Sag HarborFest Returns This Weekend



This weekend, September 12-14, marks the eighteenth year that Sag Harbor is celebrating its maritime history with The Sag HarborFest, a weekend of contests, food, music and fun. A description of the events follows.

Visitors and residents here have long been attracted by the water, it is what defines this old port town. And this year, as in years past, we celebrate that connection.

Starting with Friday night, you are invited to join guests at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum for an old-fashioned lobster bake, compete with fresh clams and cold drinks. Food is a theme throughout the weekend and on Saturday, on Long Wharf fresh local produce is available from the members of the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market. And on Sunday afternoon, come back to the wharf for a sampling of what local chefs and caterers offer from the local bounty in ther Taste of Sag Harbor. You can also cast your vote for the best clam chowder — both Manhattan and New England styles are offered.

Loacal Native American and African American ancestors also passed down plenty of traditional recipes, and you can sample them on Saturday at the Eastville Heritage House, along with a tour of that historic community. (A shuttle bus is available to help you get to the various event locations).

Other tours are also offered, including one that looks at the maritime Sag Harbor, one at some of the remarkable women who made history here, and one that meanders through the village’s oldest grave yard.

And there are a few contests. The annual whaleboat races on the beach take place by the windmill and the clam shucking contest to determine shucker of the year will be held Sunday afternoon. A pair of running races have been added on Sunday morning. There will be a mile run and the debut HarborFest 5K, both of which will benefit the Pierson High School Girls Cross Country team.

Also new this year will be a concert by jazz legend Hal McKusick at the historic Old Whalers Church Sunday evening.

There will be traditional music throughout the weekend, so you can hear the songs that bring voice to our maritime history.

And on Saturday morning the gala Festival Parade, kicking off the celebration down Main Street.



Old Fashioned Lobster Bake

Lobsters, clams, corn and live music by Caroline Doctorow and her band. And it’s a benefit for the largest repository of Sag Harbor artifacts. This traditional clambake will help raise needed funds to maintain the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, a building that is in fact at the heart of Sag Harbor history, both emotionally and physically. There are plenty of napkins and plenty of cold beer, wine and soda to help you with your meal, which also includes clams, mussels, chicken and potatoes. And to make the evening even more exciting, there will be a silent auction, so you might be able to go home with something to remember your weekend. In past years it has included art as well historic memorabilia.


Family Sidewalk Art


Join us on Long Wharf Saturday morning and bring your imagination. A team of local artists will help you work out a scene inspired by the beauty around you — or just what’s in your imagination. We’ll supply the materials.


Festival Parade


Starting off the festivities on Saturday morning will be the Gala Festival Parade, one that highlights the best of living in a small town with dozens of the village’s organizations represented. The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. from the intersection of Palmer Terrace and Main Street and continues down Main Street to Bay Street, ending at the American Legion. Look for floats and banners from many local organizations, scout groups, bands and the Sag Harbor Fire Department’s finest in this decidedly local parade sponsored by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce.


Farmers Market


The South Fork has long built a reputation as one of the greatest providers of fresh produce and shellfish in the state, with farms stretching from the hilly moraine to the shores of the Atlantic. In recent years there has been a revived interest in hand-crafted, or slow, foods and this year the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market brings you a collection of farmers and purveyors with some very special items — from the farm fields and local bays. Among the items for sale will be fresh organic vegetables, locally made cheeses, oysters, clams and scallops, mushrooms and fresh bread and pastries. The expanded market will be set up on Long Wharf and will feature cooking and food preparation demonstrations using the local produce.


Whaling Captains


The John Jermain Memorial Library will host an exhibition entitled The Whaling Captains from our Neck of the Woods. These remarkable men were tough, resourceful, smart (well, some — others couldn’t spell) and brave enough to take a ship into unknown territory in search of whales. It was not uncommon for these outstanding sailors to sail clear around Cape Horn, surviving the extreme weather conditions and crushing arctic ice all the while coping with near-mutinous crews.


Coast Guard Boat


Conditions permitting, the U.S. Coast Guard station in Montauk will bring a deep sea rescue boat to Long Wharf this weekend. For those who are understandably fascinated with how our Coast Guard conducts emergency rescues, service men and women will be available for a tour of the craft and to answer your questions.


