There were no fireworks sparkling over the Edgartown Lighthouse this Fourth of July, no ocean of pastel colored, polo-wearing onlookers or parade of floats festooned with American flags.

Edgartown harbor was full. — Ray Ewing

But there were some private fireworks. There were plenty of American flags. And there was a parade of traffic at the Edgartown Triangle.

Preliminary traffic numbers released by the Steamship Authority Monday showed that despite travel restrictions, a pandemic that continues to surge throughout the country and the cancellation of the holiday’s seminal traditions, thousands of cars and visitors still came to the Island over the weekend.

And the swell in visitors was matched by an increase in boat and air travel relative to past weekends this season, as the Vineyard’s unusual, quieter, three-quarters version of high summer began to take shape with backyard barbecues, packed harbors and solo parades.

The Island literally celebrated a three-fourths of July holiday on Saturday, according to the SSA numbers, with the boat line reporting approximately 75 per cent of the normal ferry traffic to and from the Island over the weekend. “It’s better than a one-tenth of April,” quipped SSA communications director Sean Driscoll Monday, referencing the historically low traffic numbers at the beginning of the pandemic.

Ferries on the Vineyard route carried 35,174 passengers between Thursday, July 2 and Sunday, July 5 of last week, about 76 per cent of the passenger traffic reported between Tuesday, July 2 and Friday, July 5 in 2019. The SSA carried 46,574 people over those four days last year.

Although down slightly from 2019, the Fourth of July numbers mark a significant increase relative to previous weekends this summer.

Oak Bluffs harbor was hopping. — Jeanna Shepard

Nearly twice as many people traveled between Woods Hole and the Island over the Fourth of July weekend compared to Memorial Day weekend this year. And while Memorial Day saw a 68 per cent drop from 2019 numbers, the Fourth of July only saw a 24 per cent drop.

And the weekend saw a major jump in traffic compared with the most recent weekend in June. Thursday was up 46 per cent from the previous week, Friday was up 18 per cent and Sunday was up 16 per cent, according to Mr. Driscoll. Saturday — traditionally slowest travel day because of the holiday — saw a three per cent drop.

Sunday also marked the highest one-day traffic total on SSA routes in 2020, with 13,247 passengers traveling to and from the Islands.

Traffic on the Nantucket route was even higher, reaching 95 per cent of its 2019 numbers over the past weekend. The Nantucket route traditionally receives fewer day-trip passengers, signaling that a decline in short-term visitors this year could account for the larger decrease in the Vineyard route’s numbers.

“It’s historically not a day-tripper destination,” Mr. Driscoll said, speaking of Nantucket.

Anecdotally, he said car traffic was strong as well.

“We were pretty full, except for the times when people don’t want to travel on the evening of the Fourth,” Mr. Driscoll said.

Summer traffic is back. — Jeanna Shepard

Traffic was also steady at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Assistant director Geoff Freeman said general aviation — which includes private jets and other non-commercial airline vehicles — saw strong landing numbers throughout the week.

“It was a successful holiday weekend,” Mr. Freeman said. “We were steady with traffic. Pretty much everybody was adhering to face coverings and social distancing.”

After seeing air traffic plummet during April and May, the airport reported that traffic numbers were down only 13 per cent in June from 2019. But Mr. Freeman said the Fourth of July weekend, despite comparable traffic numbers, was more toned-down than year’s past.

“It seemed overall quieter than most,” he said. “But a rebound from what it had been.”

Harbors were also packed and busy on the weekend. Despite northeast winds and foggy weather on Friday and Saturday morning, a flotilla of sailboats arrived in the Edgartown and Vineyard Haven harbors Saturday evening, filling the skies with masts and forestays instead of fireworks.

Bikes filled the racks at South Beach. — Ray Ewing

The Oak Bluffs harbor was sold out all weekend too, with recreational boaters spilling out onto Circuit avenue. The socially-distant, late-night line for Back Door Donuts backed up almost all the way to Union Chapel, even with no bars open.

Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair said his crew tied over 120 moorings on both Saturday and Sunday, a significant increase over the dozen or so boats they handled over Memorial Day. The numbers compared well with Fourth of July weekends in the past, he said.

“We were very busy,” Mr. Blair said. “We had two great days.”

With no fireworks and no parade, he said Independence Day 2020 was the first holiday in recent memory with no boating incidents either. He hoped the quiet, safe summer would stay that way.

“No accidents, that’s the big news,” Mr. Blair said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Fourth of July without filling out the accident reports. And we didn’t fill out one.”