KATHERINE SCHRODEDER PHOTO | Alan Martinez, third place winner in a “World’s Fastest Shucker” contest, shows off his work at Claudio’s Restaurant.
After the last tasting of wine was sipped and the final oyster was shucked, organizers of the first-ever Taste North Fork festival are hailing the event a success. So successful, in fact, the North Fork Promotion Council is already working toward repeating the event in six months.
On Monday, NFPC president Joan Bischoff said members voted unanimously to bring back the event sometime in March or April following the large spike in business the three-day Veterans Day festival brought to the North Fork.
“The enthusiasm of the North Fork is what is driving this,” Mr. Bischoff said. “We’re going to try to schedule it on a weekend where there is something already going on, like restaurant week. It will be a good way to start off the summer season.”
Taste North Fork was made possible through a portion of a $335,000 “I Love NY” grant, aiming to help promote agritourism on the East End. Since the East End Tourism Alliance, Long Island Wine Council and North Fork Promotion Council unveiled the plan in August the event has received an overwhelming response from local businesses and town officials, organizers said.
“Businesses had anywhere from 20 to 40 percent increases in traffic and sales,” said Brain DeLuca, of East End Tourism Alliance. “We had some vineyards with 60 to 80 percent increases in traffic and sales. Overall it was a tremendous success. The was a lot of collaboration between the businesses.”
Throughout the long weekend more than 50 local wineries, restaurants, hotels and shops offered a full range of activities celebrating local wines and foods across the region.
Participants had the option of hopping on a free shuttle bus provided by Hampton Jitney that ran in a loop between Riverhead and Greenport. There were also feeder buses from the Cross Sound Ferry and Long Island Rail Road. The free ridership was another first on the North Fork.
“We had a lot of ridership,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Over 1,000 people took the jitney. Hopefully this will demonstrate to the county and the state that need to start funding something similar in coming years.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that he was pleased with the turnout.
“We launched the ‘Taste NY’ campaign earlier this year to highlight the superior products that are grown and produced right here in New York and last weekend’s “Taste North Fork” event marked our latest effort,” he said. “The event was a great success in promoting the local food and beverage products to New Yorkers and visitors, and we will continue to push this ‘buy local’ movement all across the state to support our vibrant agricultural industry.”
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | SWAT officers at the exit of the Cross Island Ferry in Orient Friday afternoon.
UPDATE (1:15 p.m.):
Local authorities say a walk-on passenger to a Cross Sound Ferry boat heading to Orient Friday morning “fit the description” of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings and set off a scare that drew dozens of police officers to Orient and New London, Conn.
“It was not him,” said Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said from the scene. “It was someone who looked like him.”
Suffolk Police did apprehend the passenger, but determined he was not the suspect. As of 1:15 p.m., the man was being transported to Southold Town police headquarters to further check his status with county investigators — as a precaution, he said.
Police were going to run the man’s fingerprints electronically through what’s called a “live scan,” to run the prints through state and federal databases. The live scan has replaced ink and roller as a means of taking prints, Chief Flatley said.
But, he added, “they have no reason to believe it is him at this point. He was fully cooperative. He definitely fit the description.”
Police at the scene also X-rayed the man’s bag, he said.
“We received a call after 11 a.m. from crew aboard the Cross Sound Ferry,” Chief Flatley said. “There were concerns about someone that had a resemblance to the man from Boston. After the crew contacted them, they notified the Suffolk County Police Department, who sent an emergency services unit, a bomb team. There was no arrests.”
A utility worker at the Orient ferry yard who did not give a name, told a reporter he saw police swarm the passenger and force him down on his stomach near the ferry’s snackbar.
The worker said he thought at the time the man was being arrested.
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Police were blocking traffic at the Orient Causeway on Route 25 just before 12:30 p.m. Friday.
At least a half dozen Suffolk County police cars — their lights and sirens blaring — were spotted heading east on Route 25 in Mattituck about 11:40 a.m. Friday, for what could be shaping up to be a false alarm.
Police have shut Route 25 west of Orient, at the Orient Causeway, officials said, though some cars were being allowed to pass through as of just before 12:30 p.m.
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Police vehicles heading east on Route 25 in Mattituck about noon Friday.
The Day of New London newspaper reported before noon that police tactical teams also reported to the waterfront in New London for reports of “a possible suspect” in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday and subsequent shootings Thursday night in Cambridge.
But The Day updated the site a few minutes later after reporting passengers were boarding the ferries as normal. Ferries at the New London terminal go to Block Island, although seasonally, Orient and Fishers Island.
Meanwhile, schoolchildren have been told by police to remain indoors.
Oysterponds School District Superintendent Richard Malone said he received a call from the police shortly before noon.
“I spoke directly with the police and they told me to keep the kids inside and not to let anybody in or out,” he said.
Cross Sound Ferry is offering a free ride home over the holiday weekend for anyone looking to fill their gas tank in eastern Connecticut, where there are no shortages nor government-mandated rationing.
Motorists looking to travel to New London can either make a reservation or simply show up at the Orient terminal, pay for the ride over and receive a free return trip, said David Kapell, Cross Sound’s Long Island liaison.
Ferry personnel will provide direction to gas stations in the New London area, he said.
Although the post-Sandy gas lines seem to have all but disappeared in some areas, odd-even gas rationing took effect on Long Island and New York City Friday morning.
Under that system, last seen in 1973, vehicles with license plates ending with an odd number can only purchase gasoline on odd-numbered dates. Those whose plates end with an even number can only gas up on even-numbered days.
Ferry reservations can be made by calling 323-2525 or online at www.longislandferry.com
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The two gas tankers coming off the Orient ferry Friday afternoon.
Two tanker trucks each carrying 10,000 gallons of gasoline originating in New England arrived in Orient on a Cross Sound Ferry vessel Friday afternoon, bound for gas stations somewhere on Long Island with another delivery expected on a Saturday afternoon boat, said David Kapell, Cross Sound’s Long Island liaison.
The drivers were to meet up with two other truckers and switch the full tanks, which carried gas originating in Providence, R.I., with two empties, which they were to bring back on the 7 p.m. Orient to New London ferry.
The plan calls for the trucks to return Saturday with an additional 20,000 gallons of gasoline landing in Orient at 3 p.m.
With the gas shortage continuing, Cross Sound waived its standing prohibition against carrying bulk loads of gasoline on its vessels, Mr. Kapell said.
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The North Fork Chamber's Snowflake Gala Friday night.
The North Fork Chamber of Commerce held a Snowflake Gala & Awards Dinner Friday night at Raphael Winery in Peconic, honoring Bridgehampton National Bank CEO Kevin O’Connor and Cross Sound Ferry’s Wronowski family.
After a Mediterranean cocktail hour, chamber president Andy Binkowski presented community service awards to Mr. O’Connor and Adam Wronowski, who accepted on behalf of the Wronowski family.
Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell were on hand to present awards and Congressman Tim Bishop, who was unable to attend, sent his congratulations.