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Fight Over Montauk Green Starts War [UPDATED]

Chamber says there's more at stake than just a conflict between the veterans and an art show.

The Montauk veterans and artists are at odds over which group should get to use the Village Green Memorial Day weekend, but it would also appear an all-out war has begun over the green's intended purpose.

An ad hoc veterans group has asked the East Hampton Town Board permission to hold three days worth of events, starting Saturday, honoring those who have served, on and around the green, under the flagpole and next to the war memorials. Events, such as a parade and flag-raising, would displace the Montauk Artists' Association 5th annual Juried Art Show and Sale, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend.

The veterans organization, led by Montauk resident Ken Walles, submitted paperwork for a mass gathering permit first, according to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. The fight between the two organizations has been brewing for some time, Wilkinson said. For the inaugural parade and ceremony last May, the two organizations comprimised, sharing the area.

This year, Wilkinson said he asked them to do the same, but the veterans were not so willing.

Walles said that he wants to set up 4X8 boards with information about the wars on the green on Satruday. Then, on Sunday, a parade will start at noon and end at the green for a ceremony. Monday, revely, flag-raising, Taps and other ceremonies will be performed.

He suggested the art show move to Lion's Field, which is off Main Street, or to Second House Museum, which is further west on Main Street and is owned by the Montauk Historical Society.

"We've never had a conflict like this before," Wilkinson said, adding that it would make job would be a lot easier if the two organizations could come to an agreement. He said a decision won't be made until he hears back from the artists association.

"I'm obviously biased by my veteran status," Wilkinson said. But, he also added it may be best to return to the original purpose of the green, for use by non-commercial entities, as well as going back to the roots of Memorial Day.

"Most of the artists come from out of town," Walles said, who is also a business owner and chamber member. He added he's noticed all the events trample all over the grass at the war memorial at the green. "Somewhere along the time, you have to draw the line."

Walles, who is not a veteran and calls himself a patriot, said, "The kids are forgetting what Memorial Day is all about." He said there are about 100 to 150 veterans in Montauk. "I'm not against the artists, but who fought the wars?" 

"This is not really the artists' association against the veterans," Montauk chamber president Paul Monte said. "There's a definite sentiment amongst a group of people . . . that the green shouldn't be used for anything with a commercial link."

It's a movement the chamber is afraid is gaining momentum. It sent out a mass email on Wednesday asking members to speak out at a town board meeting on Thursday night or email town board members.

Several events take place on the green throughout the year including the chamber's Fall Festival, the weekly farmers market that raised $4,000 for the food pantry this year, the Montauk Library's book sale and Music on the Green.

The artists' association is a not-for-profit organization that runs the in Montauk. It has typically held two fine art shows per summer on the green (the other is scheduled for Aug. 17, 18 and 19) The art show is no longer sponsored by the chamber (though it does sell hot dogs and hamburgers there that raises a few hundred dollars for the chamber). Still, Monte said if it leave the green, downtown businesses will feel the impact.

"The art show brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to Montauk," from the motels to the restaurants, he said. He considers it as a destination, even on Memorial Day weekends that don't bring good weather. "War displays on the green are not a draw," he said.

The Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee lent its support to the veterans during a meeting on Monday night. The vote was 12 in favor, 1 opposed and 3 abstentions, to have the veterans at the green and move the art show elsewhere.

A concern raised was that the art show brings an increase in traffic congestion from the Surf Lodge -- even though Lion's Field is actually closer to the restaurant than the green.

Monte said he in favor of setting aside the actual holiday to honor veterans -- his father was a D-Day vet. "I'm the biggest patriot you'll find," he said. "The reality is Memorial Day is Monday." 

