As of Wednesday this week, the Steamship Authority was booked solid for seven straight days. With sunny days and warmer weather, traffic already has begun piling up at the Bourne Bridge. "It's a big hurrah for the season," said Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs terminal manager Bridget Tobin. "It's a prime weekend to open houses."
While summer residents are loading up their cars with summer clothes, outdoor furniture and charcoal, preparing for the trip to the Vineyard to open their homes, the rest of the Island is getting ready to open as well. The signs were everywhere this week.
Mopeds ready for rental were lined up like dominos outside rental shops. Winter jackets were on display, their prices slashed by up to 50 per cent. Help Wanted and Wet Paint signs hung like new decorations on store windows, as fresh coats of paint were splashed on restaurants and cafes. The Vineyard is going through its annual spring cleaning in anticipation of one of the busiest weekends of the year and the kickoff of the summer season.
Summer on the Vineyard conjures up memories of evening strolls along Circuit avenue and nights in Menemsha watching the sunset, evenings that would not be complete without ice cream, pizza and chowder. This weekend, all will be offered. Frank Fenner, Chilmark selectman and owner of the Menemsha Galley, opened his harborfront stand last weekend, but is truly excited for the start of summer crowds this weekend. The landmark takeout place that has been a favorite subject for artists and hungry Islanders alike plans to extend its hours into Saturday evening - and possibly Sunday if the weather permits - to allow families to quench their cravings for lobster rolls and chowder made from scratch.
On Thursday the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs locations of Mad Martha's opened for the season, offering 25 flavors - not their whole roster, but not bad for the first weekend. On Friday, the Vineyard Haven store will open its doors as well. "The ice cream is made, everything's ready to go," co-owner Patty Roberts said as she dusted the tops of the ceiling lamps. "I'm just putting on the sparkling touches."
Although Giordano's has been offering their deliciously crispy slices fresh from the pizza stand for the past few weekends, the restaurant opened at 4 p.m. yesterday for the season. "It's like a kickoff for the season, like a starting point," co-owner Richie Giordano said of the coming weekend. "It's like here we go again."
And here again we will go in force. Not only are the ferries booked all weekend without standby, but the airport is also anticipating a busy weekend. Airport manager Sean Flynn said he anticipates a weekend busier than last Memorial Day because of the sunny forecast. The airport will have a full staff and is asking administrators to come in over the weekend. Other than that, there are no additional preparations. "We do what we can do and we do it fairly well," Mr. Flynn said.
The inns of the Vineyard are busy as well. "We have a strong weekend coming up," said Susie Goldstein, co-owner with her husband Sherman of the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven. "We have families that are coming back year after year. It's like an old friends week, a reunion of sorts. It's a lovely testament to how Vineyard Haven is sprucing up and getting ready."
While this may be a weekend to usher in the first taste of summer, it is also a weekend of remembrance and a time to honor Americans who have died while serving their country in the armed forces. Students at the Tisbury and Edgartown schools will participate today in their annual marches to the sea, where they will hold small ceremonies and throw lilacs in the harbors in honor of those who have died at sea.
To pay their respects, Vineyard veterans will gather at the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven at 9:30 a.m. on Monday to march to the Avenue of Flags in the Oak Grove Cemetery. Earlier in the morning, volunteers will gather to raise 410 flags in honor of Vineyard veterans. "Grandmothers, mothers, fathers and kids will come to set them up," said Ed Colligan, a past commander of the Vineyard Haven Legion. "It's an inspiration to see."
The Otis Air National Guard will fly over the cemetery at 10 a.m., weather permitting, and the legion has invited Richard Earley of the Veterans Administration regional office in Providence to deliver a guest speech. The most anticipated moment of the event is the unveiling of a new memorial for Vineyard veterans of the Viet Nam War.
The boulder, which was put in place last weekend, is simple and small. A gold plaque on its face reads, "Dedicated to the Men and Women of Martha's Vineyard Who Served in Viet Nam. All Gave Some, Some Gave All." The plaque lists the names of the four boys who lost their lives in the war - Daniel Bettencourt, Jon Grimmett, William Hagerty and John Painter.
Jo Ann Murphy, the Dukes County veterans agent, explained that the legion has been thinking of putting up a memorial since the fall and had hoped to have it ready by Veterans Day. When it was not, Memorial Day was an obvious next choice. "Memorial Day is the day we remember all of our veterans," she said. "Especially the ones that lost their lives."
Mr. Colligan told the families of the deceased soldiers about the memorial earlier in the week and invited them to attend the ceremony. Jean Hagerty, Mr. Hagerty's mother, is 91. She plans to attend as does her daughter who is making the trip from Connecticut. "It's a nice idea to do it," she said. "It's nice that they have all the boys' names." Renee Ortiz, the Island's first widow of Viet Nam, who lost Mr. Grimmett, her husband of six months, is also planning to attend. "I'm very delighted that they're doing something for the guys and I'm going to go honor them," she said
Ms. Murphy stressed the importance of taking time this weekend to honor the men and women both on the Island and off who have fought to defend this country. "We tend to forget," she said. "There are six Island boys in Iraq right now and three more are anticipating going in the next three months. That's a lot from here. This hits you that this is America. We're free because of these people who gave their lives."