ISLES OF SHOALS — Star Island has been attracting families for generations.
Solomon Katz, of Philadelphia, was there with his son, Noah, and grandson, Asher, last week. Noah and Asher Katz traveled from Singapore to attend a conference with Solomon.
Solomon Katz says he has been to Star Island, which is located about seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine, about 40 times since 1972. Noah Katz worked on the island during the summers of 1983 and 1984.
“It clears the clutter,” Noah Katz said of being on the island. “The only way to entertain yourself is with the people out here.”
Star Island was bustling with activity in late June, as the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science conference wrapped up and day visitors walked around enjoying the views of nearby Appledore, Cedar and Smuttynose islands.
Star Island CEO Joe Watts said although a lot of families tend to come back year after year for conferences, they have been trying to be as open to the public as possible in the last 10 years.
Last weekend, they set up a grill for people who come as day tourists and a new Brookfield-Rutledge Marine Lab is opening soon for children.
Watts said they are also working with schools from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine that would like to bring students to the island. York High School in Maine is bringing a group of freshmen to kick off the school year, he said.
There are narrated walking tours for people to take around Star Island if they cruise out with the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company. They can view the large monument for Rev. John Tucke, explore the stone village or check out the 400-panel solar display which provides up to 60 percent of the island’s energy needs during the summer months.
Last week, Mary Ann Bailey, of Hampton, was celebrating her birthday with daughter-in-law Jennifer Jensen, of Temple, with a day trip.
“It’s really beautiful out here, I love smelling the roses,” Bailey said.
The grand hotel, built in 1875, can accommodate 300 guests, so there are about 100 employees on Star Island. Summer helpers are called ‘Pelicans,’ and there is a subculture that they are part of.
Peter Squires and his wife, Anne Marple, were Pelicans. Now he is the director of development and they are raising 14-month-old Leo on Star Island during the summer months.
The couple is featured in a book that was just released called “Pelicans: Seasonal Workers of Star Island” written by Jennifer Moore, with photos from Anna Solo.
“It’s a really formative experience because when you’re a Pelican, you live here and you work here,” Squires said. “We have Pelican traditions where we celebrate the holidays in the summer like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. My wife and (my) first date was on Pelican Valentine’s Day.”
In addition to the week-long conferences on Star Island, there are overnight and three-day experiences, such as the “Gatsby on the Isles: Summer Soiree on Star Island” on Aug. 24 and 25, as well as “Star Hampshire Dance: Contra & Square Dancing” from Sept. 13 to 15.
Watts said people who immerse themselves in the Star Island experience, which means no television and eating three meals a day family-style, have an experience that can last a lifetime.
“Something about this place and the structure brings the best out of each person,” Watts said.
For more information, visit www.starisland.org.