My love affair with Martha’s Vineyard continues to deepen as I, like the majestic sailing ships gracing the harbors all over the island, being anchored to this magical island. Each time I return as soon as I embark from the ferry I am under the islands’ irresistible spell surrendering with all my heart to her call.
Martha’s Vineyard, classic New England, steeped in history with sentinel captain homes facing the sea waiting centuries for their owners return, old farms with fields still turned each spring producing bountiful vegetables, narrow main streets dotted with storefronts brimming with merchandise beckoning visitors to leisurely stroll, turns red, white and blue to celebrate the 4th of July. After a long winter battered by continuous Nor’easters, the island is ready to embrace the summer season traditional start with an all American celebration.
A visitor to the island for many years I was surprised my first year owning our vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard that we have never been here on July 4th. I read up on the island’s planned festivities finding celebrations throughout the day all over the island to enjoy with our family. America’s birthday party on the island starts at 9am with Murdick’s Run The Chop 5k in Vineyard Haven benefiting the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club; beginning at the elementary school the route heads down to the harbor through West Chop then back to the school. An avid runner, I dressed in my patriot red, white and blue participating with other runners as spectators lined the route cheering and waving flags as we traveled down to the harbor where old-time schooners their sails standing at attention stilled by the windless day salute the runners as we pass. On to Main Street, past storefronts with patriotic windows wrapped in red, white and blue bunting; dressed for the day-long celebration. Then turning the corner from Main Street onto West Chop Road perched on top of the bluff overlooking Vineyard Sound the twenty-five-foot West Chop Lighthouse greets us standing strong for over one hundred and fifty years guiding ships into the harbor. Adjacent to the Lighthouse the West Chop Club welcomes runners with pleated flags banners decorating the clubhouse while tennis players dressed in traditional whites stop matches to encourage runners passing by the tennis courts. The last mile and a half I meander through the West Chop Woods on Franklin Street populated by ageless beach cottages nestled in the woods partially hidden down dirt driveways where their owners wait on the side of the road for runners with refreshing water as we make one last push before reaching the finish line. A perfect beginning for my first July 4th on Martha’s Vineyard! While I was running in tandem with heat and humidity, the Polar Bears gathered in Oak Bluffs, as they do daily during the summer, for a swim in Nantucket Sound: Burr a chilling 70 degrees, too cold for me!
We, like many families, spent the day swimming and barbecuing by a pool or at the ocean. Then along with the rest of the island, we made our way to Edgartown for the town’s annual July 4th parade followed by fireworks over the harbor. Entering Edgartown village I am once again reminded of the town’s history; A living memorial to the great age of whaling with stately white clapboard Captain houses with rose-covered fences and gardens blooming profusely with salt air-kissed hydrangea as blue as the waters surrounding the island. On the fourth of July Edgartown is painted red, white and blue as flags and bunting decorate the shops and homes of the town. Edgartown’s parade does not disappoint, with something for all ages from antique cars, high school sports teams, fire trucks, floats and to the delight of the children candy toasted into the crowd from the parade’s participants. After the parade, we visited shops stopping for ice cream at Mad Martha’s, a family favorite, before walking down North Water Street towards Harborview Hotel to view the fireworks. On North Water Street we were welcomed by old Captain’s home with front porches festivity decorated and holiday revilers partying as they too waited for the fireworks. With perfect timing we found premier seats on the rocks by Edgartown Lighthouse; we could see the fireworks barge in the harbor from our vantage point. At preciously 9pm the fireworks display began – mesmerized our eyes fixated on the horizon as bursts of light illuminated at the sky over the harbor. A sea of oohs and aahs filled the night as spectators sighed in admiration for the display which ended with the traditional climax – multiple fireworks simultaneously set off to the delight of the crowd.
The fireworks over we walked up the beach back to our car and as we drive home, the little ones fast asleep, the adults relive all the day’s highlights knowing that although the day has ended when we will leave this magical island, our memories we keep with us forever.