Rainy Days, and Busy

Mid-September is when Islanders heave a collective sigh of relief. We hear it in the reclaiming of beaches closed to the public all summer long, in the restaking of favorite restaurants and in the discovery of not just one, but many open parking spots just where we need them. Yet in Vineyard Haven Sunday afternoon, not a single space was empty from the top of Main street to the end. Side streets too were full — even the secret spot behind the Church street tennis courts.

The return of downtown parking woes was welcome this weekend. From Thursday afternoon to Sunday at sunset, Vineyard Haven was alive with activity, thanks in part to the third annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival. Filmmakers and film buffs took the ferry over, and Islanders drove to Vineyard Haven from Aquinnah and Chappy to catch one of the thirty films on the program.

The festival brought foreign movies, documentaries and shorts to Vineyard audiences. Many were award-winning, all thought-provoking and most would not have screened here otherwise. But the festival also brought crowds to a town center which has struggled in recent months. Residents had voted down the proposed sale of beer and wine, and in July, a fire claimed two Main street anchors — a landmark bookstore and neighboring top-notch restaurant. It was unclear how business would rebound.

But on Thursday night, the wait for food at Zephrus was so long, chowder to go was the only thing available in time for an eight o’clock screening at the Capawock. Festival organizers Richard Paradise and Nevette Previd estimated nearly half of all the films sold out. By Sunday, Che’s Lounge had only small cups left in stock for coffee and tea.

The sight of a bustling downtown in the middle of September was welcome, even if it meant parking by Grace Church and getting caught in the rain while walking to Main street.