Tivoli Day was about shopping and strolling and talking and eating and shopping and eating. People couldn't avoid the shopping and the eating. How could they when neon pink signs screamed from the sidewalk about $4 T-shirts and $10 sweatshirts, when the smell of hot dogs and fried foods dogged them from one end of Circuit avenue to the other. Everyone seemed to have a bag over one arm and a grease-stained cardboard food box in hand.
Saturday was a great day for the annual Oak Bluffs street fair. It was good just to get out into the sun and open air, to take a walk on the usually car-filled Circuit avenue. People began arriving before noon, even as vendors were putting the final touches on their displays. Many businesses set up outside their stores, with racks of clothing or tables of jewelry and other wares. Up and down the street it was the same: 50 per cent off, everything on sale.
At the upper end of the street, Anne DeBettencourt had located herself under a tent, where she spread photo albums and other scrapbook-making supplies. The day was an anniversary of sorts, as she launched her business, Creative Memories, at Tivoli Day three years ago.
"The summer was always so busy," she said. "I kept putting it off. Finally I got it together and just said I had to do it. And the time of year - it was the right time to get going, and a good place to get started."
She also had signs advertising her future workshops. "Right now my passion is getting parents to do heritage albums. So often we see photos and think, ‘If only I knew the story.' It's a thrill to see and to help people remember the past.
"I always like it here," she said. "It's not as much about selling. It's more about exposure and meeting people."
Which was happening all over the place. Tara Bright, of Martha's Vineyard Bath and Body, stood beside her tall, narrow cabinet filled with bottles of perfumed oils. She chatted with a customer about their backgrounds as the woman sniffed and compared various scents. Their encounter ended with introductions and shaking of hands.
Afterward, Ms. Bright said, "I enjoy this so much. I've seen her for years before, but she's never been in the store. It's like that here - you get to meet a lot of people and see people you don't during the season. It's the last big thing to do."
Across from Ms. Bright, people signed up for time slots to receive a chair massage from The Strimling Center for Therapeutic Massage. One relaxed man already was stretched out on a table.
Down the way, three girls played their violins, drawing attention to the effort to raise money for the Martha's Vineyard High School Youth Orchestra's Italy 2002 performance tour. They had laid their open cases at their feet, true street performers, hoping for people to cast a supportive dollar their way. They also sold tickets for a raffle, although they weren't the only ones with that idea. Among other volunteers and other causes, the Friends of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging were raffling off a beautiful patchwork quilt.
Signs of patriotism were everywhere. They came in the form of flags in store windows, flag T-shirts, neckties and pins and a general abundance of red, white and blue.
Jim Ziobro from Rochester stood on the sidewalk in front of Mad Martha's in a star-spangled neckerchief and with a flag sticking out of his blue backpack. He scanned the crowd. "We came over for the day," he said. "We come every year. Just for Tivoli Day. It's always been a beautiful day, for at least four or five years now, I don't know what it is." He shaded his eyes. "My wife likes the bargains, likes to shop. So we get here early and stay most of the day."
The center of things was in front of post office square, where Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played a set later in the afternoon. People bought snacks - barbecue chicken, fried calimari and sauerkraut-covered hot dogs - and sat on the sidewalks and leaned against storefronts to listen. A thick circle also formed around the band, and a few less inhibited listeners really let loose. On the outer edge of the audience, Patty Ross, visiting from California, half-danced with her husband and friends.
"We thought there would be more local artists, but this has been great," she said, indicating the band. "Good food, and we are amazed at the people's politeness. Everyone is so nice. They laugh and talk with you. It's been fun."
The band finished their set and the street seemed suddenly very quiet. Several people rushed up to buy CDs. Behind the band, Red Cross volunteers had been collecting donations for disaster relief all day.
"Johnny Hoy has been so great," volunteer Lorraine Eldridge said. "He's been announcing us every 20 minutes, and people just come in droves.
"They'll put 50-dollar bills in, and little kids give us their change. Everyone has been unbelievably generous."
A man called out from his nearby seat on the granite ledge, behind where the band had been playing. "You tell everybody Hamburger said Johnny Hoy was great and the festivities were - what do you say about these things?"
"Extraordinary," his seatmate said.
"Exactly. Extraordinary," Hamburger said.