Before the recent glut of fund-raisers hit Montauk, there were the Montauk Village Association’s annual benefits, which started in the 1960s and eventually included the popular Greenery Scenery Celebrity cocktail party.
The group, which beautifies the downtown area with trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, and manages the memorial bench and tree program, originally held fashion shows at Gurney’s Inn and dinner-dances at the long-closed Deep Sea Club, sometimes netting hundreds of dollars, a good amount back then.
In 1967, the Kirk Park Pavilion was dedicated and the Greenery Scenery party was held there. At that time the M.V.A. owned and maintained the park, which is located on the banks of Fort Pond. Although they remain caretakers, they have since handed ownership over to East Hampton Town, due to increasing costs of owning and insuring a public park.
The party moved to the Akin estate for the next two years. By then, said Nancy Keeshan, the organization’s current president, the association had conceived of a “glorious summer party.” It was decided that the Montauk Manor, with its sweeping lawn and exceptional views, would be the perfect setting.
The first Manor party, in 1971, drew over 300 guests. The following year celebrity bartenders were added to the mix and the party grew in each year after. In the 1980s it attracted over 1,000 guests.
Since then the event has taken on several incarnations, most notably Drinks by the Links at the Montauk Downs. But two years ago Greenery Scenery, the most popular of the association’s events, was reinstated, with a handful of local celebrities thrown in and put to work bartending.
It will be held tomorrow evening from 6 to 9 at the Montauk Lake Club on East Lake Drive. This year’s honoree is Roberta Gosman Donovan, an owner and the host of Gosman’s restaurant. There will be food, an open bar, and a live auction with prominent artwork, surfboards, a fishing trip, a collage by Tony Caramonico, jewelry by Helen Ficalora, and lots more. Tickets are $100 in advance, available at Keeshan Real Estate on the south Plaza, or at the door for $110.
When it was formed in 1961, the group was called the Montauk Civic Association. Ms. Keeshan said it should really be called the Montauk Village Garden Association, because “that’s what we really do.” She said the Civic Association’s first venture was to plant a small memorial garden on the green, with a flagpole and a design in the shape of a flag with red, white, and blue flowers. The M.V.A. has begun revitalizing the garden area, with work being conducted by James Grimes and his crew from Fort Pond Native Plants.
“Even with their busy schedule they have made a push to get it done in August,” said Ms. Keeshan. “Private donations have funded the project, but we need more. Landscaping costs us $75,000 a year now.” She noted that the group no longer receives any money from the Town of East Hampton; all of it must be raised through fund-raisers and donations.
In recent weeks it was the M.V.A. that orchestrated the removal of 16 dead trees from the downtown area. They lobbied the state for months to rid the hamlet of the dead and dying trees, which were often commented on and considered dangerous. It’s “been hard keeping those trees from dying,” said Ms. Keeshan, as the ground beneath them is layered with concrete, blocking water from the roots.
The tree stumps will be ground up; the root systems will have to be removed. The concrete, especially to the east of the hamlet, will be broken up. It will be a fairly expensive project that the M.V.A. had hoped to complete with new trees by next summer.
But since the dying trees were removed, the last of them on Friday, several residents have said they prefer the open space, and Ms. Keeshan agrees. “It gives the downtown area an open oceanfront look,” she said yesterday.