Greenport has been named 2015 Port City of the Year by Tall Ships America, the organization that brought the Tall Ships Challenge to the North Fork village in July.
The award, announced by Tall Ships America on Jan. 30, at its annual conference in Quebec City, is given in recognition of the event’s overall success, according to Erin Short of Tall Ships America.
“It’s a great town. They brought in tens of thousands of people and really brought the festival to life,” said Short, the organization’s manager for the Tall Ships Challenge.
The tiny village came out on top against the other Atlantic ports in the 2015 challenge, including Cape Charles, Virginia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/Camden New Jersey, and Portland, Maine.
The Tall Ships Challenge alternates in a three-year cycle among the Great Lakes, the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts. It draws hundreds of thousands of people to view the majestic sailing vessels and provides a unique opportunity for visitors to interact with their crews as they race from port to port.
The event is also a monumental challenge for each of the ports of call. The logistics of hosting the festival — docking the sailing vessels, housing their crew members, hosting tours and events and managing the throngs of visitors over the four-day event — can be daunting. Then there’s the planning and fundraising in advance of the festival itself.
Greenport was “amazing,” its execution “flawless,” Short said. “We could’t have asked for a better venue.”
That earned Greenport another award from Tall Ships America, the operations and logistics award.
The North Fork port was also honored with an award for economic impact. The event netted Greenport Village just under $60,000 in profit and drew a massive influx of tourists to the village, boosting business across the North Fork.
In all, Greenport won three of the six awards presented by Tall Ships America for its 2015 Atlantic coast challenge.
Since Greenport officials were not able to attend the conference in Quebec City, Short said she is hoping to formally present the award to Greenport during the March meeting of the village trustees.
“It’s a real honor,” Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard said yesterday. “If we decide to try for it again, it will give us a leg up” in the selection competition, he said.
Hubbard credited Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo and Trustee Julia Robins for coordinating the event on behalf of the village.
Robins and Pirillo both said the planning, fundraising and logistics for the event was a year-long collaborative effort among village staff, the members of the business improvement district, the police department, the fire department and the event steering committee.
Robins singled out Pirillo and her deputy Jeanmarie Oddon as well as marina manager Jeff Goubeaud and Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley for their efforts.
“There’s so much behind the scenes that people didn’t see that made the festival successful,” Robins said. “Contracts, insurance and so many details. It was a massive undertaking.”
Taking on an event of this magnitude was not without its risk — it required the village to take on expenses totalling nearly $300,000. And the decision to host the festival was not without its detractors, both inside and outside village government. But fundraising, sponsorships and ticket revenues exceeded expenses by $58,660, according to village officials.
“It was a tremendous group effort,” Pirillo said. “The volunteer efforts were amazing — without the volunteers we could not have pulled off an event of this magnitude,” she said. There were more than 100 volunteers working at the event.
“Everyone really came together and gave their best effort. That was instrumental to the success of this event. I can’t say enough about how everyone came together and cooperated to make the event run smoothly — even the weather cooperated.”
Witnessing the event unfold was “very gratifying,” Robins said, especially to see the reaction of people who came to see the magnificent sailing vessels docked in port.
“I saw elderly people literally carried up the gang-planks because they wanted to see the inside of these ships so badly,” Robins said.
“When we got to the finish line, everyone was exhausted, but the feedback in the weeks afterward — people were saying this was so special, an opportunity to see something that we wouldn’t see otherwise, here in our own time,” Robins said.
The honor of being named Port City of the Year by Tall Ships America is “a great tribute to our village,” Pirillo said, “to what we are and who we are.”
“Greenport celebrates its maritime history and this is so much a part of it,” Robins agreed.
“It’s who we are,” Robins said. “It’s our past, our present and hopefully our future.”