They came by the thousands. The word at the annual Feast of the Holy Ghost was that on Martha's Vineyard, everyone can be Portuguese for a weekend.
The two-day festival in Oak Bluffs brought the whole community out for a good time, a great meal and some dancing. Festivities began Saturday afternoon with the serving of sopa, a tasty Portuguese soup. David Araujo stood near the serving area with a microphone, leading the auction: "Do I have $45 for this lobster and Portuguese sweet bread?"
The sounds of the Portuguese festival were loud and fun.
Duncan Ross collected tickets for the sweet fried dough. Behind him, a team of apron-clad ladies were smoothing out the yeasty dough with gloved hands.
In the back room, John Powers of West Tisbury was stirring a ladle in a pot bigger than a bathtub. The sopa was simmering. Chef Lanie Bonito of Oak Bluffs was working on her fifth year of cooking hundreds of pounds of potatoes, cabbage and sausage. She is a professional cook at Linda Jean's but on this night she is the master of the sopa.
"Don't forget to mention my help," she said. Working with her were Arthur Pye of Oak Bluffs and Mr. Powers. The slicing of the potatoes began earlier in the week. A priest blessed the meal Friday night.
The annual Feast of the Holy Ghost isn't just a good time. "There is a lot of tradition and religion in this," said Tricia Bergeron, the top organizer of the event, the mardon. This is her 13th year running the event. "This is a time to remember our relatives, our loved ones. It is a celebration, but it is a time for tears, too," she said.
For some the weekend is about memories. In a moment of quiet, Mr. Araujo, 58, said the festival is an opportunity for him to remember his childhood. He said: "I remember when they held it in Tisbury, where the town hall annex is now. I remember people were so generous back then. It was a time to bring family together."
Today, that spirit continues. Mr. Araujo said: "A lot of effort goes into this event. There is an overabundance of volunteers, young and old. God bless Tricia for all her efforts."
The oldest and most honored member of the Portuguese American Club is Joe Nunes, 92, of Oak Bluffs. "I used to be the auctioneer," he said proudly.
Mr. Nunes wrapped his arms around Henry Rose, 83, also of Oak Bluffs. The two teased each other for being young at heart.
"I've been involved since 1930," Mr. Nunes said. He turned to Mr. Araujo. "I taught him how to be an auctioneer."
More than 125 lobsters were auctioned off by the end of the weekend and as many loaves of sweet Portuguese bread.
The Feast of the Holy Ghost is also a significant fundraiser. Miss Bergeron said the organization is a benevolent society. "The PA Club donated $27,000 in scholarship money to the regional high school graduating seniors," she said. And the organization puts aside at least the same amount for other, less public charities. "This allows us to continue with our charities. This is our main fundraiser," she said.
On Saturday night The Ray Band brought driving rock and roll music to what anyone at a fair might call the midway. Youngsters just old enough to walk were learning how to dance with their parents.
Late in the night Lenny Baker, the beloved saxophone player and singer, joined the band onstage. His first song was Mustang Sally and the audience was encouraged to sing along.
Beer drinking, soda sipping and hamburger eating continued into the evening.
"Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger," shouted Mark Seward of West Tisbury. Mr. Seward wore a white chef's hat and was flipping hamburgers rapidly on a hot grill. "No fries," he called out.
Jessie Oliver of West Tisbury, wearing a bright bandana, also flipped burgers. He said, "I'm just practicing for the West Tisbury firemen's booth at the fair."
Bobbie Ann Gibson, president of the Holy Ghost Association, said the hamburger booth volunteers were a hard-working crew of good-hearted volunteers. There was urgency in the air as the line for hamburgers grew long. As fast as Mary Zaccardi covered the counter with open hamburger buns, they were filled and scooped up by helpers.
"I'm not even Portuguese. I'm Italian," said Ms. Zaccardi, of Brookville, Fla. "I told them I wanted to volunteer and they put me here."
"Everyone is Portuguese here," said Preston Averill Jr. of Oak Bluffs.
Three generations of the Santos family were cooking beef shish kebobs. George Santos of Vineyard Haven greeted old friends and made new ones: "My father [John T.] did it before me. For me this is a tradition. I get to see a lot of people I know, people I haven't seen since last year."
Mr. Santos was assisted by his son, George Jr., and his granddaughter, Amanda Ostrow, 18, of Saugus.
"I've been doing these barbecue steaks for 20 years," Mr. Santos said.
On Sunday morning, the spirited membership and friends of the Holy Ghost Association gathered again at the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf. They greeted friends from Fall River, Taunton and New Bedford.
There were 50 to 60 members of the Holy Ghost Brotherhood of Taunton. "We came over on the Islander," said Antonio Couto. In years past, the organization had attended the afternoon picnic. This was their first year of marching in the parade.
"We've been coming for four years. We've got to keep the faith," said Victor Carvalho.
Twenty-six members of the Bay State Band also came over. Joe Oliveira, 78, of the band has been playing clarinet for the band for more than 60 years. "I first came over here when I was 12 years old," he said.
Ashley Couto of Taunton, 13, was dressed as that town's version of Queen Isabella. She was followed closely by her mother, Odilia.
Oak Bluffs selectman Todd Rebello marched with the other members of the board. "This is one place you will see people you know," he said. "The feast is a big deal."
The Oak Bluffs police department sent three of its members to march in parade uniform.
The parade started a minute after 11:30 a.m. Marchers headed up Circuit avenue, before an applauding crowd. There were firemen and fire trucks and an Oak Bluffs fire rescue truck and ambulance. Tisbury sent its Legion Pumper, Engine Three. West Tisbury sent Engine Five.
Boy Scout Joe Hegarty, 14, of Oak Bluffs marched in the parade holding the colors. He was accompanied by other members of Troop 93.
Portuguese folk musicians from Grupo Folclorico, S.S. Sacramento, of New Bedford marched with their members dancing to strumming guitars and mandolin.
At Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, young Lily Gazaille of Edgartown, acting as Queen Isabella of Aragon, was surrounded by her court: Elizabeth Kelleher, Meghan Mchugh, Caitlin Serpa and Shivonne Schofield.
Father John Ozug stood at the steps of the church and lifted the silver crown into the air before gently placing it on the young queen's head. He then gave a blessing.
The Bay State Band performed. The procession then was rejoined by the parade marchers and headed toward Vineyard avenue to the Sacred Heart Cemetery where wreaths and flags were placed.
The first wreath was placed to commemorate members of the Holy Ghost Association who have died. Miss Bergeron then took wreaths and flags and placed them at the graveside of Peter Moreis, a former auctioneer and dear friend to the association. She also placed one at the stone of Ralph Allen, a former club bartender and friend.
She placed a wreath next to the grave of her son, Eric Bergeron MacLean, who died in an automobile accident on March 28, 2001.
Bill Brown of Fall River played Taps on his trumpet. The echo of Taps was played by John Robinson of New Bedford.
The parade then resumed its march to the club grounds, sirens roaring.
The festivities continued into the afternoon. The sopa was free for the hundreds of participants, and the hamburger grill was smoking.
"It seems like we are over the hill when it comes to summer," said James Moreis, 66, of Oak Bluffs. Like so many participants, Mr. Moreis has childhood memories that are woven into this event. "This is like a home day."