museum for free tours all weekend. This is a replica of the original Amistad ship. In 1839, Mende captives from Sierra Leone, bound for slavery, took control of the vessel, but the Mende were unable to navigate back to Africa. The ship was captured and taken into the port of New London, where the Mende faced slavery or execution.

Many Connecticut residents objected, and U.S. Circuit and District courts ruled in favor of the Mende. A U.S. Supreme Court supported the lower court decision, and in 1841 the Mende captives were ordered freed.

“We are so proud to bring the Amistad to the festival,” says Orlando. “Their banner — charting a course for racial and social justice — is pertinent today.” The replica tall ship travels to various ports teaching “the lessons of the 1839 Amistad Uprising to advance racial and social justice today.” (discoveringamistad.org). All three North Fork school districts — Mattituck, Southold and Greenport — have brought students to the ship for educational programs.

In addition to the social justice history, the Amistad is a wonderful example of a historic tall ship from an earlier era.

Sea Chanteys

Roving sea chantey singers will be performing all weekend. Sea chanteys (or shanties) are traditional work songs sung aboard ships to pass the time. In simple and overlapping harmony, they express sailors’ homesickness, fear, love and, of course, the draw and danger of the sea.

Sea chanteys may be the first real “world music,” as sailors combined rhythms and styles from their many cultures with music they encountered during voyages.

Two chantey groups will be sharing their music at the festival. The Johnson Girls is an internationally acclaimed all-women a capella group that broke the “chantey gender barrier” (thejohnsongirls.com). And Chris Koldewey of Mystic Seaport’s Chantey Program will also share his love of sea chanteys. The groups will both perform and offer workshops to festival-goers.

Orlando says, “The chanteys are lively and wonderful. They tie us to the sea.”

“And you never know when they’ll board the Amistad,” she laughs.

Bug Light

Proceeds from the Maritime Festival support educational programs and the preservation of Long Beach Bar Lighthouse — more commonly known as Bug Light.

The beloved lighthouse burned to the foundation in 1963. It was rebuilt in 1989, but time has taken a toll. With better technology and materials now available, the restoration and preservation is expected to last well into the future. Bug Light will continue to shine its timeless light over Greenport Harbor.

See eastendseaport.org for a map and schedule of the festival’s events.

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