Hundreds amassed on Mattituck’s epicenter of commerce known as Love Lane on Friday, June 7, for the monthly “First Friday” block party, which has grown exponentially since its inception more than five years ago, according to organizers.
The crowd size was unexpected by some vendors, at least four of which sold through their stock within an hour or so of the event’s start.
“This is crazy,” Love Lane Kitchen owner Carolyn Iannone said with a smile after quickly selling through 20 dozen lobster sliders. “I usually order 12 dozen and we’ll make it to 8:30, but now we know! It usually takes a while for this to pick up, but the street was full by 5:45.”
Harvest Moon Oysterman Josh Clauss was in the same boat down the Lane, and while packing in his operation at 7:30 PM, said, “We did not expect this big of a crowd, but we are glad to have it. We went through 400 oysters in an hour-and-a-half, so I think we’re going to bring more than 1000 for July.”
In addition to local vendors and informative booths like that of the North Fork Promotion Council and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Patrol, there was an open mic night providing music through the Town of Southold’s Youth Bureau, a new, popular feature, which may return again in the fall.
David Perrin of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce, which vaulted the once-local gathering into the stratospheric merging of East Enders and up-islanders, seemed to be the only one not surprised by the crowd.
“I’m not shocked; I kind of expected this turn-out,” said Perrin. “When I walked in and saw NoFoDoCo and Braun’s walking out saying, ‘We’re out of food,’ I was like, ‘Wow — Welcome to the party, guys.”
July is expected to be a particular challenge for hyperlocal vendors as it will not only occur the day after Independence Day, but the day before the 42nd Annual Old-Fashioned Street Fair, which brings a crowd that one of the so-called ‘Pillars of Love Lane,’ Rosemary Batchellor, formerly of The Village Cheese Shop, said she expects First Fridays will one day match.
“We really had to drum it up to get people to come back in 2013 or 2014,” Batchellor said of the early days. “Everybody was very enthusiastic and they really supported us, but it was nothing to this level. 2015 was my last one and it has just grown exponentially every single year. This is almost — well, not quite — the crowd of the street fair, but it’s going to be. Give it another two years.”
First Fridays is the brainchild of two other “Pillars of Love Lane,” Kate Altman of Altman’s Needlearts on Love Lane and Robin Epperson McCarthy of Saltbird Cellars and Peconic Cellar Door, who, at the time, worked for Roanoke Vineyards, but Epperson McCarthy said Dave Perrin gets the credit for turning the event into what it is today.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “Dave made it everything I hoped it could become.”