This Fourth of July parade was clearly the biggest. Last night's fireworks were vivid and colorful. And those words can also be used to describe a parade that was so large that it took nearly two hours to run its course.

Edgartown fire chief Tony Bettencourt said: "It was absolutely the largest. It was incredible."

It was so long that public safety officials reported the front of the parade got stuck for moments because it ran into the end of the parade at Main street.

Edgartown selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr. was the grand marshal and in order to stage the dozens of floats he traveled around the Edgartown School parking lot in a golf cart.

Thirteen-year-old Colby Greenaway of Oak Bluffs said that since Sept. 11 he felt that this was the most patriotic parade. Mr. Greenaway, a Boy Scout in troop 93, was joined by two fellow scouts. They marched carrying flags.

Bill Nicholson of Oak Bluffs was dressed as a Civil War soldier. He wore a 130-year-old Grand Army of the Republic hat. "You know what it comes down to? It comes down to pride in being an American. This reminds us of the value of democracy, the value of our freedom. That is why I am walking."

It was a patriotic afternoon in Edgartown that began with 25 members of the Baystate Band from New Bedford playing in the old Whaling Church on Main street.

After they finished performing, there was a small Fourth of July barbecue on the grounds next to the church.

Across the street, Celia Basque of Edgartown was selling lobster rolls as part of St. Elizabeth's Church annual Fourth of July luncheon.

Bill McGrath of Oak Bluffs, an organizer of the luncheon, said they sold 400 lobster rolls in a few hours, a record. "Yeah, there are a lot more people around," he said.

By the time the parade started, it was clear that both the size of the parade and the size of the crowd will go down in the record books.

"Be Proud to Be An American" was written on the side of one float pulled by a 1946 red tractor. Its operator was Jerry MacKenty, assisted by his son Bill. On the other side of the red, white and blue float were the words: "Remember and Be Proud."

Even the Pimpney Mouse Farm float carried the patriotic theme. A large mouse stood on a surfboard dressed in red, white and blue. Kevin Keady the driver called the float "Surfer Mouse."

Jane Alexander, 12, of Vineyard Haven, rode in the Sail Martha's Vineyard float. Sail Martha's Vineyard is one of the many Island nonprofits participating in the parade. It is an organization committed to putting local kids on sailboats with free lessons. "I think this parade means a lot more since 9/11. We are much more patriotic, especially when we remember the families who lost loved ones in September," she said.

Sail Martha's Vineyard won the best float award.

The most timely float in the parade was put together by the members of the Edgartown Fire Department. Chief Bettencourt came up with the idea - a reenactment of that poignant moment after the World Trade Center tragedy when three firemen erected an American flag on a bent pole.

"This is in respect for our fallen brothers in New York city," said Sam Koohy, one of the three firemen holding the flag. The other two firemen participating were Becky Brown and Brian Searle. Chief Bettencourt said of the Trade Center tragedy: "It is just as tragic today as it was when it happened. We don't want it forgotten."

During the parade, Miss Brown said she noticed people crying when they saw the float move slowly along the parade route. "I had people come up and thank us for doing this," she said.

Dennis Alley, fire chief in Oak Bluffs, marched with his men. "We lost brothers on Sept. 11. I would hope that everyone would step back a moment and think how precious our freedom is for us. The loss of the towers should remind us of the importance of this day."

For the seventh year in a row, Camp Jabberwocky won the grand award. Campers and camp counselors teamed up to bring Alice in Wonderland on the road. Helen Lamb, the founder of the camp, dressed as a queen and was carried by a handsome team of men. She was surrounded by her court. Some of the campers were dressed to look like the cards in a deck. There were clubs, spades and hearts. Some of the marchers were dressed as fairies.

The Camp Jabberwocky float carried a banner reminding crowds that this is the camp's 50th summer. As in the past, the campers were preceded by Rick Bausman's drummers.

A big float in the parade was Houses on the Move, a nonprofit organization committed to providing affordable housing to Island residents in need. There were a number of floats with little houses on wheels.

The Martha's Vineyard Boys' and Girls' Club float included a portion of a basketball court. Youngsters tried to sink baskets as the float rolled up North Water street.

Plenty of old cars participated. Russ Oasis of Edgartown rode in his 1961 Ford, a replica of Sheriff Taylor's police car in the Andy Griffith Show.

"People are really into this," said Dick Pratt of Edgartown. He was towing a race car, a 2002 Pontiac Trans Am.

The largest float in the parade carried a simple message. T.J. Hegarty, the Dukes County rodent control officer, drove a truck carrying a huge, air inflated rat holding the sign: "Rats or Us."

The most original float award went to a Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust float with a cow. Seated next to the cow was artist Ray Ellis, 81, of Edgartown.

The regional high school varsity hockey team had their own float. The banner read: "State Champions."

The Edgartown Parks Department lifeguards were well represented. More than a dozen of the town's physically fit lifeguards were dressed more for the beach than the parade.

The Vineyard Haven town band rode in a small version of the original Chappaquiddick On Time ferry.

Members of the Martha's Vineyard Bug Club, a Volkswagen owners club, participated for the first time in the parade.

Ann Smith, of Hollywood, Calif., came to Edgartown to observe the holiday with her sister, Betty Grier, and other members of their family. She said her family was appreciative of the thoughtfulness of people on this day. While this was their first visit to Edgartown, it was a wonderful experience. "Freedom is precious. As an American you can live freely," she said.

Houses along Fuller, North Water and Main streets were extensively decorated with flags and banners. The Hob Knob Inn had 14 flags in the front, the largest hanging from a pole.

After the parade, Chief Bettencourt said of the event: "It really seemed as though people were more appreciative."

"We don't have parades like this in Kansas City," said Karl Kipke of that city. Mr. Kipke spoke to his wife and two children. And they all nodded in agreement.