Weekend Festival Highlights Culture and History in Sag Harbor

For decades the world has beat a path to Sag Harbor and the village has continued to evolve with this influence, whether through culture, religion, industry or commerce, boasting more than its share of innovators. The image shows a bustling Long Wharf during the second half of the 19th century. Courtesy of the Sag Harbor Historical Society / Dorothy Zaykowski collection
For decades the world has beat a path to Sag Harbor and the village has continued to evolve with this influence, whether through culture, religion, industry or commerce, boasting more than its share of innovators. The image shows a bustling Long Wharf during the second half of the 19th century. Courtesy of the Sag Harbor Historical Society / Dorothy Zaykowski collection

By Christine Sampson

Sag Harbor Village has always been known for events like HarborFest, and more recently, HarborFrost, as well as a bevy of smaller gatherings that bring the community together. This weekend, the village’s history and its culture will be celebrated as a part of a weekend aimed at highlighting the heritage that has defined Sag Harbor — traditions that influence arts, and even governance, today.

With a theme of “Sag Harbor: Port to the World,” the village’s seafaring history, arts, traditions and diversity will be on display in what’s being dubbed “Cultural Heritage Weekend.” Events include a traditional boat building demonstration, a then-and-now photography exhibit, an art workshop, marine life touch tank, live music, walking tours and more.

“It’s a pretty deep dive” into Sag Harbor’s past and present history and culture, according to Eric Cohen, the media and technology coordinator at John Jermain Memorial Library, who describes himself as the “chief volunteer coordinator” of the event.

“We’re touching on all kinds of areas … and in some way another, everything touches on how we’re connected to the water,” Mr. Cohen said.

The event is sponsored by an affiliation of 10 local institutions and nonprofit groups that form an informal “cultural district,” including the library, Canio’s Cultural Café, Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, Sag Harbor Historical Society, Eastville Community Historical Society, Christ Episcopal Church, Temple Adas Israel, Old Whalers Church, Sag Harbor American Music Festival and the Custom House. In the past, Bay Street Theater has also been a part of the cultural district. Last year, the groups put together a single “Cultural Heritage Day,” but expanded it this year.

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Mr. Cohen said when the idea of creating a cultural district was first conceived, it took off immediately and organically, with entities from around the village clamoring to get involved.

It’s clear from their monthly meetings that they have a great, natural synergy among them, according to Kathryn Szoka, the co-owner of Canio’s Bookstore, which runs the nonprofit Canio’s Cultural Café.

“It began as a way to draw attention to Sag Harbor’s cultural heritage, because there is quite a bit of it here, and there wasn’t a coordinated effort to do that among the groups who were doing that independently,” Ms. Szoka said. “Being outside of the commercial part of town, sometimes people don’t realize the rich culture that is just another half a mile away.”

Canio's Books

Maryann Calendrille, co-owner of Canio’s, which is hosting Herman Melville aficionado Lisa Dickman to discuss “Moby Dick” and its modern-day relevance on Saturday at 5 p.m., said it is a way to highlight a different side of Sag Harbor.

“Yes, it’s a great place to eat, go boating, meet friends and do all kinds of things, but we’re also hoping to give them a fun and interesting way into the very rich and interesting history here,” she said.

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Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of Eastville, which is offering an art exhibit and walking tour starting at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, said she is looking forward to the ways the weekend will highlight diversity and educate the community.

“There’s something for everyone and it’s family-centered,” she said. “We want to get the school kids involved before school is out and they’re on their vacations.”

The challenges have been coordinating volunteers’ schedules, Mr. Cohen said, and around obtaining funding, Dr. Grier-Key said, because it’s still a loose affiliation of groups that does not have any staff members or the ability to apply for funding on its own.

Mr. Cohen said this type of event is important for Sag Harbor to understand its identity.

“For a long time, people have called it the un-Hampton, although I don’t think we can say that anymore,” he said. “We think that supporting the arts and being aware of our culture and history is important to maintain, and doing this does just that. It makes more people aware of what a unique place Sag Harbor is.”


Traditional wooden boat building demonstration — Ongoing

Wooden boatbuilding techniques along with a display of classic boat designs by the East End Classic Boat Society will be ongoing on the lawn of the Custom House on Saturday. Visitors can purchase raffle tickets to win the group’s 2017 design, a Sunshine Tender sail and rowing craft with trailer.