Yearounder February 16, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Amen to that Dennis!!
Audrey Stonemetz February 16, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I agree with you Dennis it could not be better said! God Bless each and everyone of our veteran's ! Thank you !
Peconic Sunset February 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I fully agree with Dennis. Showing respect and gratitude to our veterans is the right thing to do.
Emily Bee February 16, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Not only would they not be having an art show if it were not for the vets, we would be speaking German or Japanese if the United States was defeated in WWII. Thank you gentlemen, and ladies!
MARTIN DREW February 17, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Veterans MUST prevail ; art show down the street ; Accept it ; promote it ; live it .. Bring respect to the veterans who deserve ours ! The "destination event is moved" .. Deal with it or cancel ; simple really.
Richard M. Kostura February 17, 2012 at 12:12 PM
There's no conflict if you respect the history of the holiday. Memorial Day is historically for visiting and decorating graves of fallen soldiers and family type events (like The Indy 500), while Veterans Day is for celebrating the service Veterans in public places. From Wikapedia: "Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May.[1] Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race." "U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day (Now Veterans Day) for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." Where is Solomon when we need him?
Brendan Byrne - The East End Broker February 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM
I, too, am grateful for the freedoms we have. My own brother is a veteran, 3 tours in Afghanistan with the 106th as an HH-60 gunner. I thank every uniformed man or woman every time I see them. I would personally be throwing a fit if the Art show trumped the Veterans. However, on Memorial Day Weekend, I would certainly be inspired to purchase patriotic pieces of art. Could the art show coexist and be based around the Memorial Day theme with some proceeds going towards a related cause? The dual effort would probably have a greater draw.
Walter Noller February 17, 2012 at 01:00 PM
"I'm the biggest patriot you'll find," [Monte] said. "The reality is Memorial Day is Monday." No, Mr. Monte, you are, in fact, NOT a patriot. Your actions far exceed your desire to be seen as a patriot. Had you first found a way of placing the art show at one of the many locations in town, I'd have given you a pass on that remark, but your allegiance to "green" and not the red white and blue shows your true colors. This goes beyond making a decision of who gets the use of the town green, but a showing of disrespect to ALL who know what patriotism is and the true meaning of Memorial Day WEEKEND, respectful reflection of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for our freedoms.
Richard M. Kostura February 17, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Um, no...That's the true meaning of Veterans Day. This is the meaning if Memorial Day. "Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May.[1] Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. (Southern ladies organizations and southern schoolchildren had decorated Confederate graves in Richmond and other cities during the Civil War, but each region had its own date. Most dates were in May.) By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.[2] As a marker it typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end. By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race, held since 1911 on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.[3]"
Preliator February 17, 2012 at 02:16 PM
If we examine the cultural rot that now grips our country I expect the all mighty dollar to win out over honoring our veterans; welcome to the New America folks.
Paul Monte February 17, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Sorry to see this issue getting twisted in the wrong direction. This is not an either/or situation where one group has to move to accommodate the other. Both of these events can occur on the green and it will be a win win situation for both. The Memorial section of the green with our flagpole and war monument is not utilized by the Montauk Artists at all and the entire green is clear on Monday. The Veteran's parade, displays, flag raisings, dedications and presentations can and should take place on the green and on Main street throughout the entire weekend as they did last year. The presence of the artists on the other side of the green will only add to the crowd that will gather to participate in these very important activities. Moving the show elsewhere will only divert the crowd and attention from the more important activities commemorating Memorial Day. I am a strong supporter of all activities that honor and recognize the great sacrifices of all of our veterans. I take exception to all comments labeling me as unpatriotic or insensitive to the Veterans cause. My father was a WWII veteran who hit the beach on D-Day and lived to tell the tale. He and his 5 brothers all served at the same time during that war. So I am a very proud American who will challenge anyone to call me anything different. Continue...
Paul Monte February 17, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Continued from my earlier post which ran on too long.. It's my sincere intention to help both of these groups co-exist on this important American holiday weekend and to see the Patriotic Memorial Day and VETERAN'S activities grow. I'd also like to see more patriotic activities and further recognition of our Vets in Montauk on Veterans Day and July 4th. God bless America!
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Mr. Monte's letter to the East Hampton Town Board can be found here: http://patch.com/A-qVQB
Walter Noller February 17, 2012 at 02:41 PM
