Everything about this Fourth of July was huge. The parade was colorful and long, the fireworks overhead were grand and the crowds in downtown Edgartown were phenomenally large.
"I don't think this town has ever seen so much traffic and people. I never saw so many people along the parade route," said Fred B. Morgan Jr., parade marshal. Everything about the past weekend suited the Vineyard community. Even the sailors were happy with the wind.
The parade was so long, Mr. Morgan is already thinking about ways to tighten up for next year. For those standing anywhere along the three-mile parade route, the show took at least an hour. The parade started with more than 30 Island veterans dressed in their original uniforms. The eldest marchers represented World War II, and a few were driven in open convertibles.
The youngest veteran to join the Independence Day parade was Reid Brown, 25, of Edgartown.
Mr. Brown served the Navy for five years and finished on June 15. He was dressed in whites from top to toe. "This is my first time in a parade as a veteran. It makes me very proud," Mr. Brown said. He served on the 833-foot aircraft carrier USS Saipan out of Norfolk.
Patriotism was a familiar theme throughout the more than mile-long parade. David Pritchard of Edgartown, dressed in red, white and blue and hidden by white hairs, said: "I am Uncle Sam. I don't look like Uncle Sam. I am Uncle Sam. You don't think someone looks like Santa Claus, do you? They are Santa Claus."
Casey Smith, 13, of Edgartown, was dressed up with his fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 93. "This is great," he said. Mr. Smith enrolled in the Boy Scouts just three days earlier, and already he was wearing a nicely ironed uniform and marching in a parade.
The first person in the parade with an American flag was Marie Vautour of Oak Bluffs, a member of the American Legion. Marching in front of her was Mr. Morgan.
Frank Noble, captain of the John Paul Jones Marines, led the Colonial Navy. Every so often a loud boom echoed down the street as the men in the back fired their muskets. The 18th century period colonial musicians played What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor as they marched.
Mr. Noble said: "We love it here. We have been repeatedly asked to march in the Bristol parade. This is better. This is Americana. We have such a great time here."
Edgartown detective Craig Edwards moved about in the parade route like a bug, riding in a nimble ATV vehicle. "We all look forward to this. This is a big deal," he said. He then sped off along the parade route ahead of the flashing police cruisers to make sure there was room for the marchers.
Henry King, 79, of Edgartown drove the same 1931 Model A he has piloted for more than 30 years. The vehicle was filled with young people and decorated with small flags.
Aviation enthusiast Joe Costa of Vineyard Haven was proud of his float. He made a small biplane with a 10-foot wing span. The plane wouldn't fly, but it did draw attention to the nonprofit organization that offers free flights to people in medical need: AirLifeLine. "I built it last winter," he said.
Eighty-year-old Elisha Smith of Vineyard Haven was busy Friday morning before the parade. He delivered 20 dozen eggs to customers. He fed 10 cows and 100 chickens on his farm before showing up at the Edgartown Elementary School to help tow the Martha's Vineyard Skating Club float. President of the club, Beth Toomey, and vice president Philippa Monka were happy to see the spirited patriot.
Maury Dore, president of Edgartown Marine, was comfortably seated in his truck. During most of the spring and part of the summer, he tows boats. On Friday he towed the Vineyard Haven Band.
Helen Lamb was a beaming Queen Victoria. She sat in a throne, elevated high above the crowd by healthy muscle men. The founder of Camp Jabberwocky was appropriately pleased with her court, a mix of camp counselors and campers dressed for a number of the plays that have been put on in the camp's 50-year history. The camp float received the overall parade award for Best Float.
Time For Life received an award for most original.
Jerry MacKenty of Edgartown and his family received the Most Patriotic Float award. Bill MacKenty drove an ancient tractor which towed the float. On board were his brothers, Brian and James.
"We won the same prize three years ago," said 12-year-old James MacKenty. The float was loaded with bales of hay and red, white and blue decorations.
A number of nonprofit organizations used the parade to promote their mission.
A children's playhouse designed and built to look like a downtown Green revival captain's house was made by Norman Rankow with the help of his architect friend, Patrick Hearn. The rolling house is a participant in Houses on the Move, a fund-raising project of the Island Affordable Housing Fund.
Hot guitarists Nick Thorne and Bruce MacNelly joined to make music on a float promoting Featherstone Center for Arts in Oak Bluffs. Francine Kelly, the center's new executive director, had an easy explanation for being involved in the parade. She said: "We want people to know Featherstone is here."
Musicians were spread throughout the moving parade.
Donald J. MacRae, drum major, led a Scottish band for the 36th year. As he rode in a golf club work vehicle, he was followed from behind by the more than 20 members of the Southerland Pipe Band from Boston. Mr. MacRae, 82, was dressed with a black feather bonnet and all the trimmings of his position in the band.
Alden Besse, 78, of Vineyard Haven marked with more than 20 members of the Vineyard Peace Council. This was his ninth march with the council. "The Peace Council has been in the parade for years, a lot longer than me," he said. "Our theme is simple: Peace is Patriotic," he said. His 79th birthday is Friday.
Mr. Morgan said he is already planning for next year's parade. "There were a lot of entries I didn't know about. There were cars I didn't think were antiques. In order to bring this back into some organizational structure, I think next year we will have people preregister and have a deadline. There just wasn't enough space."
Like last year, Mr. Morgan observed that the parade would have easily run into the tail end of itself if they hadn't stopped in front of the Edgartown Old Whaling Church. Had the Bay State Band not done the armed forces medley, the parade would have run into the fire trucks headed down Pease's Point Way. "I'd rather have it shortened and have a better assembly area. We had to jam things together," Mr. Morgan said.
At 9 p.m., the Edgartown Firemen's Association fireworks took off from a barge in the Edgartown outer harbor. A thin layer of fog hung over Katama Bay in the early stages of the parade, but dispersed during the half-hour show.
Said Mr. Morgan: "Every time there is a Fourth of July you have to compliment the police, the fire department and the American Legion for all the work they do to make it such an enjoyable event. I was very pleased."