The lilacs are in full bloom and the air smells like summer. Memorial Day weekend is here. The American flags are posted. The flowers boxes are decorated. This is an early such weekend for a community that years ago used to end the month with the national holiday. And yes, there will be more than one parade.

Memorial Day weekend begins today with Tisbury School students' March to the Sea, as schoolchildren from kindergarten to fifth grade parade to Owen Park carrying flowers. Trumpeters James O'Donnell and Michael Cecilio, both seventh graders, will play Taps, and the Tisbury elementary school band will perform.

A similar parade takes place in Edgartown, where students will leave the school carrying flags and flowers at 1 p.m. They will march down to Memorial Wharf and the school band will perform. A total of 48 seventh graders will in unison recite the Gettysburg Address. There will be speeches and then students will throw their flowers into the harbor to commemorate those who have died in the struggle for freedom.

Students at the Oak Bluffs elementary school will meet veterans Arthur Dickson, Jim Dorsey and Mev Goode, who will speak briefly on the holiday's significance to them.

There still remains a shortage of American flags in the country. Participants who show up Monday morning to see the Avenue of Flags at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven will see 330 flags flying along the road. Ed Colligan, who has worked on the display for years, said this week that they'd put up an additional 36 flags if they could get them.

"They are back-ordered," he said. Ever since Sept. 11, he hasn't been able to get additional flags.

Mr. Colligan said they need volunteers to help put up the flags. They will gather at the cemetery at 7:30 a.m.

While Edgartown is this year's parade host, there will be a small parade in Vineyard Haven.

The Vineyard Haven parade starts at 9 a.m., when veterans begin their march from the American Legion Hall to Oak Grove Cemetery for a brief ceremony.

The veterans and participating young and old will gather at 10:45 a.m. in front of Edgartown town hall for the long Memorial Day parade. Commander Al Noyes of American Legion Post 186 said he plans to begin the parade around 11:15 a.m., but will be waiting for the arrival of the Colonial Navy Band from Fall River, which is traveling to the Vineyard via the Schamonchi.

The Navy band is already a local favorite, for there are always a few in the parade carrying - and firing - old-fashioned muskets. The loud sound will be heard throughout the town.

Rev. Robert Edmunds of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church will give a prayer at the memorial stone. The parade will then march up Main street, the wrong way, to the county courthouse for a ceremony and the placing of a wreath at the monuments commemorating World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars.

The parade then continues up Main street, where it will stop at the World War I veterans monument at Pease's Point Way. They will then march to Memorial Park - now observing its 101st year - which was built as a reminder of those who gave their lives and served in the Civil War. The parade will then go back on Cooke street and march to the cemetery where a wreath will be put at the Unknown Soldier's grave. They will then march back down to town hall to disperse.

Mr. Noyes said that the whole march may take as much as 75 minutes. "This is the longest parade on the Island," he said.

This Memorial Day parade will have added significance to a lot of people. Mr. Noyes said: "We are in a declared war. I think a lot of people have forgotten this fact. War is a bad thing.

"And with this war," he said, referring to Sept. 11, "this is the worse thing to have ever happened to us."

Memorial Day weekend is an opening to the season. There are all kinds of sales. Felix Neck Wildlife is holding their annual plant sale tomorrow, and the Martha's Vineyard NAACP is holding a yard sale at 34 Nashawena Park in Oak Bluffs. There is also a Furniture and Home Furnishings Expo at the Grange in West Tisbury.

This is a weekend of entertainment, too. Folk singer Cindy Kallet is playing at the Edgartown Whaling Church, storyteller Susan Klein is presenting a program at the Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven and there is dancing at The Yard.

On Sunday there is a five-kilometer road race in Oak Bluffs to benefit Hospice of Martha's Vineyard.

One Island fishing tackle shop, Dick's Bait and Tackle Shop, in Oak Bluffs, is holding its 10th annual Memorial Day weekend striped bass and bluefish contest.

The harbors are starting to fill up as well. Menemsha harbor is hosting 24 boats from the New Bedford Yacht Club.

While everyone should have fun this weekend, there is a warning to all automobile drivers at night. Local and state police plan to step up their patrolling for misuse of alcohol. The Edgartown police department received an $8,400 grant from the governor's highway safety bureau to cover additional traffic and alcohol enforcement.

Police officer David Rossi told the Gazette yesterday the funding is to specifically combat underage drinking and help with traffic enforcement. "They specifically want us to concentrate on the seat-belt issue," he said.

If you are thinking that Memorial Day weekend is early this year, wait until you see Labor Day, which falls this year on Monday, Sept. 2.