The 151st Grand Illumination Night took place on Wednesday evening, marking the first full return since Covid-19 limited the annual lantern display in the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground. The crowd came back in full force, and by the 7:30 p.m. start time the Tabernacle was packed and well-encircled by people seated on picnic blankets and lawn chairs.

Molly Shabica, vice president of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, took the stage to emcee the night’s events.

“I am a physics and chemistry teacher, and I usually start my classes off with a corny science joke,” she told the audience. She then brought the Camp Meeting Association’s new general manager, Kelly Feirtag, up to the stage to help deliver it.

Musical director Robert Cleasby leads the way. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Why does the moon get jealous of the Earth?” Ms. Shabica asked.

“Why?” Ms. Feirtag responded.

“Because the moon has no life!”

Ms. Shabica went on to describe the importance of Illumination Night both personally (her grandmother first came to the Camp Ground at just two years old), and to the Island community.

“Whether this is your first or 50th Illumination, we are about to share in something magical. It is a rare kind of event when community is so needed. I hope you all spread some of this joy tonight.”

The crowd was then treated to a few piano duets courtesy of Drs. Amaryllis Glass and Stefan Young before Steve Hight thanked the Oak Bluffs community for helping with fundraising efforts. Mr. Hight also led the crowd in singing the Ode to the Vineyard, and Dr. Michael Price concluded with a prayer.

An even loved by four- and two-legged creatures. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Music director Robert C. Cleasby took the stage, clad in his signature bright red pants that matched the volunteers’ vests, to direct a community sing, just as he does every Wednesday night (this was his 278th consecutive one). Selections ranged from rousing hymns such as Amazing Grace to participatory numbers such as Swiss Navy and John Brown’s Body.

The singing was soulful and spontaneous clapping was a common occurrence.

Mr. Cleasby and Ms. Shabica then initiated the most anticipated event of the night, the lighting of the first lantern. Each year, the honor is given to a distinguished senior member of the Camp Ground.

First lantern is lit by Irene Murdoch. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“It’s a very well kept secret who they are going to pick each year,” said longtime resident Sarah MacPherson.

The honoree this year was Irene Murdoch, a 37-year Camp Ground resident involved in organizing a host of community activities, Illumination Night among them. Ms. Murdoch turns 100 this November. With the first lantern lit, a procession walked it down the center aisle of the Tabernacle and placed it on a string. At that moment, the entire Camp Ground lit up, creating a kaleidoscopic spectacle. Some lanterns match the painted colors of their houses, while others were delightfully original.

The crowd along the main streets of the Camp Ground was a whirlpool, with glowsticks and LED glasses adding to the colorful array of lights. Side streets gave the impression of Shibuya alleyways, with the ramen storefronts replaced by porches and rocking chairs. And through it all surged the music of the Jelly Roll Horns band.

Eddies often formed in the circling crowd, as old friends were found, new acquaintances made and porch sitters were drawn into the fold.

“This is real community out here,” said resident Sue Ewen. “The camaraderie is the best part.”

More pictures.