The Fourth of July weekend is here. Roses are in full bloom. And at every corner of the Island, signs of Independence Day blossom - signs as subtle as a flag in a window, as large as bunting on a wall.
Nearly every inn on the Island has, or will have, a no vacancy sign. Even the smallest byways are full of bustling traffic, and all the harbors at sunset have glistening, shiny aluminum masts and white hulls.
The Fourth is Sunday, and Monday is a legal holiday with the post office and many businesses closed.
Colin Ewing, station manager for Cape Air, said holidayers began arriving Wednesday and many will stay well into next week. Flights coming to the Vineyard are nearly booked solid, he said.
Bridget Tobin, terminal manager for the Steamship Authority, said that traffic to the Island was smooth, but intense. "The Fourth of July is actually a quiet day for us," said Mrs. Tobin - most arrivals on the holiday itself are day trippers.
Mrs. Tobin said the exodus will begin Monday or Tuesday.
Linda Malcouronne, past president of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, said Island merchants feel better weather this year has brightened business prospects.
But Jeff Kristal, president of the Tisbury Business Association, said that he senses a slow start to the season, and attributed it to the fierce winter.
"I think schools got out later this year; there were so many snow days," Mr. Kristal said.
In Edgartown, Richard McAuliffe, general manager of the Harbor View Hotel and Kelley House, said that while June may have been lackluster, the rest of the season looks much better, even into the fall. "Spring and early summer were softer than normal. Now that school is out, we will have a good season. We have a few rooms left, but by this weekend they'll be taken," he said.
Hugh Taylor of the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah said the seven-room inn was booked for this weekend by mid-April, though there is some surprise: At least one room is available for Sunday. "It is hard to gauge the season; most of our guests are return customers," he said.
Visitors and residents alike will be attracted to the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks Sunday in Edgartown.
Fred B. Morgan Jr., parade marshal, said he is going to do the best he can to make sure that the front of the parade - which runs on a circular route starting at the Edgartown school - doesn't run into the back of the parade, as it almost did last year.
The parade will start at 5 p.m.; it will head down Pease's Point Way, go up North Water Street and into town, then take a right at the Four Corners and head up Main street back to the school. The parade was almost two miles long, resulting in the nearly closed loop.
Mr. Morgan said this year's theme is to pay tribute to World War II veterans. Many of them will be seated at the reviewing stand in front of the Edgartown Whaling Church. Other senior citizen veterans will ride in vehicles.
For the first time in many years, the Coast Guard is participating in the parade. Mark Lewis, officer in charge at Menemsha, said they will send four men down to the parade.
Mr. Morgan said he is getting a lot of help this year from a close team of volunteers which include police officers Richard Krauss and James S. Craig. Teddy Bernard and Al Noyes will also be helping. "I've been organizing it myself for the last 15 years," Mr. Morgan said. For a time Sunday afternoon, Mr. Morgan will be riding around in a golf cart in the staging area, the Edgartown School parking lot.
There will be plenty of music amid the floats; the Bay State Band from the New Bedford area and the Colonial Navy Band will be participating. The Vineyard Haven Band will perform on a float. Scottish bagpipers will be coming from the mainland. The Island's own Die Kunst Der Drum will perform, and there may be more.
[A separate story about the fire trucks that are a part of the parade - including two new entrants - appears on Page One-A in this morning's Gazette.]
After the parade is over, the Vineyard Haven Band will perform at the Edgartown Whaling Church - a free concert - at 7 p.m.
There are, interestingly, actually two Fourth of July parades in Dukes County. The second, less well-known event occurs on Cuttyhunk. Hugh Taylor's catamaran Arabella will sail from Menemsha and make it to the tiny island just in time for the parade. "They have a marvelous parade; I think there are 30 golf carts and lawn tractors. They run around the perimeter of the Island. It is great," Mr. Taylor said.
Edgartown's fireworks will be shot into the air at about 9 p.m. The rockets will be shot from a floating barge just outside the Edgartown Harbor, not far from the lighthouse.
Fire Chief Tony Bettencourt said that the pyrotechnics crew, from CR Pyro of Middleton, arrived yesterday and began their work of transforming a 130-foot steel barge named Algol 500, from Tisbury Towing and Transportation, for their use. A tug named Sirius is expected to deliver the barge to the site on Sunday morning.
The Edgartown Firemen's Association worked throughout the last year to raise $25,000 for the cost of the fireworks.
Walter Morrison, president of the association, said contributions to the fireworks are lower than usual. The fireworks will be bigger and better than last year, but that comes with added cost; volunteer firemen will be soliciting at the Edgartown Yacht Club parking lot that night. The association also raises money for a generous scholarship fund for high school seniors continuing their education. Parking assistance and support will be given by the volunteer fire department.
Chief Bettencourt said West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs firemen are providing backup support during the fireworks.
Edgartown police have stepped up their presence on the street, beginning yesterday.
Sgt. Tony Bettencourt said through a state grant more officers will be out on patrol looking for those operating motor vehicles in violation of law, either while drinking or for failure to wear seat belts. The patrols are partly being funded by approximately $6,000 from the governor's highway safety bureau.
The Fourth of July weekend is the biggest law enforcement event of the year. Sergeant Bettencourt said there will be police officers on bicycles, in cars, on foot, in uniform and in plain clothes; all with the intention of making the weekend safe.
While much of the hoopla about the holiday weekend is tied to large gatherings of people, it doesn't have to be that way.
Many of the Island's conservation land properties are underutilized during this busy weekend; there are plenty of places to go to get away from it all.
Tom Grew is captain of the Vineyard Haven charter yacht Ayuthia, a 48 foot gaff-rigged ketch. He keeps the vessel at Coastwise Packet and just recently returned from a trip to Cuba. Mr. Grew has been in business 22 years and the Fourth of July is usually a quiet time: "The first thing people do when they get to the Island is have a cookout on the beach or backyard. I have been idle on many Fourth of July weekends. I will chill. I will read, or just go out on the boat, or take a holiday snooze."
Mrs. Malcouronne has a similar perspective: "We are hoping people will settle into their rental houses and get out into the community: Go to the stores and restaurants."
For those who go wandering in the woods, Mrs. Malcouronne offers a few thoughts for some woodlands that are being besieged by hungry caterpillars: "There is a new sport. When you take a walk in the woods, be quiet. You may be able to hear the caterpillars munching."
And there are not expected to be overwhelming crowds Monday night when the Vineyard Haven Band performs at Owen Park at 8 p.m. Conductor Bill Sittard will be conducting with a special tribute to Tisbury's birthday, which is Thursday. He'll have the band perform Vineyard Haven, written by Richard Wayne Dirksen. The scene is especially beautiful for those who like the overlook of Oak Bluffs's beautiful harbor.