Trout Pond


While there has been volumes written about Sag Harbor, little has been put down about the neighboring community of Noyac. This exhibit by the Sag Harbor Historical Society looks at the remarkable history of the little hamlet’s most distinctive natural feature. The area around Trout Pond first attracted Native Americans who came to drink water from the spring-fed stream that early settlers called the Noyac River. In the late 1600s, the “river” was dammed up, and the first of a series of mills built, and for two centuries operated on the shore. The area also included a resort and, of course, fishing destination for visiting “sports.” Through photographs, paintings and text, the exhibit tells the story of how the area grew, and the families and individuals who lived there: including the father of modern baseball and a philosopher hermit.


Children’s Fair


The Harborfest 2007 Children’s Fair, on the lawn of the Customs House on Main Street, promises to be a fun filled day for families and kids of all ages with games, crafts and fun. Among the activities will be face-painting, spin-art, fabric painting, a puppet show, snacks and more. This year’s fair is a benefit for the Alex Koehne Foundation, an organization that raises funds to help study and raise awareness of brain cancer.


Classic Boat Displays


For enthusiasts of fine vessels, several classic boats — from skiffs to sailboats — will be on display along Long Wharf courtesy of the East End Classic Boat Society. The Society is also in the process of building a new community boathouse in Amagansett, and a rendering of the building will be on display this weekend, with members accepting contributions towards its completion.


Walking Tour: Maritime Sag Harbor


This tour explores Sag Harbor’s waterfront and the storied people and businesses that helped the community emerge as a dominant whaling port of the 19th century. From its earliest days as a port for trade, helping the farmers of the South Fork move their produce up and down the coast, when clipper ships plied the Atlantic, to its days when whaling voyages started out past Cedar Point for years at a time and the shoreline here was bustling with coopers and stores and sailmakers, to the recent commercial and industrial past when Mobil tankers would bring oil to the tank farm on Bay Street, to today, when million-dollar yachts sidle up to Long Wharf, the waterfront has defined the village.


Film: Steinbeck in Sag Harbor


The celebrated Pulitzer- and Nobel-prize wining author John Steinbeck spent the last years of his life living part-time in Sag Harbor, and it was here where he wrote two of his best-known books: “The Winter of Our Discontent” and “Travels With Charley.” He was also know locally as one of the founders of the Old Whalers Festival, the precursor to today’s Sag HarborFest, and was instrumental in bringing the International Whaleboat Races to the village during the festival in the 1960s. This brief documentary by Tom Browngardt looks back on Steinbeck’s days here, and includes interviews with local residents who knew him well, and rare home movies of the author aboard his boat.


Annual Whalers Cup Whaleboat Races


The guys on those whaling ships had to do something for fun. We bet they raced their whaleboats when things were slow and right whales were hard to come by. Our version pits teams of four against each other, including two rowers, a tiller-man and a harpoonist (no, they don’t actually harpoon anything).

In men’s and women’s divisions, the teams compete over two days, on a triangular course of about two hundred yards. It’s on the last frantic leg along the Long Wharf where the cheering from hundreds of spectators who traditionally line up on the wharf reaches a fever pitch, as fans of all teams try to help carry their boat home.

Elimination heats run on Saturday and finals run on Sunday. Expected to be back to defend their titles, and the right to have their names emblazoned on the coveted Whalers Cup — presented courtesy of the Sag Harbor Express  — will be Team Whalers in the Men’s Division and The Indian Wells Wenches in the Women’s Division.


Whaling Chanteys


With long hours spent aboard ships rocking in the waves, early whalers made up songs both for rest and for work. Sampawan’s Creek will favor our guests with a number of traditional songs as they sing near the windmill on Saturday.


Postcards From Sag Harbor


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this collection of old postcards tells the story of Sag Harbor in wonderful images from the front of nickel postcards as far back at the 19th century. Joe Markowski, Sag Harbor’s village historian, has amassed a collection of hundreds of postcards that show Sag Harbor’s waterfront, Main Street, neighborhoods and residents evolving over a century-and-a-half.


Classic Boat Regatta


The members of the Eastern Long Island Classic Boat Society spend hundreds of hours each year restoring and maintaining some of the most beautiful and elegant vessels on the water. You’ll get a chance to see them racing for the Sag Harbor Express Cup this Saturday, when they take off from the breakwater.


