Memorial Day Weekend Marks Traditional Start for the Summer Season
By MAX HART
The handwritten sign taped to the window of the Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery in Oak Bluffs says it all: "Rain, rain, go away! Come back in October. We beg you!"
That about sums up this week on the Vineyard, but Island residents fear not: Memorial Day weekend is upon us. The start to summer 2005 is here.
"We've only had to endure three months of March to get here," Mansion House owner Susan Goldstein said Wednesday. "But I think if we get some sun this weekend, the crowds will come and we can start thinking about something other than rain."
"This is crazy," said Marshall Carroll, who runs the Menemsha Texaco station. "We had to turn the heat back on. The good news is, it can only get warmer."
Indeed, Islanders need a good shot of serotonin.
As temperatures dropped and a fierce northeaster blasted the Vineyard this week, residents were talking more about the weather forecast than about plans for Memorial Day. Historically merchants read the tea leaves of summer in the business of the holiday weekend. This week, however, the signs were anything but clear cut, with Steamship Authority reservations sold out and Martha's Vineyard Airport bookings up, but restaurants and inns reporting only fair business.
"If people see that it could rain all weekend, I think a lot people will stay away," said Karin Welch, who owns the Carousel Ice Cream Factory on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. "At this point in the season, it's all about the weekends, but if that means we get this all out of the way in time for July and August, that's fine with me."
At the Chilmark Store, where sitting outside on the porch is an art form, owner Bill Rossi echoed the sentiment.
"You can't overreact about the weather this time of year," Mr. Rossi said. "The difference between a good weather day and a bad weather day in May is nominal."
That said, don't give up on the afternoon barbecue or that baseball game in the park just yet. The forecast calls for some sunshine on Sunday, possibly even Monday.
Caleb Caldwell, who owns the Nashua House and Zapotec restaurant in Oak Bluffs, has mixed feelings when it comes to the weather. On one hand, business at the restaurant is up by 13 per cent from last year. On the other, only about 60 per cent of the rooms at the Nashua House are reserved for the weekend. His conclusion?
"It's just the most weather dependent weekend of the summer," he said. "If the forecast is not bright and sunny then you know it's probably going to be chilly, and I think that really weighs on people's decisions."
Still, Mr. Rossi, Mr. Caldwell and Ms. Welch are all optimistic about the season, which they expect to be a busy one.
The weather wreaked havoc with the boat line all week, culminating with the cancellation of the Martha's Vineyard's last trip to Woods Hole Wednesday night due to gusting winds.
But SSA general manager Wayne Lamson reported yesterday that all boats from Woods Hole are sold out today and tomorrow, as are ferries from the Vineyard on Monday and most of Tuesday. There will also be increased capacity this weekend: the freight boat Katama, just back from Florida where it was widened to allow for more cars, will be running.
He also noted that while the SSA reservations only policy is in effect through Tuesday, there are some preferred reservations that will open up each day.
Sean Flynn, acting general manager at the Martha's Vineyard Airport, said there is a noticeable jump in the usage of private planes coming to the Vineyard this weekend.
"We do have a lot of advance notice on private trips coming to the Vineyard between Friday and Tuesday," Mr. Flynn said yesterday. "And while it is hard to tell, I think based on trends we should have an increase from last year."
U.S. Airways began its summer schedule to the Vineyard from LaGuardia Airport in New York city yesterday, and will make two trips per day. In June, the carrier will grow to its full summer schedule.
Yet this weekend is about more than planes, ferries and the opening of shops that have slumbered since fall. It is also a time to reflect on those who lost their lives defending their country.
On Monday, the Island community will honor the fallen with the traditional parade along the Avenue of Flags in Vineyard Haven. The procession into the Vineyard Haven cemetery begins at 9:45 a.m. at the American Legion Hall across from the Tisbury School; it will then wind down Pine Tree Road alongside the cemetery before making its way inside.
A helicopter flyover will occur at 10:15, and two veterans who served in World War II and the Korean conflict will receive plaques fro their service. Dukes County veterans' agent Jo-Ann Murphy and World War II veteran Fred B. (Ted) Morgan Jr. will speak.
Korean War veteran Robert Kinnecom of Oak Bluffs is looking forward to the parade for a very special reason. His older brother, John, a veteran of World War II, is returning to the Vineyard after years away to take part in procession. The older brother, an Island native who graduated from the Vineyard Haven High School in 1943 and now lives in Ohio, was struck by the idea of the avenue of flags.
"He said, ‘I better not miss this,'" the younger Mr. Kinnecom said.
Today, children at the Edgartown and Tisbury schools will parade to their harbors for their annual march to the sea.
In Tisbury, the first graders and school band will lead the procession down to Owen Park at 12:30 p.m. Eighth-graders Rosie Bick and Kyle Mercaldo will give introductions before the schoolchildren throw flowers into the harbor to commemorate those who gave their lives for their country. A presentation of the colors and pledge of allegiance follows before the singing of the National Anthem and America the Beautiful.
"It's a somber ceremony, but one that resonates with the community as well as the children," assistant principal Richard M. Smith said. "The kids really understand the true meaning of Memorial Day."
In the event of rain, the ceremony will take place in the school's gymnasium beginning at 12:30.
Edgartown students begins their march at 1:10 p.m. from the school parking lot. From there they through the center of town to Memorial Wharf. Principal Edward Jerome will make some remarks and the seventh grade will recite the Gettysburg Address.
Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs students will both meet Sgt. Robert Dickson of the United States Marine Corps, who recently served in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Dickson, whose father is a custodian at the Oak Bluffs School and whose mother teaches in Vineyard Haven, will address the Oak Bluffs students in a brief assembly in the school gymnasium at 8:30 a.m. and then later speak at the Owen Park ceremony.
Also at the Oak Bluffs School, each grade will either perform a song or recite a poem recalling the past.
"That's the piece of it," Oak Bluffs School principal Laury Binney said. "To not forget."
Ms. Murphy agrees.
"I think we've forgotten what Memorial Day means," she said. "When we put up these 400 flags it really tells people what it is supposed to mean. It's not just another day off or a car sale. It should mean something more."