While Fourth of July evening is for fireworks and the afternoon is for barbecues, the morning is reserved for polar bear dips, walking the dog, and last minute shopping trips.

At 7 a.m. the waters off Inkwell beach in Oak Bluffs were empty as thin clouds scudded across the sky. The Polar Bears of Martha’s Vineyard were setting up tables along the sidewalk and chatting on the benches, getting ready for their first official swim of the summer. It would be followed by a potluck-style picnic breakfast.

Alley's was the place for morning conversation and last-minute shopping runs.

Ed Redd, a retired judge who spends summers in Oak Bluffs, has been a Polar Bear since 1971. His daughter Sara Redd described herself as a junior member of the Polar Bears.

Though the Fourth of July is the official start of Polar Bear season, Mr. Redd said he has been taking early morning swims every morning for a month now.

Billie Hancock has been a Polar Bear for nine years. “We leave our problems in the water,” she said. A truly inclusive group, every conversation ended with the same question: “Are you going swimming with us?”

At 7:30 a.m. it was time for the swim. The majority of the women headed to the jetty on the left of the beach, while the majority of the men went to the one on the right. The right group would swim between jetties and back. The left group would form a circle in the water, practice aerobics and dance and singing as the water sparkled with sun around them.

A trio of women walked toward the Polar Bears already circled in the water.

Holiday fishing at Memorial Wharf. — Maria Thibodeau

“You getting in?” one asked.

“Always,” another answered.

Along Main street in Vineyard Haven red, white and blue draped, waved and spilled off railings, flagpoles and flower beds.

In Owen Park, dogs ran happily on the empty beach, plunging into the water and out again. On the end of the pier, father/son duo Mark and Andrew Walker tied up their boat. They’d gone out on an early morning fishing trip, catching stripers and bluefish. None of the catches came back with them, though.

“We’re more catch and release,” said Mark, who was sporting a pair of American flag swim trunks. The longtime summer visitors from Carver rent a house on the water, a short walk to Owen Park. Their plan for the Fourth included the beach, barbecue, more fishing and fireworks. And a nap.

Training for the parade? Morning jog in West Tisbury. — Mark Lovewell

“It was well before sunrise that we pushed off,” Mark said.

Caitlin Montcrieff, who was walking her dog Paisley, was also looking forward to a Fourth of July nap. Not for herself, though.

“We have four kids between three families that are between two months and two-and-a-half years,” she said. They planned to go to the children’s parade and barbecue and take a nap before the fireworks.

Herb Kiendl and Paddy Lynch were also walking their dog, Ella, on the beach. They planned to avoid the fireworks for Ella’s sake but were going to sail over to Edgartown to watch Joanne Cassidy perform an acoustic porch concert at the Harbor View Hotel.

Even with the holiday traffic, they expected the sail to take longer than a drive into Edgartown. 
Tisbury harbor master John Crocker leaned against a post near the harbor master’s shack. He said he expected a busy day, and started his morning with a little extra coffee.

“Starting out with light winds and sunny skies, people will be coming over for breakfast and lunch and lots of families at the beach,” he said. “If they’re not here this time of year, they won’t be here.”

Oak Bluffs bandstand dressed in festive bunting. — Timothy Johnson

His advice to Fourth of July boaters: wear life jackets.

In West Tisbury, Alley’s General Store was doing a steady trade in meat (especially bacon), charcoal and tin foil. Kayla Oliver manned the cash register, ringing up coffees and sausages and directing people to the farm stand for corn.

In the farm stand, Spencer Booker jumped between ringing up customers and opening a fresh box of Rainier cherries. The cherries were a hot commodity, he said.

“Rainier cherries, cherries in general, lots of tomatoes, lots of corn, lots of everything, actually,” he said. He directed a couple’s attention to a can of mint near the register,

“This walked in this morning, fresh cut from down the road,” he said. While keeping the shelves stocked, Mr. Booker had one eye on the clock. At 3 p.m., when his shift ended, he was heading to the beach.

People gathered to chat and sip coffee on the porch of Alley’s. A group of cyclists discussed where to head next and a small boy held an American flag. The sun continued its ascent in the sky, burning away the last traces of clouds.

More information about Fourth of July festivities and pictures from around the Vineyard around the Fourth of July.