An outdoor fest in February? And it was a success?
Yup. It even rained. And yet, Sag Harbor’s first annual Harborfrost event garnered a crowd of up to 500 people for a long list of activities, from a belly-warming culinary stroll to a teeth-chattering polar plunge.
The February event was organized by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which hopes Harborfrost will bring an annual spark to the village this winter, as well.
Last year’s one-day event revolved around the theme “Fire and Ice,” an idea that manifested itself through the event’s main spectacles. In addition to flanking Main Street with two ice sculptures — an ice throne on Long Wharf resembling the fluke of a whale and a trio of Eskimos near Corcoran Real Estate — the event was capped-off by a fireworks display that lit up the winter sky over Long Wharf.
Earlier in the day, when festivities began, about 500 people stood along the shore at the windmill and lined Long Wharf to watch several dozen people toss themselves into Sag Harbor’s chilly waters as part of Sag Harbor’s first Frosty Plunge. The event helped raise money for the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps.
Among the participants was NBC newsman Matt Lauer, and village trustee Robby Stein. Former Village Trustee Tiffany Scarlato also made good on her pledge to take a dunk, and arrived at the beach in her mink, a bright red one-piece bathing suit and — remarkably — a deep tan. Scarlato, who is an attorney in private practice, reportedly raised $750 through her office to benefit the ambulance corps.
To make the chilly swim more palatable, Phao restaurant provided hot soup to anyone who took the plunge, and the Sag Harbor Gym opened its doors to allow them hot showers. Fran Nill was on hand to provide hot chocolate.
Indoor activities were also bountiful, especially in light of the weather. Charlie Canavan of the Sag Harbor Hysterical Society organized a culinary stroll, which took participants on a route that included Phao, LT burger, Paradise Café, the former Blue Sky (now Page), and even the Bay Street Theatre, where diners lounged for a minute while the Jazz Jam provided the soundtrack.
The stroll, sponsored by the Sag Harbor Hysterical Society, raised money for a local woman who is struggling to pay medical bills.
In the middle of the afternoon, Pierson High School Quiz Bowlers took-on members from the community in a lively round of competitive jeopardy-style quiz questions. That event was sponsored by BookHampton.
“The goal is to get some sort of winter activity to give Sag Harbor families something to do in the wintertime,” said chamber member Phil Bucking, owner of the Sag Harbor Garden Center and one of the catalysts behind this year’s event.
Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said that he and other chamber members had been toying with the idea of creating a winter festival for a few years. Based on the success of HarborFest, held each September, he said the hope had always been that something like HarborFrost would bring people to Main Street for a day of shopping, eating and celebrating — in spite of the cold.
“We want an event that will help our businesses in the winter months,” Evjen said in an interview last January. They imagined the event could be especially helpful for stores looking to clean-out last year’s summer merchandise in preparation for the coming year.