The Fourth of July may not hit for another few days, but the heat already has been turned on in the kitchen.
The 10th annual Independence Day barbecue is set to start at 4 p.m. on the lawn of the Dr. Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown.
Yesterday morning, Fella Cecillo of Fella Caterers was on the phone ordering the event's traditional American fare. At the barbecue last year, he and his wife Jane flipped 500 burgers, grilled 420 dogs and deep-fried 210 pounds of French fries. They expect nothing less on Wednesday, the day on which the Fourth falls this year.
In fact, with the national holiday landing in the middle of the week, Vineyard businesses this year are expecting more - possibly a lot more.
Rather than losing a long holiday weekend, the Island seems poised to launch its high season by plunging into a long holiday week.
Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, reportst that calls, e-mails and requests for information from the chamber are up more than 28 per cent from this time last year, she reported.
"Anecdotally it looks good," she said. "I've talked to several innkeepers in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury and all are reporting that they are sold out or nearly sold out. I think people are ready to take a break and vacation."
Edgartown police lieutenant Tony Bettencourt said his department is bracing for a busy stretch.
"We have extra patrols on starting today and continuing through next week," Lieutenant Bettencourt said. "On the Fourth, the whole force is on. We're expecting a week-long event."
Advance numbers at the Steamship Authority seem to give credence to the scenario in which visitors arrive this weekend and don't leave.
"It's looking busy Saturday and Sunday going over, but we're not seeing large numbers of people coming back," Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said. "People are staying for a week or two weeks or for the summer."
Ferries are booked solid coming to the Island on both weekends, but there is a lot of space available during the week, especially on the Fourth of July.
Figures calculated at the end of May and extending through July show that the Steamship Authority is off 0.8 per cent from last year on traffic going from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard. Looking ahead to August, reservations are up 5.6 per cent.
Sean Flynn, manager at the Martha's Vineyard Airport, predicts heavy traffic, but beyond that, does not know what to expect.
"It's hard to figure out because the holiday falls on a Wednesday," Mr. Flynn said.
He assumes that this weekend will be the busy one, with people coming to the Island on Friday and Saturday. The airport has prepared with a full summer staff and through fuel reservations made in advance.
"We will prepare for the maximum and what shows up, shows up," Mr. Flynn said.
Room reservations have been in high demand.
Paul Weiss, co-owner of the 10-room Shiverick Inn in Edgartown, yesterday reported that a last-minute cancellation has resulted in the only available room this coming weekend, a room he expected to fill. As of yesterday, the inn was booked solid for next week, with two rooms available for the following weekend.
"That's life in the fast lane," Mr. Weiss said. "We hope everyone else reports similarly."
Across the Island, restaurants, ice cream parlors and bars are gearing up for nine days of hustle and bustle.
"We're getting ready, 'cause we're gonna get killed," T.J McManus, manager of Espresso Love in Edgartown said earlier this week.
The cafe is welcoming the crowds with their special presidential muffins, a gluttonous combination of cream cheese, strawberries and blueberries, which satisfy the belly but challenge the waistline.
Pete Smith, executive chef at Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs, is also bringing out the red, white and blue to celebrate the country's birthday.
Last year he concocted an Independence Day salad of blueberries, strawberries and Chevre goat cheese atop a bed of greens and drizzled with the restaurant's signature balsamic vinaigrette. He is planning something similar for this year.
"I find out what I can get and bounce ideas off the guys back here," he said, nodding in the direction of the kitchen.
If the day is hot, get thee to Mad Martha's, where creamy gallons of their special July Fourth ice cream - Red, White and Blueberry - will be waiting to please. The vanilla-based treat has swirls of red raspberries and whole blueberries mixed in, but should not be confused with Carousel Ice Cream's special flavor, Blueberry Pie.
And even though some will have to roll out of bed the following morning for work, Island hot spots are not prepared to slow the pace down once night falls.
To keep the heat down on the dance floor, bartenders at The Island House in Oak Bluffs will be serving up cool watermelon martinis. Down at the harbor, Sandbar bar manager Brian Wilson promises strawberry daiquiris, pina coladas and has Wachusset blueberry ale on tap, which is not blue, but will do the trick.
Organizers of the traditional Independence Day celebrations have been preparing for the holiday.
The Edgartown Board of Trade, which took over organizing the fireworks last year, will start selling original T-shirts tomorrow. The shirts, with an illustration by Edgartown artist Dana Gaines, will be on sale starting tomorrow and running through Wednesday in the mini-park on Main Street from noon to 5 p.m. Proceeds will go towards the fireworks.
"Every little bit helps," said board secretary Christina Cook of Christina Gallery.
Edgartown's Fourth of July parade is set to start promptly at 5 p.m. with roads heading downtown closing at 4:30 p.m.
Fred (Ted) Morgan Jr., who has been the parade marshal since 1969, is looking forward to what he considers the event that starts the season. "Small town patriotic parades bring people out," he said.
Old parade favorites like Camp Jabberwocky and the Colonial Navy will march as will new additions like the women's softball team. After the parade, head over to the Edgartown lighthouse to catch the fireworks once the sun goes down.
As the holiday nears, get out the beach towels and buy the extra charcoal, but be prepared to exercise your patience. It is going to be one busy week.