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.”