Christmas in Edgartown Draws Throngs to Colorful Festivities

By BRETT FERRY

A friend recently said that "Christmas is about getting back to the basics, the basics that are so easily forgotten today."

A reporter was reminded of this walking through the doors of the Federated Church on South Summer street Saturday morning, where an elf workshop was in progress. Oblong tables were crammed with kids bumping elbows and building gingerbread houses. Parents stood behind them chatting with each other. Some leaned over to lend a hand, but they were ignored - so intently focused were the kids on their individual projects.

Just before 11 a.m., the crowds shuffled toward Main street. Moms pushed empty strollers and dads balanced toddlers on their shoulders; grandparents were in the mix, too. And young lovers walked hand in hand. All sorts lined the sidewalks awaiting the festive procession of Island groups spreading candy and holiday cheer.

Leading the pack was a group of students from the Edgartown School, caroling their way down Main street. Following them were West Tisbury scouts. Voices from the crowd yelled hellos to familiar faces in the parade as youngsters darted from their parents' grasps to fetch pieces of candy that littered the street.

Strongly contrasting the kids, the Martha's Vineyard Harley Riders roared and growled their way down the main drag. Ruffians only in appearance, this group of men and women in black leather and Santa caps organize events to benefit several Island charities. Santa Claus was at the helm of the boys' and girls' club bus as kids poked their heads out the windows and howled to onlookers, "Merry Christmas, happy holidays."

Even the Grinch showed his sense of community, waving as the Dairy Queen truck towed both him and an ornery but submissive chocolate lab with reindeer horns.

Toward the parade's end, a group of horses and riders of all ages that had gathered by the Farm Institute strutted along the path. And concluding the whole entourage was the second appearance of Santa Claus, who greeted the crowds from atop Edgartown Fire Engine No.1.

Little heals more right now than a strong sense of local community, and nothing shows a community's spirit more than a parade. On Main street Saturday, the difference between our community and those on the mainland was readily apparent. Perhaps it was the lack of strip malls and busy traffic, or the general friendliness and slow pace.

Throughout the chilly and slightly overcast morning, and well into the afternoon, Island groups set up shop along Main street.

The Harley Riders were raffling a 2002 Road King Classic motorcycle - $10 a chance - for the benefit of Island charities. In a combined effort, youth groups representing the Federated and St. Andrew's churches offered steamy cups of chili and chowder in front of the park, with proceeds earmarked for the American Red Cross.

Kids bounded along the sidewalks in packs void of adults - another defining factor of the small but close-knit winter community. Other children rode their bicycles into town, only to abandon them on the park lawn or sidewalk to explore the fun of their town's holiday events. Shop owners offered plates of cookies and hot cider for shoppers and browsers.

On Friday evening, a holiday dinner and auction for the Yard, a colony for performing artists, proved an awesome display of giving. Auction items donated included a Warbird Flight, a summer afternoon sail on a Vineyard Haven sloop, gift certificates to several restaurants, and a ton of elegant gift items from merchants. Exhorted by auctioneer Dr. Gerry Yukevich, attendees were not shy with their bids because they knew the proceeds would allow the Yard to continue giving back to the community through its varied performing arts programs.

Throughout the weekend, the true character of the community prevailed as the spirit of giving set the mood for the season. Many Island festivities will continue for the days ahead as together we approach the New Year.