Street Fair Draws Thousands to Tisbury


Saturday marked the 35th anniversary of the Tisbury Street Fair, with thousands of Islanders, tourists and kids packing downtown Vineyard Haven. Throughout the night music rippled out from the trumpets and guitars of wandering musicians, punctuated by the staccato pops of miniature firecrackers being tossed to the ground. Some people danced, but more strolled - and everyone ate. And as for the weather, it was just right - warm and clear and, according to street fair veterans, all a matter of course.

"We've only had to cancel due to rain once in all the previous 34 years," said Cora Medeiros, who - inspired by a clambake for charity she saw in Yarmouth, Me. - was among the group that organized the first fair in 1971.


At the time, Tisbury's tercentenary was coming up, and Mrs. Medeiros thought that a similar event would be a perfect commemoration. From its humble start with 34 stands, the fair has grown to 118 stalls and along the way become an Island tradition.

One of the most traditional of those stalls is Mrs. Medeiros's own. She and her family are better known at the fair for their lobster rolls, which they have been serving for 19 years. Her daughters, Gayla Medeiros and Cathy Rogers, now run the stand with the help of cousin Scott Simpkin.

For the Medeiros family, the stand is a way to stay in touch with their community, as well as to help support the family. "It's a big help for us. It helps pay for the kids' college funds," Mr. Simpkin said.


As always, the fair's overall goal is to raise money for the Tisbury police and fire departments, which receive the proceeds in alternate years. This year the Tisbury police were the ones on deck - and quite visible throughout the night in their blue uniforms, keeping order but also chatting with passersby and cheerfully passing out glow sticks to enhance the festive atmosphere.

From all parts of the fair, the faint aroma of cooking food rose into the air, drawing young and old alike.

"I come here every year, just for the fried dough!" laughed one woman.

A number of nonprofit groups were involved, among them Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Martha's Vineyard, which sold lemonade from a vivid purple and yellow stand. The stand was entirely built and painted by volunteers, said executive director Janice Perrin. They come to the fair every year, and always do very well raising money for their cause.


"We got started at Jawsfest and we sold $1,000 worth of lemonade, so we just kept doing it," Ms. Perrin said. "We do lots of other events like golf tournaments, but this is one of the most fun, and it's a direct contact with the community."

Others felt the crunch of the packed streets.

"It's a little crowded here, which is great as a vendor, but not so much as a visitor," said Amanda Klein, who with Taryn Repici sold shirts on behalf of Island Breeze. "We came here to boost sales and make more people aware of us," Ms. Klein said. This was their first year as vendors, but they plan to return next year.

"The fair is a lot of fun, though sometimes it feels like you're stuck against the wall," Ms. Klein said.

A pair of bands plied their trade along Main street, and a woman and her young daughter danced exuberantly to the beat. Everyone had the chance to relax and mingle with old acquaintances.


Nearby was a more serious scene, two dignified gentlemen chatting quietly with each other by storefronts. The gravity of their conversation, however, was slightly marred by their hats - red, fuzzy and shaped like lobsters - courtesy of the Rotary Club stall.

"The wonderful thing about the fair is that all parts of the community come together here," Mrs. Medeiros said. "There's no alcohol. No one gets into fights. Everyone just has a good time."