Summer on the Vineyard is busy, from the traffic to the way we fill our days. The socializing begins on Memorial Day and doesn't slow down until Labor Day. There are beaches to go to, dinners to make and events to attend. Many of the events held on the Vineyard are for charity. This week alone holds, among other things, a concert by Grammy winner Rodney Crowell to benefit the charter school, a talk by NPR president Kevin Klose to benefit the Cape and Islands NPR stations, and Vineyard Gumbo, a series of events to benefit the restoration of New Orleans.
One more event to add to this week's list is a little different from the traditional talks, toasts and tee-times arranged to benefit the hundreds of causes to which Islanders devote their time and money. As at many other benefits, there will be gourmet food and live music. Jan Buhrman and other surprise Island chefs will be cooking, and attendees can groove to the sounds of Rick Bausman and the Beetlebung Steel Band as well as Kate and Isaac Taylor. Trip Barnes, the auctioneer to top all auctioneers, will host an auction, and Islanders will be donning their summer finest.
But on Thursday evening, as guests raise their glasses to support Vineyard House, a safe, sober place for Islanders to live while in the early stages of substance abuse recovery, they will be toasting with a selection of donated waters rather than wine and beer. Attendees will have difficult choices to make. For the bubbly among them, there is San Pellegrino and Perrier. Devotees of the west coast can select a fine Calistoga, while those partial to the east can choose a refreshing Poland Spring.
Vineyard House was established in 1997 with one house. Today they operate two homes for men and one for women, with a bed capacity of 24. Recently, the organization purchased 4.4 acres of land behind SBS in Vineyard Haven. They hope to consolidate into a single facility by 2007.
There is need for the expansion. The program, which accepts no state or federal funds, usually has a waiting list for both the men's and women's houses.
"We are concerned with keeping it going, but we are also in the quiet phase of a capital campaign to expand," said Dana Anderson, president of Vineyard House.
"We need to raise people's consciousness of who we are, what we do, and how much it costs to keep it going."
The importance of a place like Vineyard House is huge. "Everybody's been touched by the illness," Kate Taylor said this week, while taking a break from practicing for the show in her Chilmark home. "Just throw a stone and you'll find someone who's been affected."
Ms. Taylor was speaking from personal experience. As she looked out at the water from her screen porch, she started talking about her oldest brother, Alex. "He was an incredible recording artist and a real dynamo on stage," she said. Ms. Taylor lost her brother to alcoholism in 1993. She is convinced that had Vineyard House existed then, he would still be alive today.
"If he had been able to be on the Vineyard where he felt comfortable, it would have been the added support that he needed," she said. "This," she said about her upcoming performance, "is in memory of him."
On Thursday, at what is being billed as a magical midsummer's evening, Ms. Taylor will team up with her nephew Isaac to support others battling addiction. She plans to sing songs about the water in honor of the tasting and keep Alex in mind all night.
This is the first year that the tasting has had live music, and the Taylor duo, who will play from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., will close out the evening. Rick Bausman precedes them, starting the evening off at 5 p.m. and playing for an hour.
The musical acts sandwich the live auction, which will go from 6 to 7 p.m. Ms. Anderson said that the auction, first introduced at last year's tasting, is four times larger this year. They are auctioning off a jeep, a boat, Red Sox box seats, and tickets for Cape Air, among other things. "Rick will start out the evening by lifting peoples' spirits," Ms. Anderson said.
"Trip will keep it going and by the time Kate and Isaac end, we'll all be sailing out of there on a natural high."
This year, the event is held at the Captain Flanders House on North Road in Chilmark.
Each year, Vineyard House tries to host the tasting in a new location so as many people from as many towns as possible are exposed to it.
"Vineyard House is not well known on the Island," Ms. Anderson said. "By its very nature, it's difficult to keep it public. You have to protect the anonymity of the clients, so it is different from other causes."
Ms. Taylor has gone to a few Vineyard House events in the past, but never the water tasting. Although she is involved with many Island charities – she did a benefit show for the Homestead in Aquinnah and in August will do one for the ice rink – she is especially excited to take part in Thursday's festivities.
"This is a closed community," she said. "It is difficult here to be in recovery and live near where your home is."
"We all know each other here. It gives you the feeling that what you can do can really make a difference to someone else and you can see that difference," Ms. Taylor said, again gazing out from her porch.
"How can you not want to give back when you can look out at this kind of a setting?"
The Ninth Annual Water Tasting is held on Thursday, July 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Captain Flanders House, North Road, Chilmark. Attendees may register for the event at vineyardhouse.org, by calling 508-693-8580, or the night of the event. Suggested donation is $50.