At dusk last night a single lantern lit by Gordon Long and his son Roy made its way down the center aisle of the Tabernacle in the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground. There was a collective gasp from the large crowd gathered inside the Tabernacle and around blankets and picnic baskets on the lawn.
The 145th Grand Illumination was officially underway.
The evening began with the traditional community sing. The Vineyard Haven Band performed as the crowd sang old-time favorites such as Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore and I’m In The Swiss Navy. Island resident Claire Chatinover joked that she was impressed by how many people in the crowd were actually singing.
After the first lantern was lit by Mr. Long — tradition has it that the honor is reserved for the oldest Camp Ground resident — everyone moved toward the porches to stroll among the lanterns and get together with friends.
A large group gathered on the porch of a cottage named Alice’s Wonderland. A croquet set had been set up in the yard and the house was decorated with painted plywood cutouts of the Cheshire Cat and other characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
Elizabeth LeBeau, the cottage’s owner, said this year marks her 72nd summer in the Camp Ground. She has owned Alice’s Wonderland since 1995, when she bought it from her friend, Alice Gamsby.
Ms. LeBeau explained that when the Grand Illumination first began in 1868, paper lanterns from China and Japan were inexpensive and popular adornments. As the celebration grew over the years, the tradition of using paper lanterns continued.
On another porch directly across from the Tabernacle, Virginia and Arthur Hetherington were dressed from head to toe in period-appropriate Victorian dress. Their neighbors, similarly dressed, accompanied them on the porch of their bright pink cottage called Summer Love.
Mrs. Hetherington, who designed and sewed each outfit, wore a pink dress and carried a white parasol. Her husband looked dashing in a black bow tie and he walked with a dignified cane.
The couple, originally from Connecticut, has spent 21 summers in the cottage, which was built in 1867. They are the cottage’s 16th owners and Mr. Hetherington said they took 10 years remodeling it. The screen doors have a pink frame adorned with engraved hearts, in keeping with the theme of the cottage.
“We like to create an atmosphere for the Grand Illumination,” Mr. Hetherington said.
For more photos of Illumination Night, see the gallery Illumination Night Shines Brightly Once More.