The Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust received an extraordinary financial boost from contributors participating in the 18th annual Taste of the Vineyard on Thursday and the Patrons Party and Auction on Saturday night. As of yesterday the preservation trust reported income of $170,000 from both events after expenses.
Plenty of good food was consumed and much needed money was brought into the preservation trust coffers. Auctioneer Clarence (Trip) Barnes 3rd was the evening's instigator of generosity, and, as it turned out, the top contributor to the auction. By offering three magical mystery "tell all" bus tours of Chappaquiddick, Mr. Barnes raised $33,000 for the nonprofit organization. It was the finale, the last of 30 items auctioned, and the audience cheered when Mr. Barnes agreed to not only do one for $11,000 but to do two more for the top bidders.
"If it wasn't for the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust," Mr. Barnes said at the start of Saturday night's auction, "Alley's General Store would be a Cumberland Farms and the Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown would be a high-end mobile home park."
More than 300 people enjoyed Mr. Barnes' antics. Chris Scott, executive director of the trust, stood on stage with Mr. Barnes and at one time whipped out a 45-pound striped bass to coax the bidding higher on a great fall fishing trip.
On Thursday, 70 vendors offered a variety of tasty tidbits at the Taste of the Vineyard gourmet stroll. Tables dressed in white were loaded down with dishes, from raw oysters and salmon to world class cheeses and hors d'oeuvres, from micro-brewed beer and local wine to a wide variety of sodas and Italian waters.
Jerry Bennett and the Sultans of Swing, an Island five-piece brass horn band, provided dancing music. The whole event took place on the grounds of the Old Whaling Church and the Daniel Fisher House, and it continued well into the evening.
Five hundred tickets were sold out days in advance for the Thursday affair, a traditional launching of the summer social season. Even though skies overhead threatened rain, under the large white tents faces were shining.
These two events are a central part of the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust's fund-raising work. The trust owns 12 historic buildings, all of them signature buildings tying the Island's present to its past. The buildings are accessible to the public, all of them get intense use during the course of the year and all of them are expensive to maintain. The trust has an annual operating budget of $1 million. Mr. Scott told the Gazette the Taste of the Vineyard plays a significant part in meeting the expenses associated with the care of the buildings.
Mr. Scott said the trust sets a goal of trying to reach between $150,000 and $200,000 from the two evenings. This year's net income after expenses of approximately $170,000 compares well to last year's. "Last year we had a $34,000 for a Thunderbird," Mr. Scott said. "But then we didn't have a Magical Mystery Tour."
The trust gets no federal or state funding for its work.
Last year, Mr. Scott said, the trust spent $300,000 on repairs; $50,000 on insurance, $45,000 on utilities and oil and gas. "I could keep going," Mr. Scott said.
The dollar price for riding a horse at the Flying Horses hasn't change since 1986. Even though the ridership of about 200,000 happy children is a significant number from year to year, the cost of maintaining and operating the nation's oldest carousel exceeds the income.
Last year the preservation trust acquired two additional properties: Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs and the Marshall Farm on Chappaquiddick.
At the Union Chapel, Mr. Scott said, the trust has already spent $11,000 to upgrade the electric wiring and install a fire protection alarm system in the building. "With the rise in concern over the Warwick, R.I., fire, it is important for us to have exits properly marked and a fire alarm inside," Mr. Scott said.
There is a new yellow pine stage in the chapel and the old green shag carpeting has been replaced. Add significant painting and the trust has already spent $50,000 on that building, purchased initially for a dollar.
At the Marshall Farm on Chappaquiddick, the trust in conjunction with the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank is doing a major restoration of the house, at a cost of some $200,000. "We plan on renting the house to an Island couple and have them do light agriculture," Mr. Scott said.
There was another big expense this past year. "We took over management of Alley's General Store from the Wampanoag tribe," Mr. Scott said. "We brought back the two popular and well respected managers, Jack MacKay and Spencer Booker, and we purchased the tribe's assets [inventory] for $75,000," he said.
Mr. Scott said last year's winter was brutal for managers of historic buildings. "We spent a lot on snow removal alone. We had our share of frozen pipes," he said.
All the buildings owned by the preservation trust get plenty of use. The Grange, the former agricultural society hall, is used upstairs and downstairs. In Vineyard Haven the Nathan Mayhew Schoolhouse is used by Sail Martha's Vineyard."For years I've wanted to know the numbers of people that have used all of our buildings," Mr. Scott said.
In just the last few days the Old Whaling Church has been used for graduation ceremonies by the Edgartown School, the Montessori School and Rainbow Place nursery school. The building is used for town meetings and for holiday concerts including the Minnesingers in December.
The Old Whaling Church and the Fisher House are used for weddings, too. Mr. Scott said: "Every one of our buildings is being used as it was originally intended."
And now the staff of four looks ahead to the next big events sponsored by the preservation trust. The first is the Fourth of July Barbecue from 4 to 8 p.m. on the lawns of the Old Whaling Church. A Taste of Summer is Monday, July 28, at The Grange Hall and runs from 5 to 8 p.m.