It happened while we weren’t looking. Sometime after Memorial Day beautiful, sexy Summer sneaked up on gnarly old Winter and tackled him. Enough! Summer said. It’s my turn now.

And so another season has begun, with breezy ripples of dry, warm air and sunshine, schools of bluefish running in cold saltwater, fields of hay speckled with ox eye daisies and butterfly weed, ferries jammed with people, dogs and bicycles, ice cream cones dripping on sidewalks, fiery sunsets in deep shades of orange and red. The ocean water is warm enough for swimming (finally), and beaches are clean, wide ribbons of sand, calling all barefoot collectors of shells and stones.

From Edgartown to Menemsha, divine intervention is required to find a good parking spot. And the great melting pot that is the hallmark of Vineyard summer is on full display. Hundreds of college kids, many from foreign countries here on work visas, lower the average age of the Island, at least temporarily. Seasonal homeowners are back in their summer places, sweeping out, planting gardens, rigging boats, heading downtown to buy a coffee, browse the shops, see what’s new this year. Year-round Islanders are working nonstop, not to mention getting ready for their own invasions of friends, family, grandchildren. To-do lists are written and rewritten. Charcoal for the grill, beer for the son in law, special sunblock for the baby, lobster for all. And where oh where are the beach towels?

The Fourth of July is Saturday and all across the Island preparations are under way for the national holiday. Downtown Edgartown, where thousands will descend for what is arguably the best small-town parade in all of America, is already dressed for the occasion. Flags are flying from porches and flagpoles, and trailing roses cover white picket fences draped with bunting. Cue the marching bands, fire trucks, candy thrown in the streets and Camp Jabberwocky hilarity. The parade steps off from the Edgartown School promptly at 5 p.m. Viewing is free from any spot on Main street, North Water street and Pease’s Point Way, but all are advised to arrive early and park outside of town. Later on as dusk falls and dinner parties wrap up, fireworks will light up the night sky over the outer Edgartown harbor. And the Vineyard will join the rest of the country in celebrating the birth of a nation, founded on the principles of democracy and freedom for all.

The meaning of freedom has been rewritten more than once since our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and this year Independence Day comes during a time of great change and turmoil in the country and in the world. Events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina, weigh heavily on our minds and are felt most acutely among African Americans as we — all Americans of every color and ethnic background — confront the ugly reality that racism is still very much in our midst.

Meanwhile, there are newfound freedoms to be celebrated, including the freedom to marry, with the stirring decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that rang out all over this land last week. On the Vineyard, where tolerance has been taught and handed down through generations, the pride runs deep at this turning point in history.

Remembering that the Declaration of Independence set forth as inalienable rights life. liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let summer begin with those principles in mind.

Sending out best wishes to all Gazette readers for a safe and happy Fourth. Please remember not to drink and drive.