All Hail, Wikipedia! And, Um, no.. back at ya. Veteran's day is to honor veterans (living and dead) on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,originally known as Armistice Day. But these are semantics. As much as I, too, enjoy the celebrations associated with Memorial day and recognize (especially out here) the start of the ten weeks of "summer season", by which many of our commerce community relies on patronage, I have to say it's lost the meaning of the "Memorial" part.. To recognize the memorial park in the center of town as a solemn place at certain times only restores the intent of that plot of land. To show a bit of honor isn't much to ask. Personally, I'd be more inclined to visit a well placed display to show honor and provide a bit of history about our veterans and the wars they served in than stand and watch a parade pass by. Hell, I might even be tempted to visit and look at what others call "art". I wonder if those drawn to the art show would be as inclined to do the reverse.
Walter Noller February 17, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Apologies and a better understanding of your intentions appreciated. The original story was, however something that bred a firestorm of emotion. The Veteran is no longer the old man wearing his uniform of long ago, but men and women in their 20's and 30's who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are our future. They, too deserve our appreciation and respect for what they've done.
David Posnett February 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Last year (2011) a large part of the Montauk Green was set aside for the Vets events over the entire Memorial Day weekend. They ended up not using it at all… This year again, the Montauk Artists Assoc. has offered to share the Green. But the vets don’t want that… The Artists Assoc. is a great group with about 60 Montauk families and many more from East Hampton Township. Their 2 shows on the green are in my opinion the best shows on the East End in this category. Anne Weismann does a terrific and very professinal job at putting these shows together. This benefits Montauk. Businesses know that. Just look at the long list of advertisers in the glossy Show Brochure distributed at every event. Who are the participating artists? 35-50% are local families! Quite a few from Montauk. You may recognize your neighbors…just go to the list of participants for 2011 posted on their website. Ask them if they would participate if the venue were changed to 2nd house (as proposed) and whether they would risk losing money on their booth fees of $350. I know I would not. Some of these families have vets or the artists are vets themselves. All of them want to honor vets. The artists want to compromise (as in the past). In addition a large crowd serves both organizations and everyone can benefit from a joint usage of the green, including our local businesses.
Richard M. Kostura February 17, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Lol. Whats the problem, Wikipedia too new fangled for you? It's not semantics- it's definition. OK, since I didn't see a "Noller's Encyclopedia" online, here's Encyclopedia Britanica's version (not much different than wiki's) Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, in the United States, holiday (last Monday in May) honouring those who have died in the nation’s wars. It originated during the American Civil War (1861–64) when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. A number of places claimed to have been the birthplace of the holiday. Among them, Columbus, Mississippi, held a formal observance for both the Union and the Confederate dead in 1866. By congressional proclamation in 1966, Waterloo, New York, was cited as the birthplace, also in 1866, of the observance in the North. In 1868 John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, promoted a national holiday on May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” I've been celebrating the holiday since Ike was in office and it was called Decoration Day, riding my bike in parades in my cub scout uniform, or little league duds, but Memorial Day celebrations are traditionally held at national cemetery's or such. VETERANS DAY is for honoring veterans in the manner under discussion. Ike would have voted for the art show.
Connie Judson February 17, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Why can't we all just get along and share the green..... I have several members who have served in the armed forces but appreciate the the Artist Assoc Show being in the center of town. I think whats wrong with thing today is how everyone is it it for themselves and we forget about compromise and sharing!!!! it doesn't make anyone unpatriotic to have an opinion that differs form yours! In light and Love Peace and harmony for ALL....
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) February 18, 2012 at 01:28 AM
On Facebook, Mick Hargreaves said: The solution is extremely easy. At the Veterans/Mem Day three-day event, have an art exhibition on-site that features Veterans/Memorial day themes. Proceeds from the sale of said artwork could benefit returning / disabled / challenged Vets. Perfect marriage, use of the green, everyone wins. To get along, and be stronger together, sometimes the thinking needs to take place outside the box. Do it.
David Buda February 18, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Where's Rodney King when you really need him? He said: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? ...Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. .... Let’s try to work it out.
Penny Benbenek February 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Veterans get my vote. I'm with Emily ^. There's plenty of open space in Montauk that can host an art show...at any time. Memorial Day weekend is supposed to be just that...remembering those who have given & continue to do so, to keep our country as mighty & free as it is. And surprisingly, I don't see a loss of $$ on that weekend at all. People will still come to pay their respects and spend money, regardless. The Veterans deserve our respect and support.
