Vineyard Braces for Holiday

With Fourth of July falling in the middle of this coming week, predictions about when the great surge of holiday visitors will reach the Island are as uncertain as forecasting Vineyard weather. Everyone speculates, but it's a matter of wait-and-see.

With American flags and banners waving in gentle breezes from homes and businesses this week, Islanders appear ready for the coming of the holiday that unofficially opens the high summer season.

Innkeepers, restaurant managers and other business owners received hints about travel plans of Vineyard-bound visitors through reservations. And the verdict is: There is no clear pattern.

Derek Tipton, general manager of Island Inn in Oak Bluffs, shows logs of a slow midweek and a heavy second weekend. "It's a little lighter on the first part of the week," he said.

But Marjorie Edwards in reservations at the Edgartown Harborside Inn said both of her weekends are booked, with people staying over until Tuesday or Wednesday from the first weekend.

Others use the power of positive thinking and hope for a rush through the week.

"Ideally the first group will come on Friday and stay the rest of the week," said Stuart Myers, manager of David Ryan's Restaurant and Cafe in Edgartown.

But week-long Independence Day holidays are a trend of the past, according to some business owners, even if the holiday falls in the middle of the week.

"Very rarely do people take a full week. When it falls on a Wednesday, it's bad news," said Bud Raymond, manager of Zephrus restaurant at the Tisbury Inn. Mr. Raymond notices the bulk of his holiday traffic reservations are tied to the first weekend.

Bob Wilcoxson, manager of Cutler Bikes in Edgartown, said that this holiday is a guessing game. "You just don't know what day people will get off for the holiday. Some might get a Friday or Monday to tag on to a weekend," he said, noting that reservations have been coming in for both weekends.

Amy Coffey, office manager for Mad Max sailing cruises in Edgartown, said they are running nearly full catamaran trips right now. And the phone rang off the wall this week to secure spots on cruises during both weekends. The Independence Day fireworks cruise is almost sold out.

Cape Air reports heavy bookings in the days ahead. Passenger numbers for the first weekend are running ahead of reservations for the following weekend. Not many vacationers are flying in during the week, according to Colin Ewing, station manager for Cape Air.

One major difference Mr. Ewing noticed this season is the surge in passengers using Providence instead of Boston as a launching pad for commuter flights to the Vineyard.

"The word is out that Logan is not the best place to go through. Providence has all that they need," Mr. Ewing said. Cape Air responded with more service to and from Providence.

With murmurs about a soft Island economy this season, the business community shows some concern about the size of holiday crowds and the length of visitor stays.

"Last year was busier. I think the split weekend is the cause of it," Ms. Edwards said.

"It seems slow, but we say that every year. By August, we'll probably be saying it was a good season," Mr. Wilcoxson said.

Ms. Coffey said she is pleased by the number of reservations they've received so far.

Regardless of when visitors arrive and depart this holiday, Edgartown is gearing up in red, white and blue fashion for the annual parade and fireworks display.

"We're having the usual, just more of it," said Fred B. Morgan Jr., Edgartown selectman and master of ceremonies for the event. Floats, cars, fire trucks and veterans will take their typical spots in the parade march.

"It's not an Edgartown parade. It's an Island parade," Mr. Morgan said, extending a welcome to any and all Island residents and visitors.

In addition to the parade and fireworks display, the town will host two concerts in the Old Whaling Church during the day. The Bay State Band will perform at 2 p.m. Wednesday and the Vineyard Haven Band will begin at 7:30 that evening. The Edgartown fire department and the American Legion will offer refreshments to spectators and participants after the parade.

At nightfall, attention will turn to the waterfront along the Edgartown harbor for the grand fireworks display above the lighthouse.

"It ends up looking like stars over the harbor," Ms. Coffey remembered the harbor full of boats.

Everyone from police officers and retail workers to restaurant staff is prepared to pull double duty so guests may enjoy the best of the Island with ease.

"Enjoy what we have to offer, but be respectful of people who live here," said Lieut. David Roberts of the Oak Bluffs police department as a reminder to visiting crowds who are already here or are about to arrive for the long Fourth of July holiday ahead.