3 Weeks, 4 Islands, 6 Harbors – Grand Illumination Night, Oak Bluffs

I am really excited about this blog post.  I had heard about Oak Bluffs’ Grand Illumination Night, but in all of our summer trips to the Vineyard we were never here during that week in August. Imagine my excitement when we found ourselves on the island at the right time!

A sneak preview of the paper lanterns………………

Oak Bluffs is closer to Vineyard Haven than to Edgartown, but with the Vineyard Transit Authority bus system, it was a short ride away from us while we were moored in a Edgartown

Another map of MV. The red arrow shows Edgartown to Oak Bluffs.

Whenever we have stayed in the Oak Bluffs harbor, we take the time to wander around Trinity Park,  a 34-acre neighborhood of charming tiny gingerbread cottages and a designated historic landmark, nestled in the heart of Oak Bluffs. My first impression, about ten years ago, was that I had traveled in a time machine and dropped into another era.

Without a map or good directions, it can be tricky to find Trinity Park. This grove of gingerbread houses is hidden behind the main streets and under the boughs of trees. But the top of the Tabernacle is visible in the center.

It all began with the Methodist Church when the first religious “campmeeting” (yes, that is actually one word) was held in the summer of 1835. Families camped out in tents in the oak grove near the ocean breezes and immersed themselves in prayers and religious services lasting from a week to ten days. As time passed, these summer retreats became social as well as religious as people enjoyed the seaside setting of the island, a heart, soul, mind and body interaction. By 1859, small wooden cottages replaced the tents and folks stayed for longer periods. These tiny houses were Gothic Revivial style with Victorian gingerbread accents, painted in rainbow colors. By 1880 there were 500 cottages and today 318 remain.

In 1879 the Tabernacle was constructed and is one of the few remaining examples of wrought iron structures created in the late 19th Century. It stands as the centerpiece of Trinity Park with the cottages assembled in a circle around it. Although the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) was first established by Methodists, it has become increasingly interdenominational and serves as a religious and cultural center.

A more detailed history of this special campground can be found on the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) site.

The evening’s program

Grand Illumination Night is a very special annual event. The first Illumination Night in 1869 was called Governor’s Day in honor of the Governor of Massachusetts who was visiting from the mainland.

How lucky we were to be able to participate in the 148th Illumination Night festivities.

Hundreds (maybe thousands) of people surrounded the Tabernacle on chairs and blankets and filled the seats inside.  The evening began with a community sing and ended with music from the Vineyard Haven Band. The music was good old fashioned tunes and many patriotic ones.

The Tabernacle in Trinity Park, Oak Bluffs

Dozens of colored glass windows decorate the base of the cupola above the seating.

Mr. Cleasby, the music director, asked the audience to sing ‘We Shall Overcome” and reflect on the terrible tragedy of Charlottesville which had occurred the week before. Voices rose together in unison and sang out loud and clear. The final song, “God Bless America” brought a sense of poignancy as I wonder what will happen to our great country in these trying days. I think I do not need to say any more than that. There were tears in my eyes as I sang.

Singing God Bless America. (Click on the photo for video and audio)

The Vineyard Haven Band

And now for the best part – the photos. Words can’t describe these cottages. It has to be seen and experienced. The first photos are in the daylight before the musical program.

The illumination of Grand Illumination Night comes from the painted paper lanterns and strings of lights decorating the cottages throughout Trinity Park. As dusk falls, the lanterns are lit and the entire grove glows with lights and colors.

At 9:00 pm the the street lights went out and the cottages sparkled with their lanterns and strings of lights. Residents sat on their porches and people strolled past, oohing and ahhhing in delight. I tried to photograph the cottages after the illumination, but alas, that is not so easy. Hopefully, these pictures will give some indication of the evening’s beauty.

Oh my. Simply one of the best evenings ever. It was magical, and I don’t use that word often.

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3 Weeks, 4 Islands, 6 Harbors – West Tisbury Artisan Festival

Although we certainly enjoyed our rainy day walk around Edgartown, we were eager to have some fun in the sun.

Martha’s Vineyard has a very good transit system that runs between all of the towns. For boaters, this makes the island even better. As seniors, we purchased a 3-day pass for $10. Not bad at all.