pat February 18, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I do not understand why both groups can't be accommodated. I think 3 days of just veterans activities might be a bit much, and I am not sure how well attended they would be. Things like the art fair, though profitable for participants, are part of our holiday activities in Montauk too. As to arguments that the money made there goes out of town -- I don't think that is necessarily the rule. Businesses surrounding the green sell things to people drawn to the green as well. Some compromise should be possible here to retain the spirit of the holiday. Also, the art fair might draw people to the green who wouldn't come for the veterans' ceremonies alone, yet who couldn't fail to be moved by commemorations placed there. To clarify in your article, the Book Fair on the Green in July is sponsored by The Friends of the Montauk Library, a nonprofit group, not the library itself. Proceeds from the fair go solely to support the library and its programs for the community.
Bruce February 19, 2012 at 04:31 PM
This is a list of the 38 residents of the Town of East Hampton alone, Wainscott to Montauk Point, who were killed in the line of duty during World War II. This list does not include earlier or later conflicts. The one lone female was an Army nurse. They didn't live to be able to visit the Montauk Artist's Assoc. Annual Art Sales! Barclay, McClelland Barsdis, Vicent A Jr Bergstein, Louis Byrnes, John Clark, Raymond E Cooper, Edward Dakers, John C Dayton, A. Halsey Dominy, Felix Jr. Dordelman, Adelbert Jr. English, Lyndon w Field, David A Flinn, Lawrence Gilbride, Andrew L Hitchcock, Gladys Hudson, Robert Hulse, Walter Jackson, William B Koster, Max Kulczychki, John Lester, Randolph Loper, James Marasca, Antonio McDonald, Edward Moore, Mervin S Murphy, Robert J Myers, George C O'Keefe, John Jr. Olson, Bertil Petty, Winthrop W Raynor, William Ryan, Bruce E Spalding, John H Tarazavich, Vicent p Thompson, Adam Jr Thompson, Lucien Willis, Richard S Woodward, Robert
Ross MacKae February 19, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Thank you!
Orla Reville February 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I think a compromise where both groups share our public space is the best option. As a year- round Montauk resident and a mother to a young child i would love to be able to take my 4 year old to both events throughout the weekend. It would bring extra people and attention to each group and Montauk would certainly be the place to be on Memorial Day weekend. Orla Reville Montuk Resident Managing Partner of the Viking Fleet Montauk Montauk Chamber of Commerce Board Member
eugenia bartell February 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Your're absolutely right, Paul!!! And isn't it most peculiar that on Veterans Day there are no activities? And isn't it revealing as to why the Artisits Association is more than willing to share the Montauk Village Green? Didn't President Lincoln say, "A house divided cannot stand alone?"
Thomas February 21, 2012 at 06:47 PM
In reading that the issue has devolved into whether the Green should be used for this purpose or that purpose, when they do not conflict, is sad. What is worse is seeing a group, any group, in this instance the CAC try to make this an issue of patriotism, is both sad and disgusting. How dare they! And shame on them. I say this being a Vietnam veteran myself, having served on river craft during my tour of duty. Prior to going to Vietnam I was stationed on the USS Newport News where during general quarters I was assigned to the #2 turret. I returned from Vietnam in 1971, shortly after which the USS Newport News was deployed to the Demilitarized Zone. On October 1, 1972 while in action off the coast, the USS Newport News was involved in a tragic accident in which a defective projectile detonated upon firing. Lost in the explosion were 20 killed and 36 wounded, many of them close and personal friends. So I believe all of this gives me the ‘pedigree’ to speak openly to this issue. SHAME on the CAC, Bob Lamparder and Ken Walles for using veterans and patriotism as their instrument to control the public sentiment and emotions. Their agenda has been the same for years regarding events on the Village Green and most specifically the art shows. This further demonstrates that their issue has nothing to do with patriotism and a well-deserved memorial service for our veterans.
eugenia bartell February 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
To exploit the veterans as the reason for the quagmire is an apparent cunning contrivance, especially when verbal abuse was directed at the artists during recent daytime events and tents slashed and objects of art taken under the edge of darkness. Such attitude and behavior defiles the words gratitude, sacrifice, sympathy, respect, patriotism, appreciation, honor, liberty, valor, security to upholdrity, faith and peace - the very words our countries 21,000,000 veterans have given us to uphold.
Kevin February 29, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Why can't there be memorial day theme, with scheduled events including a moment of silence to honor those who sacrificed. Each vendor could be asked to provide something at their area specifically to respect someone fallen... perhaps drawing names out of a hat then creating something to honor them. Obviously the art shows are needed and draw people in. It is also tradition. However we should never lose site of those who sacrificed or the true meaning of memorial day. The people who fought for us to be able to exercise our rights and live our lives as we see fit. But if we just fight and don't live.. then what is the point. You can honor the dead and have an art show... and it will be great. MAKE IT WORK. stop fighting.
Ken Walles February 29, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Not true David about last year. We had used Second House as we were asked to give up the space for the Artist Association.

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