Oakland Cemetery Tour


After Sag Harbor’s Old Burying Ground was filled to capacity, the community opened Oakland Cemetery in the early 19th century. While it is still very much in use today, it holds some old and interesting surprises. There are buried there Captain David Hand — the model for James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumpo — and his five (yes, five) wives; there is the stunning Broken Mast Monument, which honors many of the young local captains who died in the pursuit of whales; and the cemetery is also the final resting place of the famed dancer George Balanchine, who likened the cemetery to those in the French countryside.


Community Band Concert


Many small villages in the last century enjoyed having community bands to play at special events. Keeping with that tradition, Sag Harbor once had a coronet band, and for the past several decades has had The Community Band. Playing popular and unusual marches and other band music, The Community Band will play on the grassy median at Long Wharf on Saturday afternoon.


Historic Walking Tour of Eastville


The Eastville Community Historical Society will welcome guests along on a walking tour through the Eastville area including St. David’s church, at one time a stop on the fabled Underground Railroad, and its 19th century graveyard., the recently restored  Eastville Community Heritage House (a Sears Roebuck kit house from the 1920s), and several historic homes in the area.


African American and Native American Food Tasting and Exhibit


Sag Harbor is home to the oldest African-American and Native-American community on Long Island. On Saturday, the Eastville Community Historical Society will welcome guests to their headquarters, a recently restored 1920s mail-order house — the Eastville Community Heritage House —on Route 114 and Liberty Street, for a tasting of traditional African-American and Native-American foods. The house was built in the days when you could order just about anything from a catalog, including homes, which were sent out to remote communities by rail. This building also contains the history of the Sag Harbor whalers who lived in Eastville, the history of the developments East of Eastville, and houses the society’s collection of artifacts. Also at the Heritage House is a special exhibition on the Butler and Maeder families, among the oldest families in the community.


Coast Guard Inspections/Knot Tying


The Coast Guard Auxiliary will be offering free boat inspections over the weekend at the floating dock adjacent to Long Wharf. You can have a trained Auxiliarist discuss the required and recommended boating equipment for your vessel — lights, placards, numbering, visual distress signals, fire extinguishers, etc. Dock slips can accommodate vessels up to 32-feet.

Members of the Auxiliary will also be available to demonstrate tying the various knots mariners should know.


Traditional Music: Stephen Sanfillippo


Musician and historian Stephen Sanfillippo offers a show of traditional sea chanteys and songs of the maritimes in this afternoon performance on the front steps of Sag Harbor’s own Whaling Museum.


Cedar Point Lighthouse Lantern Tour


Bob Allen, the great grandson of William H. Follett, the last lighthouse keeper of the Cedar Point Lighthouse, along with Netty Jernick, his lighthouse tour assistant, will be giving a special Sag Harbor Lantern Walk out to the Cedar Island Lighthouse.  All who are interested can meet Bob and Netty in the Cedar Point Park by the playground (the meeting area will be marked by a special Lantern Tour Sign) at 5 p.m.  While walking out the approximate 1.1 miles to the Cedar Point Lighthouse, Bob will talk about Sag Harbor’s history as the main whaling town on Long Island, the history of the Cedar Point Lighthouse and will also share actual family stories of what happened to his family while they lived and worked on the lighthouse. While Bob is talking about the Cedar Point Lighthouse, Netty will be passing around pictures taken by his family when they lived in the lighthouse from 1916 to 1934.  After watching the sun go down from the lighthouse, the lanterns will be lit and they will walk back to the park. Bob and Netty will also give everyone who goes on the Lantern Walk a special gift to take home with them so they will remember the special Sag Harbor Lantern Walk and the Cedar Point Lighthouse. 


Art Tour of Gallery Row


Join your fellow-art lovers on this stroll through Sag Harbor as many galleries open their doors for special exhibits.


Old Burying Ground Twilight Tour


Hosted by the Committee for the Old Burying Ground, this tour through the village’s oldest cemetery takes visitors past the graves and tells the stories of some of Sag Harbor’s earliest residents, including whaling captains and Revolutionary War heroes.


