The Montauk Historical Society’s first ever lighting of the Montauk Lighthouse for the holiday season was a smashing success, drawing far more crowds than anyone had expected.
Montauk resident Marilyn Schneidawind said the event, including the traffic lineup, was spectacular to see.
“It was a wonderful kind of folks thing,” she said. “There were families there, kids all over the place. There were surfers in the water below us, the string of traffic lights coming east, Block Island was lit up by the sunset. It was a wonderful, wonderful occasion.”
The Historical Society, which owns the lighthouse, draped it in more than 3,000 holiday lights. Saturday night’s lighting ceremony drew a massive crowd that tied up traffic for hours along Montauk Highway through the Montauk State Park.
“We didn’t think it would be quite that big,” said Eleanor Ehrhardt, the coordinator of the lighthouse decoration project. “We were delighted. We’re happy to be able to spread that much cheer.”
The Montauk Fire Department estimated that more than 5,000 people attended the lighting ceremony, not counting those who were sitting in their cars at the time. Many parked along the side of the highway and walked to lighthouse, Ms. Ehrhardt said.
Traffic on Montauk Highway leading up to the lighthouse came to a standstill about 5:30 p.m., backing up all the way to Deep Hollow Ranch, more than two miles to west. The highway remained clogged until nearly 7 p.m. and a steady stream of cars filed past the lighthouse until well after 9 p.m., Ms. Ehrhardt said.
East Hampton Town Police said there were no accidents or problems other than the traffic delays.
The lighting, at about 6 p.m. was preceded by music and refreshments provided by the Historical Society.