Editorial: Sylvester Manor Plant & Sing a celebration of community

Shelter Islanders have embraced the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm as a vital community organization. That’s a conclusion any observer would be likely to reach after last Saturday’s fifth annual Plant & Sing festival.

More than 120 people volunteered to help the Educational Farm manage the event, thanks to the recruiting efforts of volunteer coordinator Wendy Clark. Ten local non-profit organizations accepted the farm’s invitation to become “community partners,” setting up booths to spread the word about their missions.

Close to 1,000 people attended. That’s about the same number that showed up last year — but that was when Plant & Sing spanned three days. This year, its events were concentrated on Saturday and the admission price was lower.

If you missed Plant & Sing, put it on your calendar for next year’s Columbus Day weekend. It was a great way for folks and families to spend a whole day in a beautiful, historic setting, with great music and interesting things to do on land as well as on sea — Jay Damuck brought his rental kayak fleet over for those who wanted to cruise Gardiners Creek, where once Nathaniel Sylvester’s flatboats carried cargo to and from his ships at anchor in Dering Harbor.

Kayakers came and went in the background as musicians performed all day on the portable stage borrowed from the Shelter Island School.

Visitors got a good taste of the entire Shelter Island community scene as well as the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm. Among the groups with booths on the grounds were the Mashomack Preserve, the Lions Club, the Friends of the Library, the Shelter Island Educational Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the Taylor’s Island Foundation, the Shelter Island Historical Society, the Garden Club of Shelter Island and the Chamber of Commerce. Slow Food East End, the Peconic Land Trust and the Peconic Harvest Food Circle were also there.

Terrific food added great taste to the sights and sounds. The restaurant SALT came with its award-winning chowder; Vine Street Cafe and its Blue Canoe outpost in Greenport served up BBQ; and Stars Cafe made burritos and quesadillas. The restaurant 18 Bay sold cupcakes and Martine Abitbol of the Wandering Palate offered a menu of locally based foods prepared with a French bent. Beverages were poured by the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and Old Field Vineyards.

Canio’s bookstore in Sag Harbor and the Shelter Island Library’s Director Denise DiPaolo offered programs and the Peconic Land Trust conducted a nature walk on manor grounds. Goat on a Boat offered puppet shows and the Children’s Museum of the East End and the Little Red Barn sponsored activities in the kids tent.

For centuries, Shelter Island was Sylvester Manor because every acre belonged to its proprietor. Its remaining 240 or so acres lie at the geographic heart of the Island, just north of the town Center on Gardiners Creek. It should also occupy a central place in the hearts and minds of all Shelter Islanders who want to see some of the best rural and historic traditions of the community honored and preserved. This year’s Plant & Sing festival proved that the manor, in its new role as a non-profit educational farm, is achieving that goal.