The Greenport Maritime Festival

Written By: Marie-Christine  Cardelena

The Greenport Maritime Festival by M. Christine Cardalena A young boy jumps into the still warm waters of summer. He retrieves a cross from the bay, the cross given the pitch by a Greek Priest. This gesture follows a parade through Main Street and announces the start of the annual Greenport Maritime Festival. This venue is such a great ending to summer and a beginning to fall. Besides being such a joyful event, it brings my family together in a house that’s meant to be full of people. Main Street is dotted with blasts of color, muted voices with occasional squeals of delight and the aroma of food. All is heightened by the billowing white sails on the tall ships fronted by Greenport’s iconic Carousel and backed by the inviting harbor. If the sun is generous the water sparkles and presents the Village as a lovely jewel. A central theme is the running of costumed pirates in and out of the crowd. Children wear period costumes. Later the pirates and the children will offer a play in beautiful Mitchell Park, home of the Carousel encased in a huge circle of glass. Sunlight dances on the glass creating sparkles. There one finds a stage with a variety of bands and singers. Music is everywhere. Every seat and spot of grass is taken up with adults munching on some exotic food or just plain “old” hot dogs and pizza. Children are dripping their ice cream cones all over but nobody cares. It’s the thing to do at such a glorious time. In past years tents were full of outside vendors. Currently there is a strong effort to showcase local establishments. Restaurants rival those of the South Fork and even Manhattan. Greenport has become quite the mecca for “foodies”. Outside of the restaurants are stands with a sampling of their most popular dishes. Inside, tables are packed to capacity. People are drawn to the annual chowder tasting and rib-eating contests. The chowder tasting can get serious while the rib-eating is pure fun. Just as the stands showcase local restaurants, there are tents full of items from surrounding shops. Informational stalls abound providing opportunities for a greener environment. There is something for every interest. One has to try hard not to enjoy oneself. My family is one of the many who trek two hours to sample Greenport’s best. They are so dedicated to coming each year, a testimony to the worthiness of the festival. I spend a whole week cleaning the house to perfection. As each trickle in, a new set of clutter arrives. I’ve previously told them not to bring anything. Nevertheless, my kitchen counter becomes a nesting place for all sorts of snacks, food, paper goods, cleansers and baby items. The living room becomes full of pillows, air mattresses and everything no one can live without for a day or two. My beautifully cleaned house takes on a scene from “Hoarders”. A single woman couldn’t possibly have guest beds, food, cleaning items or all the accoutrements of a regular nuclear family. As an “irregular” who doesn’t eat, sleep, cook or clean, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things they tote with them. My vision of a lovely sit down dinner with maybe a prayer thrown in the mix, quickly melts away. The food, they always tell me not to make anything. “We’ll eat off the stands” they say. Obviously we don’t listen to each other. I make the food they don’t want and they bring the stuff I told them not to bring. Each person pursues their diversion. The little ones pester to go on the Carousel. Mommies want to shop and shop. Daddies are happy to go to Greenport’s brewery and make a stop at every venue that serves beer. Mommies are upgraded to designated drivers. Teenagers are true to their age, “I’m bored”, and are steeped in their iphones, ipads and skype. Me, I ask for one thing – a smoked turkey leg which I can gnaw on and indulge in my annoying-to-family habit of getting every piece of meat off the bone. My mouth waters for that leg. When my nephew, charged with the task, arrives back at the house he meets me with “I’m sorry, by the time I got to the stand no more turkey legs were left”. Little by little, people arrive back to the base of operation. All excitedly relate stories of the people they met and all the fun things they saw and did. I am happy they are happy. We then return to food. For people who just wanted to eat from the street vendors, the feast begins again. Because of the mix of so many foods I make a lobster steamer pot full of chicken soup to comfort their stomachs. BLT’s and tacos are welcomed. Everyone waits for the array of desserts, the star of the group being a pie from Briermere Farms, served with ice cream and accompanied by steaming espresso (formerly “black coffee” before it got yuppified), coffee and tea. We are sated. As my family departs I feel an emptiness and a reminder; I don’t want to let summer go. These feelings make me especially grateful to the Maritime Festival. In serving as a bridge between the seasons I am left with a hope and knowledge that every season has its beautiful moments.