Vineyard Parades for the Fourth
By MANDY LOCKE
Even though the sun took the Fourth of July off, people across the Island found plenty of ways to celebrate Independence Day.
The sharp breezes and daunting sky kept folks off the beach. A survey of Norton Point Beach at midday showed only a handful of people, most of whom traded sunblock for sweaters. In fact, more state police than vacationers braved that territory.
The weather and slow morning nudged people toward their favorite restaurants for a leisurely breakfast. Mel's Diner at Katama felt the rush, filling to capacity at two different points. The rain didn't keep the customers from the best seats in the house, either. They sat on the deck of the diner to survey the grass strips of Katama Airfield and the few planes that dared to test the windy sky.
Lindsey Morris and Megan O'Brien looked bored behind the counter at Katama General Store. Business was slow. Customers bought items like milk instead of the usual beach snacks and drinks.
The uncertain weather meant good news for retailers in Edgartown. People arriving downtown early ducked inside shops along Main street for some browsing. The crowds wound through the aisles of Bickerton & Ripley Books, waiting for an afternoon book signing by Island writers Susan Wilson and Philip Craig.
Children and adults donned Fourth of July wardrobes with runway flair. Stars and stripes covered shoulders, legs, hair and even feet. Sadly, some of the patriotic style was cramped by the slickers and oversized jackets the drizzles made people wear.
The tired street strollers stepped into the Old Whaling Church to hear the Bay State Band warm up for its 2 o'clock concert. Bobby, Susie, Robby, Courtney and Darcie Carrano lounged comfortably on the back pew.
"We got in some good beach time yesterday, so today's weather is not so bad," Mr. Carrano said. His squirming children probably thought otherwise.
The Bay State Band from New Bedford got the patriotic spirit flowing with their lively renditions of American odes and anthems. Big and little kids couldn't help but clap along to catchy tunes like Yankee Doodle Dandy. Claps turned to thunderous applause and a standing ovation at the end of the performance.
"You can't have a Fourth of July without a concert," Alice Hughes said.
Outside, families began to stake claims to choice spots along Main street for the parade. Sandra and Bob Hanson pulled folding chairs under the awning of town hall to secure a curbside view.
Keira, Tyler, Cody and Callen Potvin moved toward Main street with parents Kathy and Jim, carrying red, white and blue balloons. Keira's string was attached to a belt loop on the back of her shorts, but she walked with no fear that the balloon would sweep her into the air.
"Her brother wouldn't be too sad if that happened," Mrs. Potvin said with a laugh.
Nicole and Alison Gagnon used Independence Day as a good reason to wear Statue of Liberty gear gathered during a trip to New York city. Alison wore a green styrofoam crown with pride, while her sister, Nicole, looked cool in her Statue of Liberty sunglasses. Parents Mary and Chris snapped a shot of their daughters with hopes that it would make a good Christmas card photo.
The crowds on the street had plenty of concessions to fill empty stomachs as the afternoon passed. The Roman Catholic Parish of Martha's Vineyard sold lobster rolls, chips and iced tea from a tent in front of St. Elizabeth's Parish. Fella Caterers offered picnic fare from a booth on the Dr. Daniel Fisher House lawn.
Just before 4 p.m., parade participants flocked to Robinson Road and the Edgartown School parking lot. Anything goes seemed to be the unifying theme for entries to the parade. From kids to flowers to dogs, drivers filled trailers and truck beds to capacity. None dared to weave through the parade route without plenty of candy to throw at children and adults on the sidelines.
Baby Equipment Express featured a baby crib in the back of a truck bed, filled with toddlers - faces painted flag style. The little ones practiced throwing techniques throughout the parade.
Robert Gatchell showcased a scale model of the Edgartown lighthouse during the parade. He made the model for the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society to auction off later this summer.
The famed fiberglass cow, Martha, made another appearance during the parade. Creator Ray Ellis and his wife, Teddy, dressed in farming attire and passed out Cow Tales to the crowd.
The Martha's Vineyard Community Services Thrift Shop filled the back of a truck with goodies from the shop, ranging from wedding dresses to Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
The line of antique cars, representing dozens of makes and models, reminded older spectators of years past.
"I used to date a guy who drove a car like that," shouted a woman as she pointed to a 1968 Volkswagen.
The American Parkinson's Disease trailer, pulled by Jerry McKenty's 1946 Farmall H tractor, claimed the prize for Most Patriotic. Dukes County Savings Bank won most original, and Camp Jabberwocky with their Harry Potter theme won Grand Prize again.
A trolley filled with loads of candy and members of the Rodek, Mondry, Schulund and Lane families joined the lineup. The families secured this trolley ride during last year's Possible Dreams auction.
Shortly before 5 o'clock, the sun teased from behind the clouds, and the paraders looked hopefully toward the sky. But it ducked behind the clouds once again.
The Chappy Community Center filled the back of a truck with Chappy kids carrying fishing nets and buckets. The children chanted a parody of the Flintstones song as they rolled through the streets.
From bagpipes to bongos to trombones, several bands maintained enthusiasm among the crowd and paraders with their music.
Houses on the Move, a fund-raising initiative for Island affordable housing, debuted during the parade, showcasing intricately designed model houses. The houses will be auctioned August 4.
Skateboarders joined the parade this year, soliciting support for the skate park initiative. One skater tried to sell his candy to raise money for the park.
At 5 o'clock sharp, Fred B. Morgan Jr. and Ted Bernard let the leading veterans turn onto Pease's Point Way. Fire trucks, police chiefs, Sheriff Mike McCormick and town selectmen led the way.
Lining the streets in red, white and blue fashion, hundreds of kids, parents and grandparents smiled at the paraders and held out hands for candy. Children begged for candy with open bags as if it were Halloween instead of the Fourth of July. Paraders responded by launching handfuls of candy into the crowds. Regular spectators knew the trick of standing on Pease's Point Way instead of Main street to take advantage of plentiful candy supplies in the early going. Only a few floats had any goodies to give by the home stretch on Main street.
By 5:30 p.m., the parade had yet to turn on Main street, and parents did all they could to pacify anxious children. Occasional murmurs about the coming parade circulated through the crowd.
By the time the parade reached the finish line, enthusiasm had not waned.
"You couldn't put on a show like this if you gave Steven Spielberg $2 million," said spectator Alan Alcott, who has not missed the Independence Day parade in 10 years.
The last fire truck finished the lineup just before 7 o'clock, as tired families pulled themselves down the street to find a bite to eat before the fireworks.
"I've never seen such a crowd of people. The reception gets louder and louder as you move down the streets," said Mr. Morgan, parade grand marshal.
As day turned to night, crowds began to crowd to water street and the harbor area to secure the best spot to view the fireworks. Some played cards to pass the time, while children waved small flags, singing "Happy birthday to America." By the number of glow sticks flapping against children's necks as they ran around Memorial Wharf, one might have mistaken the flickers of light for the fireworks show.