Simple Courage


Author Frank Delaney reads from and speaks about his book, “Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea,” the tale of the freighter Flying Enterprise which was capsized in the North Atlantic during a hurricane in 1951.


Concert: The Lone Sharks


Round Saturday out with a performance on the lawn at Marine Park with The Lone Sharks, a popular local band that plays a wide range of rock & roll. Get up and dance on the grass or just sit back and relax.


Church Services and Tours


All of the village’s churches — all of which are historically significant — are open for regular services this weekend.


Pancake Breakfast


Everyone is invited back to the Main Firehouse on Sunday morning for a breakfast of flapjacks. A good way to start off a busy day is with a filling breakfast.


Mile Run and HarborFest 5K


This year marks the debut of two running races at the festival. As a benefit for his Pierson High School Girls Cross Country Team, coach Jim Kinnier has organized a mile run and 5K race that wind through many of the local streets. Contestants may register ($20) the morning of the event, at the intersection of Long Island Avenue and West Water Street. 


Whalers Church


In the throes of raising funds for a multi-million dollar restoration project, this church — a National Historic Landmark — was built at the height of the whaling industry in the village in 1844. Designed in the Egyptian Revival style by architect Minard LaFevre, it once sported a tall ornate spire, that was blown down during the hurricane of 1938. Legend tells us that the spire was so high, whalers returning home would spot it as they rounded Montauk Point.

The church will be open for tours on Sunday after services.


Walking Tour: Women’s Lives


This tour will visit houses (mostly) of women who have been born or lived in Sag Harbor. Some famous, some not so, but all interesting. Among them are Sag Harbor’s great benefactress Mrs. Russell Sage, Lady Caroline Blackwood, Anna Elizabeth Westfall, who ran a finishing school for girls from her home on Howard St.; Mary Breck Sleight, the author of Flag on the Mill-Ship in the Bay; Martha Smith Brown, a whaling captain’s wife who sailed with her husband and wrote an extensive diary and author Betty Friedan.


The Antiques Appraisal Dock Show


You’ve heard of the Antiques Road Show? Well, Sag Harbor’s version takes advantage of our great water view. We’ve invited a number of the village’s esteemed antiques dealers down to a tent at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club to take a look at the things you’ve found around the house. Bring them with you on Sunday, and our dealers will try their best to give you a full appraisal and maybe a little bit on the significance of your find.


Whaling Chanteys with John Corr


Adding another note to the weekend’s musical selection, John Corr will favor guests with a collection of traditional songs played on guitar, concertina and pipe on Sunday afternoon.




During a break in the whaleboat racing action we invite all the kids in the crowd down onto the beach for an old fashioned tug-o-war.


A Taste of Sag Harbor Feast and Fair


More than a dozen local restaurants, caterers, breweries and wineries will be represented in a food tasting on Long Wharf. Boasting some of the best restaurants in the area, the chefs, coordinated by Lillian Woudsma of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, have been asked to prepare something that highlights the local bounty, plus prepare something that is their specialty. From shellfish to salads, the food will be available from 1 to 4 on Sunday afternoon at the foot of the wharf.


Clam Chowder Contest


Who makes the best clam chowder in Sag Harbor? That’s what this contest seeks to answer and you get to help decide. All the local restaurants have been invited to participate so buy a mug for the opportunity to taste all the different chowders. After you’ve finished, cast your vote for your favorite. The winner gets bragging rights and a neat pewter mug. Both New England and Manhattan varieties are on the block; thick and creamy versus lush and tangy.


Parade of Classic Boats


Under power or under sail, the wooden beauties are spectacular to behold. Those vessels that have been docked at the wharf this weekend will be under way on Sunday afternoon for their home ports. Visitors can get a good look at them from Long Wharf or Marine Park as they head out.


Cedar Point Lighthouse Walk


Join the great-grandson of the light’s last keeper for a mile walk out to Cedar Point to learn a bit about the history of the lighthouse and its role in guiding ships into the harbor. All who are interested can meet in the Cedar Point Park by the playground at 2 p.m. 


Clam Shucking Contest


After the last oar from the whaleboat races has hit the water, the festival comes to a fevered conclusion with what has grown to be one of its most popular events: the contest to determine Shucker of the Year, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Last year almost twenty shuckers took bivalve in hand.


