street fair
Throngs crowd closed-off Main street.
Bunch of Grapes clock, its hands stopped, is at left. — Jaxon White

At the very end of Main street Tuesday night, a bright green Tisbury fire truck stood with nothing to do and nowhere to go until one small boy came along and, too shy to do so on his own, had his father ask if he could climb up into it.

There were many things keeping the throngs away from the truck at the annual Tisbury street fair. There was the fried dough, which kept the hungry and the not-so-hungry and even the completely stuffed, waiting in lines for what seemed like hours. There was the climbing wall and the pony rides, the face painting and the Mardi Gras beads. Bargain shoes, trinkets galore and raffle tickets kept wallets in view at all times.

But, standing outside the truck, assistant fire chief Tom Colligan had a grin plastered on his face even without the hustle and bustle.

“It’s really nice,” he said, as he watched the young guy scramble up into the truck. “People have been really great. It has been different this year. People always come up and ask to see the truck, but this year people are coming up and saying, ‘Nice job. That was a really nice save,’” he said.

The save Mr. Colligan referred to was the devastating fire which claimed two Island businesses on July fourth. Only four days later, assistant chief Colligan, surrounded by his fellow volunteer firemen, watched as the street which had lost so much came alive with activity. “Everyone just worked together and pulled it off as a team,” Mr. Colligan said. “It just shows what we can do when we work together.”

The street fair, the yearly celebration of the town’s birthday, was slated to begin at 6:30 p.m., but the crowds arrived early and showed no signs of leaving, even as night fell.

“We already sold like 20 to 30 T-shirts,” said Doug Reece, president of Vineyard Baseball, Inc., shortly before seven o’clock. Mr. Reece was busy selling shirts and tickets for summer events to benefit the organization. The evening was a first for Mr. Reece, who had never before been to the fair even though his children went to the local schools.

“I think it’s great,” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe all these people come out! I just wish the lines weren’t so long. I want some food.”

Up the street at the Green Room, shop owner Elaine Barse agreed. “It’s busy tonight. It’s kind of hectic,” she said as she handed change back to a customer.

Although families and teens crowded downtown, the event was not quite the same without the book lovers lining up to meet and greet local authors outside the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. The beloved shop, located smack dab in the center of the street, was one of the two businesses damaged by the fire.

Where the writers were slated to sit stood the three Tisbury selectmen. “Look at that, there’s a lot of money in there,” chairman of the board Denys Wortman said as he peeked into a ballot box where fair-goers were dropping donations for the bookstore and the restaurant that had stood next door, Café Moxie.

“Friends, strangers, neighbors, everyone. Everyone’s dropping something in,” said selectman Tristan Israel. “I think people are coming out here to show their support. You could tell right from the start. It was packed.”

Mr. Israel was interrupted by Peyton Berry who dropped a one dollar bill inside. “That’s my last dollar,” she told him. “I’ve supported every Island organization up and down Main street. I have one dollar left.”

The selectmen collected $2,300 in donations over the course of the evening. Contributions ranged from quarters dropped in by children, to a handwritten check for $1,000, to a donation from an Island carpenter for 10 hours of service to help in the rebuilding.

Next to the selectmen, Katrina Yekel and Austin Racine, owners of the Café Moxie, stood smiling and busy. The lines for their falafel, corn and gazpacho were the longest of any booth by far. “We sold out of 560 falafel balls by 7:20,” Ms. Yekel said. “And we started early because people started lining up before six. We were slammed! People started throwing money at us,” she joked.

The couple had planned to serve turkey legs, gyros and chowder in fresh baked bread bowls at their first street fair as owners of the corner café, which they had opened only on May 15. After the fire, Mr. Racine, who was the executive chef at the restaurant and was prepping the kitchen for the busy holiday weekend when the blaze broke out, changed the menu. Gina Stanley of the Artcliff Diner offered her kitchen for him to use.

Even after the falafel sold out, Mr. Racine stayed busy Tuesday, turning out buttery, salty ears of corn from the grill. “It was great,” he said. “A lot of people said they came tonight just to see us.”

One person who made the trek (all the way from Connecticut) was Ms. Yekel’s mother. Mrs. Yekel, who did not get to see the restaurant before the fire, watched her daughter work with a smile. “We’re from a small town,” she said of the community outpouring. “It may have surprised Katrina, but it didn’t surprise me.”

Tisbury police chief John Cashin was also matter-of-fact when talking about the evening’s success. “I was very confident that we would pull it off,” he said. “The street fair is so traditional, so rooted in this community. I’d say the motivation now is even stronger. It was like, dammit! We are not going to let this get in the way.

“This was a personal tragedy,” he continued. “But it was a community tragedy as well, and the community decided to band together and get this done.”

At different booths up and down the street, Island firefighters, police and emergency management technicians grilled hamburgers, sold T-shirts and administered first aid to fairgoers. It was a chance for them to raise much needed funds and awareness, but as they went about their business, they were flooded with words of thanks from the Island community.

“It’s a good night in town. Everyone came down and the firefighters are having a good time tonight. It’s their time to reap some of the benefit of their hard work,” said Tisbury fire chief John Shilling.

Following the event, Jeffrey Pratt, coordinator of the Tisbury Ambulance Association, agreed. “A lot of people stopped by and expressed gratitude to the EMTs and the firefighters for their service during the Main street fire,” he said. “We really did have a successful outing.”