The ferries are full, the weekend forecast bursting with good news — even the weather forecast is good for Memorial Day.
And the fishing is even better. Reports of mackerel, bluefish and bass have spawned the sight of light tackle rigs in pickup trucks. Ace fisherman Janet Messineo hooked a 23-inch striper last week.
Most businessmen are optimistic about the season, although optimism is a word usually replaced by the phrase “let’s wait and see.”
Giddy or not, Islanders will observe Memorial Day traditions that also mark summer’s arrival.
School children in Edgartown and Tisbury will march to the sea today to toss flowers into the harbor to honor military veterans who were lost at sea.
The Edgartown procession begins at the Edgartown school at 1 p.m., ending at Memorial Wharf.
The Tisbury school begins its ceremony at 12:30 p.m., when they will march to the Vineyard Haven harbor.
This morning Oak Bluffs school children will receive a tutorial on flag folding from the 102nd intelligence wing from Otis Air Force base in Bourne.
And at 10 a.m. members of the Chilmark historical society will gather at Beetlebung Corner to dedicate a plaque to Chilmark veterans.
Early Monday morning Jo Ann Murphy, county veterans affairs officer and veterans and their families will line the Avenue of Flags in Vineyard Haven with 415 flags in preparation for the Memorial Day parade which steps off at 9:30 a.m. from the American Legion post across from the Tisbury School.
Parade participants from the boys’ and girls’ club, police and fire departments, the ladies auxiliary and a contingent from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Menemsha will walk the half mile to Oak Grove Cemetery.
As a Blackhawk helicopter from Otis Air Force base in Falmouth flies over the cemetery, bagpiper Tony Peak will play Amazing Grace before remarks by Joseph C. Carter, adjutant general for the Massachusetts Army National Guard and former Oak Bluffs police chief.
And on Monday afternoon the Tisbury town picnic at Lake Tashmoo will celebrate its 30th year.
Despite lingering fears about the economy, work force availability and gasoline prices, the mood is decidedly upbeat.
“Visitors have seen the forecast and our phones are ringing off the hook today,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday afternoon. “Tourists, including a large number of international travelers, are literally walking off the boat and into our offices today, asking for accommodations. We’ve canvassed 60 members and room reservations are generally 11 to 20 per cent ahead of last year,” she said.
Island businesses are handling a thin labor force with good humor.
“Tips for old age home. The college kids arrive next week,” declares the sign on the tip jar at MV Gourmet Cafe and Bakery in Oak Bluffs. Janice Casey and co-owner Rita Brown were happy. “I think it will be a good season, we’ve already had six wedding cake tastings,” Ms. Brown said.
Later in the afternoon, Oak Bluffs resident Maureen Gallagher, instantly became the most popular person on Circuit avenue when she asked Alex McCluskey and Todd Rebello for advice on getting jobs for two summer college graduates
Both stopped chatting with a reporter in front of The Locker Room to direct Ms. Gallagher to their personnel manager.
“What about housing,” she asked?
“Oh,” said Mr. McCluskey, “that’s tough”.
Tightening of visa laws has created less availability of foreign-born workers.
At the Vineyard Transit Authority, general manager Angie Grant is looking at life differently this summer.
“I’ll be driving [a bus] on Monday,” she smiled. “We’ll be okay, but July and August will be tough. I’m hiring more part-timers to cover shifts that used to be full time and my overtime will be up $150,000 to $200,000 this summer. But people are counting on us. We have to deliver good transportation,” she said.
A visit to the Steamship Authority Web site showed no vehicle availability on incoming ferries between Wednesday afternoon and Saturday night and slim pickings after that. Even Islanders with preferred status report they are struggling to get a car on the Island this weekend.
“It’s a fluid situation,” said SSA general manager Wayne Lamson yesterday. “For example, right now there are a few early spots available on Friday morning.” He advises travelers to monitor the Web site for openings; phone lines will be open from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. this weekend. The Oak Bluffs terminal is open.
“Overall, we’re on par with last year right through the season. We’ll move 6,000 to 7,000 people a day this weekend and 10,000 will leave on Monday,” Mr. Lamson said.
The Martha’s Vineyard Airport has a similar story.
”It’s gangbusters. We’re adding sections to scheduled flights and bringing planes in from other markets. We may be at last year’s levels already,” said Michelle Haynes, director of communications for Cape Air.
“People have been coming to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for how long? They’ll find a way to get here,” she said.
In West Tisbury, visitors rocked in the afternoon sun on the bench swing outside Alley’s general store. Inside, manager Rhonda Backus pointed to browsers.
“There are people in here today that I don’t know, finally,” she smiled.