New historic boat building workshop open house — Ongoing

A new boat building workshop space is open for visitors behind the Annie Cooper Boyd House on Main Street.

Custom House tours — Ongoing

The work of Henry Packer Dering, Sag Harbor’s first U.S. Custom master, will be highlighted. Learn about his responsibility to the Treasury Department and the importance of custom collecting.

Exhibit: Sag Harbor Views, Then and Now — Ongoing

The Sag Harbor Historical Society will feature an exhibit of photographic interpretations of the historic paintings of Annie Cooper Boyd by Sag Harbor School District students. The exhibit will be hosted at both the John Jermain Memorial Library and the historical society’s Annie Cooper Boyd House.

Meigs’ Raid Historic Re-enactment — 9:30 a.m.

The 3rd New York Regiment of 1775, together with the 6th Connecticut Regiment, will recreate the historic raid carried out by Patriot soldiers on the British-held Sag Harbor in 1777. The reenactment begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Long Beach, will make stops at St. Andrew Cemetery on Brick Kiln Road, the Whaling Museum and the Old Whalers Church, and will culminate at approximately noon with the firing of muskets and the reading of a letter to George Washington on Long Wharf.

South Fork Natural History Museum Marine Touch Tank — 10 a.m. to noon

The South Fork Natural History Museum will sponsor a “touch tank” filled with friendly marine creatures at the John Jermain Memorial Library, accompanied by a volunteer who will answer questions about marine flora and fauna.

Bill Pickens on The History and Significance of SANS — 10:30 a.m.

SANS, which stands for “Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, Ninevah subdivisions,” represented a rare opportunity for the mid-century African American middle-to-upper class citizens of Sag Harbor to overcome societal restrictions and develop a rich, historic community. Longtime village resident Bill Pickens will discuss the interconnectedness of SANS and Sag Harbor at the John Jermain Memorial Library, 201 Main Street, on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Upsculpt Workshop by Cindy Pease Roe — Noon to 3:30 p.m.

Artist Cindy Pease Roe, creator of the “Wishing Whale” art installation made of trash collected from the ocean, will lead a workshop in creating fun yet environmentally conscious art from marine debris. The event, to be held at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, is appropriate for families with children of all ages.

Guided Tour of Christ Episcopal Church — 12:30 p.m.

The Rev. Karen Ann Campbell will lead a tour of the 1883 church, which features a ceiling shaped like an upside-down boat hull and early stained glass windows that illustrate the village’s seafaring history, including two particularly historic windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Visitors to the church, located at the corner of Union Street and Hampton Street, can ring the 2,000-pound Meenly bell and hear the Möller pipe organ.

Art Exhibit and Historic Walking Tour of Eastville — 1:30 p.m.

The Eastville Community Historical Society’s mixed-media spring exhibit, “Maxine’s World,” is on display at the Heritage House at 139 Hampton Street. At 1:30 p.m., there will be a guided tour of the Eastville neighborhood including stops at the St. David AME Zion Church and cemetery, built in 1840 and 1857, respectively.

Live Music: Ludmilla & Marcello — 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The Sag Harbor American Music Festival will sponsor Ludmilla and Marcello, a high-energy duo performing international Bossa Nova sounds, at the John Jermain Memorial Library.

Herman Melville: The Modern Master — 5 p.m.

Lisa Dickman, an expert on the author Herman Melville, will offer a friendly introduction to the book “Moby Dick” and its modern-day relevance at Canio’s Bookstore, 290 Main Street.


The Story of Long Island’s Oldest Synagogue — 11 a.m.

Temple Adas Israel is Long Island’s first officially recognized synagogue. Its more than 120-year-old history will be told by Rabbi Dan Geffen through archival images and stories. A question-and-answer session and tour of the temple will follow, and light refreshments will be served.

Hamptons Take-2 Film Festival Screening: “The Salt of the Sea” — 2 p.m.

Film director Tom Garber will present his documentary “The Salt of the Sea,” which chronicles the lives of “a vanishing breed of independent commercial fishermen in New England” who are caught in the cross-hairs of politics, passion and tradition. The screening will take place at John Jermain Memorial Library at 201 Main Street.