There will be plenty of boom in Friday night's Fourth of July fireworks. The Edgartown Firemen's Association is spending $25,000 or $5,000 more than a year ago.
The extra spending is a credit to the goodwill of the community, according to Walter D. Morrison, 52, president of the association. The money has come from many sources, from the sale of T-shirts at the foot of Main street in Edgartown to generous positive replies when the association did its appeal mailing.
There is plenty of reason to celebrate the holiday. The word is out.
Fred B. Morgan Jr., the marshal of this Friday's parade, is hearing the same thing. The celebration will be big, festive and fun. Mr. Morgan said he fully expects that this year's parade will be as big as last year's, being a Friday, and last year's parade was a record breaker.
"Last year was the biggest ever," Mr. Morgan said in a conversation with the Gazette this weekend. "Had we not stopped at the Whaling Church, we would have run into the tail end of the parade at Peases' Point Way."
The Fourth of July weekend is a defining moment that opens the Vineyard summer season. There is a lot of community in the way Islanders celebrate the birthday of their country. The celebrating begins with lobster rolls, served up fresh on the lawns of St. Elizabeth's Church on Main street from noon through the afternoon. At 2 p.m., the Colonial Navy Band performs in the courtyard of the Colonial Inn. They and the Bay State Band are devoting their day to helping the Vineyard celebrate the big holiday. The Colonial Band, its musicians playing spiritedly on flutes, fifes and drums, will be dressed up like 18th century musical sailors.
Coinciding with their performance on North Water street, the Bay State Band will perform in the Old Whaling Church for free. Outside, there will be an Independence Day barbecue on the grounds of the Whaling Church.
The parade assembles on the grounds of the Edgartown School on Robinson Road. Mr. Morgan has been involved in the parade for 33 years and organizing it for the past 20. He is a World War II veteran and plans to march in his Air Force uniform. Everything about the parade route will be the same as in past years, though Mr. Morgan is urging entrants in the parade to keep moving and to avoid unnecessary stops that will cut down the speed of the procession. "In my announcement I asked that we honor the Korean War veterans. This year is the 50th anniversary of the end of that war. I hope we can honor any of the veterans that have fought in Afghanistan or Iraq," Mr. Morgan said. "I am asking all Korean veterans to step out of the parade at the reviewing stand and watch the remainder of the parade," he said. The reviewing stand is in front of the Old Whaling Church.
Look for parade favorites. Camp Jabberwocky usually places well when it comes to the prizes handed out after the parade. This year is their 50th and the idea of the campers earning a float prize is being talked up. "This year there will be three prizes: best float, most patriotic and most original," Mr. Morgan said.
Edgartown fire chief Tony Bettencourt said he has heard that participation in this year's parade will be great. "People want to get out, join in," he said.
Mr. Morgan has also spread a word of advice for entrants in the parade throwing candy. He is urging people to throw the candy up in the air and not directly at the crowd.
For those who haven't already noticed, the parade goes the wrong direction on North Water street and Main street. The parade leaves the Edgartown School at precisely 5 p.m. They head down the Edgartown West Tisbury Road to Peases' Point Way over to North Water street by the Harbor View and then to Main street, up Main street where it disbands beyond the Old Whaling Church.
At 7:30 p.m. the Old Whaling Church will echo with patriotic music again as the Vineyard Haven Band presents a free performance.
As the sky grows dark, the Edgartown fire department, with the help of many, shifts to prepare for the night of fireworks. Fireworks are fired from a barge moored near the Edgartown Lighthouse. The location allows for great views from anywhere on the Edgartown waterfront.
The fireworks show is being presented by CR Pyro, the same company that provides the Oak Bluffs fireworks in August. They will shoot them from Algol 500, a 130-foot barge provided by Tisbury Towing and Transportation Inc. Their tugboat Sirius, captained by Paul Bangs will be assisting. Coinciding with this display, the same company is providing a barge for the Falmouth fireworks which are taking place at the same time but on Hydra 1200, a 160-foot barge. That barge will be towed by the Vineyard Haven tugboat Thuban, captained by Doc Engles.
"A lot of behind-the-scenes work is going into preparing for the fireworks," Mr. Morrison said. More than 60 volunteer firemen will be involved in seeing that all goes well. The show begins when it it is dark, usually sometime around or after 9 p.m. The rain date is Saturday, July 5.
Mr. Morrison said the success of this year's parade is clearly a cooperative effort of many people. "It is amazing to me how many people dig into their pockets to help out," Mr. Morrison said. The annual August firemen's auction also helps out.
The fire department is stepping up its presence on the water, following last year's serious holiday boating accident. The fire department has a new 21-foot Carolina skiff fitted with a 90-horsepower outboard that will be in the water and running. They'll be patrolling the waters with a full dive and rescue team. Safety is a big part of the holiday. West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury fire departments are providing mutual aid. "Putting on the fireworks on the Fourth of July is a whole Island effort," Mr. Morrison said.
Getting to the Vineyard goes hand in hand with the celebration of the nation's birthday.
Sean C. Flynn, assistant manager of the Martha's Vineyard Airport, said, "We treated last weekend as though it were a test." More than 70 personnel work at the airport, all involved in helping the visitors come and go. That includes all the air carriers and airport personnel. Thousands of people will pass through the airport in the days ahead. Mr. Flynn said the number of flights is significant, though changeover weekend in August is actually the busiest time of year. There are scheduled flights to the Vineyard from nearly all of the big cities in the Northeast. There will be scheduled flights coming in from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Providence, Manchester, LaGuardia and White Plains. To meet the needs of the traveling public, Mr. Flynn said the airport acquired three new pieces of equipment: a mini-bus and two eight-passenger golf carts. The vehicles will be used to shuttle people from their planes to and from the terminal.
Flights in and out of the airport begin at 7 a.m. and continue daily until 10 p.m.
There will be more security concerns at the Steamship Authority terminals and ferry slips this year. James Swindler, operations manager for the authority, reminds passengers to be prepared for random inspections of vehicles. "We will have security checks like we did on Memorial Day weekend," Mr. Swindler said, adding: "We don't anticipate any delay."
All nine ferries will be running, five for the Vineyard and four for Nantucket. The authority has between 700 and 800 personnel working through this busy period. "We've assigned additional personnel to do security checks," Mr. Swindler said. Passengers might be asked to produce photographic identification. As in the past, the public should be at the boat terminal half an hour before departure.
"I urge people with cars to tune in to 1610 on their AM radio for parking updates. Parking lots usually fill up as it gets closer to the Fourth," Mr. Swindler said.
From June 26 through July 8, the Steamship Authority is only accepting vehicles on the ferries that have a reservation. "We do try to get them on if they don't have a reservation," said Mr. Swindler, but in this busy stretch the boat line isn't making any promises.