While thousands of onlookers gathered at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Ground for the 149th annual Grand Illumination Night on Wednesday evening, there was one moment where the chatter, laughter and song subsided, and all was quiet.

The moment occurred when music director Bob Cleasby ceremoniously carried the first illuminated lantern down the center aisle of the Tabernacle. Upon reaching the entrance he hung the glowing orb, prompting the illumination of all the lanterns in the camp ground, and a thunderous round of applause.

“Whether you’re here for the first time, the 50th time, or the 150th time, we’re really happy that you’re here,” MVCMA executive director CJ Rivard said during her welcoming remarks. The celebration kicked off at 7:30 p.m. with a rousing performance by the Vineyard Haven Band, a piano duet courtesy of Amaryllis Glass and Stefan Young, and an animated community sing, lead by Mr. Cleasby.

Marina Firestone prepares for the tradition of lighting the first lantern. — Mark Alan Lovewell

This year, the first lantern was lit by Marina Firestone, a longtime camp ground community member whose cottage, The Ark, sits on Trinity Park.

Other cottage owners joined Ms. Firestone in celebrating the traditions of the evening. Arthur and Virginia Hetherington paraded through the camp ground and the Tabernacle in traditional Victorian garb prior to the first lighting. Mrs. Hetherington handmade her black dress, complete with a full hoop skirt, and her husband’s black tuxedo. The couple would later retire to the porch of their pink and white cottage, Summer Love.

The Cohen family held court on the porch of their cottage, Two Bad Cats, chatting with passersby.

“Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s complete strangers,” Alison Cohen said from her rocking chair. “Everyone is just so happy to be here.”

Ms. Cohen purchased the cottage with her husband, Dick, in 2015 after selling their first summer bungalow, Elderberry across the camp ground. The two bad cats in question did not partake in any people watching from the porch.

Bob Cleasby led the community sing beforehand. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Truthfully they’re scaredy cats,” said Mr. and Mrs. Cohen’s son Alex.

Throngs of people partook in a slow-motion walk through the campground, stopping every few feet to admire the next decorated home.

“It’s like Disney world!” one youngster squealed from his perch on his father’s shoulders.

The lanterns came in all shapes and sizes, swinging slowly in the warm August breeze. MVCMA board of directors president Jamie Schiff said that almost all of the 320 cottages in the camp ground participate in Illumination Night every year. And while some of the cottages featured a hodgepodge of lanterns, other owners preferred the art of uniformity.

“We do this theme every year,” said Janet Mastronardi Stanton of her cottage’s, black, white and khaki color scheme. White paper lanterns and glowing wooden globes hung from every corner of the home, Dalla Nuvola, Italian for ‘From the Cloud.’ Ms. Mastronardi Stanton’s husband, father and children coordinated their outfits as well, each wearing a black, white or khaki ensemble, complete with glow stick tiaras.

“This night is like Christmas for me,” Ms. Mastronardi Stanton said. “I love the socialization of it, bringing people together. Maybe I like it even better than Christmas.”

Good night sweet camp ground. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Outside Dalla Nuvola, the Vineyard Sound began an impromptu concert, drawing a large circle of spectators. The group sang favorites from their repertoire, including a rendition of Sam Cooke’s Bring It Home To Me.

Bass singer Nick Greer expressed his appreciation for the longstanding Island tradition.

“I’ve learned a lot about the Vineyard and its community by singing with the group this summer,” Mr. Greer said. “And from what I’ve seen, I think that Illumination Night sums up the values of this place better than anything else on the Island.”

The sentiments of community and familial values resonated strongly with cottage owner Vicki Surr. Built in the 1860’s, her cottage, Wee Hoos, has been in her family for three generations. Her father, Tom Surr, who passed away in April, handcrafted all of the lanterns for illumination.

“I’m just enjoying being here with his memory,” Ms. Surr said from the porch of her A-frame.

As the evening wore on and the crowd began to thin, many paused to gaze up at the banner hung across Wee Hoos’ small second floor porch.

“My dad saw an old photograph of a cottage that had that sign,” Ms. Surr explained. “He thought it would be fun to recreate, so he made it out of a vinyl window shade.”

A curling, green grapevine was painted onto the shade, along with Tom Surr’s farewell sentiment: “We’ll camp awhile in the wilderness and then we’re going home.”