They mingled on car-free Main street. They munched on fried dough and cotton candy. They rummaged through clothing racks looking for bargains. They did all the lively things the sardine-like crowd traditionally does at the annual Tisbury Street Fair, even if they did it a day late. A forecast of rain led selectmen to postpone the event to one day after the town’s birthday, July 8.
Still, by 6:30 Thursday night, Main street, Vineyard Haven, was a swarm of people passing through, making rounds to their favorite stands and listening to bluegrass music as they stood in lines wrapped around corners to try the specialty dishes of Island restaurants.
“We’re selling a lot of warm coffee instead of iced coffee,” said Tim Dobel of Mocha Mott’s, who said he’d been doing street fairs for more than 30 years, most of them in warmer conditions. “The weather tonight is nice, though,” he added. “It’s nice to see Tisbury hopping.”
Some held their children’s hands while other hands juggled shopping bags, balloons and sweets. The crowd flocked to clothing stands and fund-raising booths before turning the corner on to Union Street where there were activities such as a rock-climbing wall and face painting.
The Tisbury fire trucks blocked off the ends of Main Street. Firefighter Joe Tierney said he was running into people he doesn’t otherwise see all summer. “Plus, you get to sell a lot of T-shirts,” he winked.
After operating the traffic of the event for 25 years, Mr. Tierney said, “I’m pretty good at it.”
Firefighter Gary Sylvia, whose wife coordinated the event, said, “Security . . . it just seems to work out. We’ve been doing it so many years, it all comes together.
“The vendor count is up from the last couple of years,” he added.
Island groups who set up booths seemed to agree the fair brought out the usual turnout, even if the revellers did not spend as much.
“We’ve been slow, but steady,” said Sarah Gillig of Island Alpaca. “A lot of people aren’t really coming to buy, they’re coming to look.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council offered a petition to stop nuclear weapons. Cochairman Alden Bessie said he believed the turnout was about the same as last year’s street fair, though “people here are holding on to their money a little more than last year.”
“But they’re signing the petition,” added Carol DiBernardo, another member of the peace council.
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Minnesingers sang to raise money. The Rainbow Place Preschool raised money by letting passersby decorate Frisbees. Yet another fundraiser many jumped at was the chance to take three shots to earn cash for the MV Hoops Club, a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School basketball team, sponsored by the Rotary Club.
At another booth, youngsters Megan Zeilinger and Abbie Lively were shouting with glee: “Bean bag toss! Win a prize every time!”
Megan said the best part of the fair for her was yelling out their phrase; Abbie’s favorite part was “giving people their prizes.”
People stopped at familiar stands to peruse new products and talk with old friends. And to eat familiar fair foods: lobster rolls, scallops, clam chowder, Cajun shrimp, curry peanut chicken, barbecued chicken, iced coffee, snow cones, ice cream, donuts, cup cakes and funnel cakes among them.
“Just hungry,” is why Vanessa Mathews came to the street fair. “I just got out of work at five.” She said she would probably stop in at her favorite store, Imagine: “I walk in that store just to feel the ambiance . . . It’s a very relaxing place.”
Laurie Peter said she was taking someone to the boat when she noticed the fair booths going up. “So I also got dessert.”
The mobs in the street were decked out vibrantly. Some children wore lobster hats, others elaborate face paint. A decadent mermaid perched outside of Bunch of Grapes Bookstore sat next to Margot Datz, author of A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids, drawing a swooning crowd. Between autographs, Ms. Datz said, “It’s amazing, this year is my second year and they’re coming back!”
At Island Music, owners Edwin and Lea Griggs had a piano going. “We’re just glad to have a display here so everybody realizes we’ve moved from Oak Bluffs,” Mrs. Griggs said.
“We love the Street Fair,” said Tracy Jones of the Tisbury Ambulance Association. “It’s our one and only way of raising money for the ambulance association.
“[The weather] hasn’t appeared to have affected the turnout this year,” she said. “The turnout’s been wonderful.”
Matt Montanile, another member of the Tisbury Ambulance Association chimed in, “It’s a load of fun ... It seemed just as packed as normal.”
Catherine Robinson, an Island visitor from Brooklyn, N.Y has been coming for the past five years. Why? “Just the fun!”