The Questions -July 2013
photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger
What brought to you to Nantucket?
My mom read an article in the paper about the great fishing on Nantucket in the 1960s. She knew my dad, an accomplished angler, would love it, so off we went. One dog, one cat, four kids and my parents in the old Jeep Wagoneer left at 3 a.m. from New Jersey to take the steamer Nobska from Woods Hole to Nantucket. We summered here from then on, and one season I dove for coins on Straight Wharf, was fortunate to meet many islanders and we all shared amazing memories. After working here in college, and then professionally in advertising, publishing and public-relations in Boston and New York, I moved back to see if I could find in a job. I got lucky when I applied through the town for the Visitor Services position and got it. I love this job.
How many years have you been running Visitor Services?
I have now entered my 21st year in the job. Visitor Services’ mission is a quality experience for all visitors and residents on Nantucket. We take that very seriously by working very hard to provide not only the most up-to-date island information regarding
lodging, restaurants or events but also being a place that consistently the public can depend on while always being made to feel very welcome. When it is quieter after the holidays, that is the time we do all the planning, coordination and printing for the next season. Fourth of July, our biggest holiday with 60,000 visitors, is an example of this. Although people inaccurately assume this office is more seasonal, I can tell you on Nantucket tourism is a year-round responsibility.
How many visitors come through your door every year?
In 2012, we had almost 64,000 people come in our doors and more than 1.6 million people total in the last 20 years.
What are the questions asked by visitors who come in the door?
Historical sites, shopping, restaurants, bike trails and beaches are always on the list, and we work a lot with the licensed inns or bed and breakfasts. We spend a lot of time helping people find places to stay with our daily and special-weekend availability lists, whether they stop in or call on the phone. This is a very important service of the visitor center because a percentage of the local rooms tax collected helps fund my budget while the rest of the revenues go to the Town of Nantucket.
What should first-time visitors do?
One of the first things I would suggest is calling us at the visitor center before they arrive. We are open year-round to help and we can get them started by going over logistics, etc. about coming to the island. In the off-season we can tell them what is open that they might want to see and in the summer the tips for visiting at that busy time. They can call or write to get our free travel and lodging brochure that is filled with telephone numbers for pretty much all the contacts they need getting to or being on-island. We also tell them to pick up The Inquirer and Mirror. I promise I am not just saying that. Grab a cup of coffee and take the time to find out what is happening on the island first-hand.
Tell us what goes into organizing the Fourth of July events?
I have been putting on the fireworks for over 20 years, which I start in November for the following July. There is a lot of coordination, design and planning. This year it will be set to music and you will be able to listen to the track on the radio synchronized with the show. The past two years I helped raise approximately $70,000 for the fireworks from generous donors with support from my Visitor Services Advisory Committee chairman Gene Mahon. This year the town is paying for them and I am very grateful to them. This will be my first year putting on all the Fourth of July events on Main Street but I could not imagine this traditional island event for all ages not happening. My office is really working hard and I promise some surprises because I love finding more creative ways to make it special. We have a limited budget of about $2,000 for the day and I would love to ask people to volunteer too. Give us a call. I promise you are going to experience a good-old-fashioned Fourth of July that is not to be missed.
Is there anything new Visitor Services is doing this summer?
Besides the Fourth of July events on Main Street, we are now also overseeing the events and activities at Children’s Beach. I would really like to get it well-planned and have it be the traditional family place it has always been for the public. Also, after a successful first year, this will be my second year working on the Nantucket New Year’s celebration held Dec. 28, 2013-Jan. 1, 2014. We are getting support again from ReMain Nantucket and other island associations. I love finding new marketing projects where we can partner with other organizations and find mutual goals to support our very important tourism and hospitality industry. Nantucket is an amazing place but it’s important that we continue to provide fresh ideas and offer exceptional service to continue to make our island an incredible destination.
How do you like to relax?
I love to get up in the morning and go for long walks on the conservation trails with my husband and dogs. In the winter, I like to do some writing, make some really healthy soups and read. Getting together with friends is important, and I love a long lunch on the weekend. In the summer, I love to go paddleboarding and surfing. My husband is an incredible grill-master, and we invite a few friends over to dine and enjoy a beautiful night of conversation under the stars.
Where do you like to go in the offseason for a complete escape?
After visiting Boston for a really fun weekend with friends, we love to go up to the White Mountains and ski. In the spring we travel down to Beaufort, S.C. using my “Drive I-95” book (which gives great southern small-town inside scoop) where we, in no particular order, paddleboard at Hunting Island, watch the dolphins and eat shrimp.
If you could have dinner with any five people, from today or the past, who would you invite?
The first person I would invite is E.B. White to tell him how much his writing has inspired me. He wrote me a letter on Nantucket in 1969 on his New Yorker stationary thanking me for the card I sent him showing a whaling ship. I would also like to invite my parents to let them know I miss them and am so grateful they gave me the opportunity to buy their cottage on Nantucket. I would like Ina Garten, who makes freshness look so easy, make all of us a feast and cook the striped bass I am sure my dad caught. I then wouldn’t mind some background music. Dolly Parton, acoustically on her guitar, someone I always wanted to meet, would be my choice.
Tell us your favorite thing about Nantucket.
I love the true natural beauty of the island and the fact that if I ever need to see a close friend, they are never more than 15 minutes away. The longer I have lived here, both of these things have remained truly important to me.