The Camp Ground lit up for the 148th Grand Illumination on Wednesday evening. Before the lights went out and the lanterns were turned on, crowds packed the Tabernacle for a concert by the Vineyard Haven Band and a community sing.

A tradition that travels through generations of families and porches. — Mark Lovewell

Director Robert Cleasby led the audience through folk songs such as I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Omission songs — including John Brown’s Baby, My Hat it has Three Corners, and the Swiss Navy Song — in which one or more words are left out in each verse, with hand gestures filling the silence, provided a reprieve for those less familiar with the lyrics.

Preceding the final song of the night, God Bless America, Mr. Cleasby asked the audience to reflect on the “terrible tragedy” of Charlottesville while singing We Shall Overcome. The Tabernacle was filled with singers holding hands, their voices coming together as one as they made their way through the verses.

After the singing, association president Trish Hahn took the stage to announce which Camp Ground resident would light the first lantern. The ceremonial honor was given to Virginia and Arthur Hetherington, who have lived in the Camp Ground for the past 25 years. The lights were turned off and darkness fell over the Tabernacle as the couple lit a candle and placed it inside a white lantern, which was then hung at the main entrance.

Director Robert Cleasby led audience at Tabernacle in singing We Shall Overcome. — Mark Lovewell

After some technical difficulties, by 8:55 p.m. the entire Camp Ground was bathed in a warm glow cast by hanging orbs of many colors.

Three generations of Ranslows were stationed on the porch of their cottage. For the family, the tradition of participating in Illumination Night stretches back six generations. The newest generation, two-year-old Clyde and four-year-old Wesley, have attended the event every year since they were born. Their lanterns — Wesley’s a simple red, Clyde’s a larger-than-life-sized baseball — had pride of place at the precipice of the porch.

Some houses featured lanterns with modern, geometric prints. Others went the traditional route with hand-painted Chinese and Japanese lanterns, harkening back to the origins of the event in 1869, which began as a way to welcome governor William Claflin to the Island. At the time, imports from Asia were novel and in-fashion.

Virginia and Arthur Hetherington lit ceremonial first lantern. — Mark Lovewell

The lanterns decorating Stephen McKenna’s cottage paid homage to this history. They were all illuminated exclusively by candles (a rarity in the modern age of fire safety).

One of his paper lanterns, embellished with an American flag that has only 36 stars, likely dates to the late 1800s. “It’s just that continuing spark that’s been going since 1869 when this first started,” he said.

His wife Dawn added that as part of the purchase process for their cottage, the family had to participate in an interview. The panel told them the house had sat dark for about 15 years, and asked whether they intended to participate in Illumination Night. Reestablishing the tradition for the property was the interviewers’ main priority, she said, and it was a torch they were proud to reignite.

Lanterns cast warm glow over historic Camp Ground. — Mark Lovewell

The Hetheringtons sat on their porch, outfitted in Victorian garb that Mrs. Hetherington had sewn herself. Her pale blue dress was modeled from fashions dating to the 1870s. It was supposed to have a bustle, “But I didn’t wear the bustle tonight, because I can’t sit down in it,” she said. Her husband wore a tuxedo and top hat.

Mrs. Hetherington also painted most of their home’s lanterns herself. Mr. Hetherington was in charge of all of the electrical work, which he had been double and triple-checking since Friday. Their house, decked out with a dragon with light-up eyes, fans, parasols and the ubiquitous lanterns, drew numerous spectators.

Many attend the event each year, but for some, it was their inaugural visit. Dorothy Williams came in just for the evening, visiting from the Finger Lakes area in New York. She was accompanied by her friend Barbara Hanson, who piqued her interest in the event last year with photos from the evening.

Evening festivities began with spirited community sing. — Mark Lovewell

“She put it on her calendar last year that she was going to come tonight,” Ms. Hanson said.

A nearly impenetrable crowd of onlookers shuffled through the streets and sidewalks. Along with the lanterns, camera flashes and smartphone flashlights and screens provided additional light along the route. On her porch, Vici Surr was unfazed by a large camera outfitted with a six-inch lens that had her in its sights.

“I don’t even notice anymore that people take pictures,” she said. “Sometimes I go online and Google and see if I can find the cottage or us in people’s pictures online, and it’s kind of exciting to see when somebody has posted something with our house, but it’s just part of being here.”

“It’s like the wind blowing or something,” she added. “You just don’t notice it.”