The VTA bus (Vineyard Transit Authority)

We took the bus out to West Tisbury for the Vineyard Artisan Festival, held every Thursday throughout the summer at the Grange Hall.  The Artisan Festivals are the only weekly juried art show where the people can browse, shop and meet the artists and crafts people. Over 70 artisans show and demonstrate their work in weaving, fine furniture, pottery, stained glass, oil paintings, pastels, mixed media, sculpture, wampum jewelry, quilts, clothing, sea glass windows, handmade books and more.

West Tisbury Town Hall, also the bus stop.

Lines of white tents filled with feasts for the eyes.

A closer look in the tents – the creativity of the many artisans is amazing.

Inside the old grange hall building I found a weaver and author,  Joanna Erickson. She was delightful to chat with.

The day ended with supper at the Seafood Shanty on the upper deck. Al gets his favorite fried clam strips and I enjoyed lobster quesadilla.

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3 Weeks, 4 Islands, 6 Harbors – Walking Around Edgartown

Among the Flowers, our favorite breakfast spot in Edgartown.

 

Our first full day in Edgartown was warm and humid with a threat of showers, so we donned our foul weather gear for our traditional breakfast at Among the Flowers, a little restaurant on Mayhew Lane. Way back in  2004 we watched a Season 3 episode of Rachel Ray’s “$40 a Day”  featuring restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard which included Among the Flowers. Ever since then, we always have breakfast there. It’s must-do on our Edgartown list.

Foul weather gear for our dinghy ride to shore.

Among the Flowers, outside dining with protection under the awning and porch.

A delicious breakfast once again. Can you believe that is a “side” of fruit with the quiche???         The bill is presented in a cute little glass jar.

Al spent a little time playing the ring on the tree game. He was successful!

After such a filling breakfast, a walk around Edgartown was in order. Edgartown is a classic and elegant whaling town from the 18th and 19th centuries, with beautiful homes and well-manicured gardens.

The lawns and gardens definitely meet the criteria for “well-manicured”.

Classic New England coastal homes.

There simply can’t be too many hydrangeas. My most favorite flowering shrub, anywhere.

August is a month when everything is in full bloom. Even on a gray day, there was color.

Lifting our eyes upwards we can find the church steeples. The Federated Church not he left and the Old Whaling Church on the right.

I have special memories of the Edgartown Library on North Water Street.The old brick building was opened in 1904 and served as the library for 112 years until 2016. We were unaware that a new library had been constructed and opened last year. Why do I have a special memory? Back in July 2006, I was offered a new position while I was off sailing for three weeks. I accepted the job over the phone, but needed to officially resign from my current position ASAP (Sidebar: My immediate supervisor knew about the potential change and had encouraged and supported me in the pursuit.) Although that seems like yesterday, wifi in harbors didn’t really exist and we certainly did not have that capability. Off to the public library where I composed and sent my resignation email. There was no other way to do it in writing quickly. At least we had cell phones “back” then.

The old Edgartown Library

Window shopping in downtown Edgartown.

“Pastoral Dreamer” is a 2x life size sculpture by David Phelps now residing (reclining?) at Vineyard Square. In the sculptor’s words, the piece is meant to convey a sense of “perseverance, optimism, and humor being embrace in the face of adversity.”  Guess we are not art connoisseurs. Just looks like a boy relaxing and enjoying some quiet contemplation time.

Bicycles as planters. Recycling the ‘cycles?

As we walked the streets close to the water, we turned an eye to the harbor. Sure enough we quickly spied our own Kindred Spirit in the mooring field. It’s like a built-in radar system.

We ended our morning stroll on the upper deck of Memorial Wharf overlooking the harbor. Even on a gray day, the views are worth it.

A nice view of those beautiful homes from the waterside.

Chappy ferries
Edgartown Lighthouse
The mooring field

Although not the sunniest of days, it also wasn’t a rainy day. For the afternoon we dinghied over to Edgartown Harbor Light. The first lighthouse, a two-story wooden structure that also served as the lightkeeper’s house, was constructed in 1828.This first Edgartown Light was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938. In 1939, the United States Coast Guard demolished the existing buildings and installed this 1881 vintage cast-iron tower relocated from Ipswich.

Edgartown Harbor Light marks the entrance to Edgartown Harbor and Katama Bay. I love the way the children are running around the base of the lighthouse.

1828 and 1939

We climbed the stairs to the top for a look. It’s only 45 feet tall, but still gives a nice view of the water and land. It is surrounded by a sandy beach with a stone causeway connecting it to the mainland.

The cloudy skies did become very rainy skies that night.

The dinghy filled with water after a night of heavy rain.

But the sun did come out to shine and play with us!

 

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