Concert: Hal McKusick and Edna’s Kin


Jazz legend and Sag Harbor resident Hal McKusick brings his quartet to the Old Whalers Church on Sunday afternoon for a concert to benefit the restoration of the church’s trompe l’oeil mural at the rear of the altar. Opening for the quartet will be the folk music of Edna’s Kin, who will be joined by local singer Terry Sullivan.



Friday September 12


6:30 Old Fashioned Lobster Bake Whaling Museum  $75


Saturday September 13


9 Family Sidewalk Art (‘til noon) Long Wharf

10 Festival Parade Main Street

10 Farmers Market (til 3 p.m.) Long Wharf

10 Whaling Captains Display (til 5 p.m.) JJM Library

10 Exhibit: Oil! Whales, Wells…What Next?  Whaling Museum

10 Coast Guard Vessel Open for Inspection Long Wharf

11 Exhibit: “Trout Pond”  (til 4 p.m.) Boyd House

11 Children’s Fair (til 3 p.m.) Customs Hse.

11 Classic Boat Display (til 4 p.m.) Long Wharf

11 Walking Tour: Maritime Sag Harbor Long Wharf

11 Film: Steinbeck in Sag Harbor (til 1 p.m.) Bay St. Thtr.

12 Whaleboat Race Eliminations Windmill

12 Whaling Chanteys: Sampawan’s Creek Long Wharf

1 Postcards of Sag Harbor (til 3) Bay St. Thtr.

1 Classic Boat Regatta Breakwater

1 Walking Tour: Oakland Cemetery Oakland Cem.

1 Concert: Community Band Long Wharf

1 Coast Guard Display/Knot Tying Long Wharf 

1 Walking Tour: Historic Eastville Heritage House

2 Traditional Music: Stephen Sanfillippo Whaling Museum

2 African-American and Native-American

Food Tasting and Exhibit (til 4 p.m.) Heritage House. $5

3 Whaleboat Race Eliminations Windmill

3 Walking Tour: Historic Eastville Heritage House

4 Dixieland Music Bay Street Thtr

4:30 Art Tour of Gallery Row Galleries

5 Cedar Point Lighthouse Lantern Tour Cedar Point

5:30 Twilight Cemetery Tour Old Burying Ground

6 Simple Courage Canio’s Books

6:30 Concert: The Lone Sharks Marine Park


Sunday September 14


8 – 11 a.m. Worship Services

8 Fire Dept. Pancake Breakfast Fire House       $12/$6

9 Mile Run LI Avenue

9:30 HarborFest 5K LI Avenue

10 Classic Boat Display (to 1 p.m.) Long Wharf

10 Coast Guard Vessel Open for Inspection Long Wharf

11 Exhibit: “Trout Pond” (to 4 p.m.) Boyd House

11 Old Whalers Church Open Old WhalersCh.

11 Walking Tour: Women’s Lives Long Wharf

11:30 Antique Appraisal Dockshow (to 1:30) SHYC

12 noon Whaling Chanteys: John Corr Long Wharf

12 Whaleboat Races Semi-Finals Windmill

1 Exhibit: Oil! Whales, Wells…What Next?  Whaling Museum

1 Tug-O-War Windmill

1 Taste of Sag Harbor (to 4 p.m.) Long Wharf

1 Clam Chowder Contest Long Wharf

1 Classic Boat Parade Harbor

1 Coast Guard Display/Knot Tying Long Wharf 

1:30 Fire Dept. Cup Whaleboat Races Windmill

2 Cedar Point Lighthouse Walk Cedar Point

3 Whaleboat Races – Championship Windmill

4 Clam Shucking Contest Long Wharf

4:30 Awards Ceremony Long Wharf

4:30 Concert: Hal McKusick / Edna’s Kin Old Whalers Ch. $50




Local Organizations 11-4 Long Wharf

Whaling Museum 10-5 (Sat) 1-5 (Sun) Main & Garden

Old Customs House 10-5 Main & Garden

Fire Dept. Museum 12-4 Church & Sage

USCG Safety Checks 10-4 Long Wharf

Sag Harbor Info Center 10-5 Windmill

Refreshments From Scouts 11-5 L. Wharf

WLNG Live Coverage 9-1 L. Wharf