The word on the street was no throwing candy. This year, citing safety reasons, volunteers at the Fourth of July parade in Edgartown would instead walk alongside the floats handing out candy. Despite the new rule, children and their parents appeared unfazed on Tuesday afternoon as they began lining up to celebrate the country's 230th birthday.
As early as 4 p.m. people began to gather on the sidewalks along the parade route. They sat in lawn chairs, on the sidewalk and bounced around, warming up their candy-grabbing fingers. They were covered in red, white and blue from their pinwheels to their United We Stand Black Dog T-shirts to the American flag bandanas tied around the necks of their dogs. The people were ready.
Those marching in the parade were not. Out by the Edgartown School, pirates, polar bears and peaceniks wandered around making last-minute adjustments to their outfits and receiving instructions on the correct places to stand. Fred B. (Ted) Morgan Jr. had no time to talk. As marching time drew near, the grand marshal was busy hanging signs from different model Ts and riding from float to float on a golf cart to make sure everyone was in order.
Joseph E. Sollitto Jr., the clerk of courts, had arrived at the school at 2:30 that afternoon to help Mr. Morgan. "The parade will start at exactly 5 p.m. when the last bell rings from the old Methodist Church," said Mr. Sollitto, who has participated in the parade since 1972. "Mr. Morgan will say it's go time."
As go time neared, the men and women in uniform began to line up. "You ready for this one?" a woman asked as she made her way to the front of the line. Although she may not have been ready, those who had been waiting for over an hour to watch were.
Jared Rivard, age seven, and his family had set up camp right by the school. Shifting anxiously from foot to foot, keeping one eye on the entrance at all times, he said, "I like when the guys with the flags and guns start marching."
"I thought your favorite part was the candy," his mother interjected.
"My second favorite part is the candy," he corrected. Unlike the kids around him, Jared did not seem to be sporting any kind of bag for his candy. Asked if he had one, he answered, "Oh no, but I have pockets!"
Up and down the sidewalks, kids were readying their different candy-catching receptacles. They held Ziploc bags, eco-friendly cloth sacks and sand pails. A few hovered near the strollers of their younger siblings, ready to stuff their candy dangerously close to little fingers. Three had crab nets. "It was my mom's idea," said T.J. Rabson, 10, of Manchester, N.H. Mr. Rabson was lined up with his brother Ian, 14, and a friend, crab nets raised. "We were coming off the beach one day and going straight to the parade," he said of the many-year tradition.
As Mr. Sollitto promised, the parade began at 5 p.m. on the dot. If the crowd had been less excited, the last toll of the bell might have been audible. Men and women of the American Legion were the first to walk by and were met with wild applause, which grew louder as a deceptively calm-looking Mr. Morgan made his way onto the street.
Soon, the old cars rolled out, the oldest dated to 1914. The New Bedford Bay State Band - well, almost the whole band, a cymbalist and drummer chased behind to catch up - kicked off the parade's musical contingent.
Then came the selectmen. And the candy. As the responsible men and women who govern the Island's towns rolled by, the car full from Oak Bluffs started to carefully toss out a piece here and there to cheers. "They're throwing it low," someone called out.
Others marched by, some tossing candy as the selectmen had. Some were accompanied by volunteers that walked alongside their cars, handing it out per the new regulations. Like when the group in Roald Dahl's classic enter Mr. Wonka's chocolate factory, candy tension filled the air.
But the firemen who rolled out of the Edgartown School, their sirens wailing, broke the tension. The men and women of safety were the first to start throwing candy, just like in the old days and the crowd went wild. Grateful and patriotic applause turned to cheers and calls for the sweet stuff.
With that, the parade was back to normal. Wiet Bachelor and Barbara Reynolds, a former and a current teacher for the Martha's Vineyard schools, sat back and watched their present and past students march by with youth hockey, the figure skating club and Sail Martha's Vineyard. "It's the nicest parade I've ever seen," said Mrs. Reynolds, a teacher at the Edgartown School. "It's a whole Island thing, really special," she said.
As the sun peeked in and out, the bigger floats rolled by. A giant rat advertising the Dukes County rodent control program looked down at the crowd below. Floats with boats, planes, tractors - even real ponies and fake mice - followed.
This year, the award for Most Patriotic went to the Island Affordable Housing float. Most Original went to a crew clad in green pants and pink polo shirts with popped collars. Fairly indistinguishable from the typical Edgartown cocktail crowd, they called themselves the Pink Squid Yacht Club.
Camp Jabberwocky won the $500 Special Prize. The theme this year was Carnivale. The rhythms of Rick Bausman's drums and maracas provided the beat for fruit stands, a motorcycle gang and bullfighters. Bright colors were a must as the camp danced and shook all the way down Main street. Polar bears with slogans like Stop Global Warming rounded out the motley crew.
The $1,000 Grand Prize went to the FARM Institute. Their float was adorned with simple slogans like No Farms, No Food. Rather than candy, they threw out plastic Kindness Coins.
Other parade highlights included the flags and peace signs of the Martha's Vineyard Peace Council, the marshal arts talents of Team All Contact, and the short performances of the Martha's Vineyard Dance Theatre. Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, accompanied by a golden retriever spray-painted with blue stars, celebrated 25 years of service. The Edgartown National Bank celebrated 101 years by handing out mock $1,000 bills to the crowd and bringing along a live band that belted out the familiar sounds of Tequila from the back of a truck.
"It's fun to see everyone in the community coming out," said Brett McNeice, a waiter at Atria. He and the rest of the staff took a short break before the evening got really crazy to take in the parade.
When the parade ended, people crowded into the streets, running to catch up and trail the last float. Kids munched, counted and traded their candy. Those with houses alongside the parade route turned back to their barbecues and beer and resumed games of baseball.
A lemonade and cookie stand set up on the corner of Main street and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road began to close down for the evening. Sophie and Maddie Szkobel-Wolff, 11 and 14 respectively, had been running the stand in front of their house for as long as either could remember. "It was probably our parents' idea," Maddie acknowledged. They were busy counting the day's profits, and afterward planned to join the rest of their party on the lawn to continue the patriotic festivities.