Fourth of July Holiday Weekend Begins; Edgartown Parade, Fireworks Monday

By RACHEL KOVAC

A family walks along Memorial Wharf eating ice cream, the children wearing Martha's Vineyard sweatshirts, one red, one white and two blue. A stranger stops to help an elderly woman attempting to hang the stars and stripes from her flagpole. Down the street a man, surrounded by three children drawing vivid landscapes in sidewalk chalk, cleans the grime from his grill.

The Fourth of July is almost here and in every storefront, hanging flower basket and living room window Independence Day is visible.

Today marks the beginning of the weekend celebration. After days of fog and rain the weekend forecast promises 70-degree weather and sunny skies. Visitors have begun to fill the sidewalks - strolling up and down, popping into shops for T-shirts and coffee. Parking is suddenly at a premium.

Gary Cogley, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, said many Island businesses are still on a high from the brisk business in early June, much of it due to Jaws Fest. And now, as the season moves into high gear, people are excited about the prospects for the summer.

"By and large people are keyed up and excited and ready," Mr. Cogley said.

The New England Fast Ferry, which runs between New Bedford and Oak Bluffs, is already sold out for some of its runs, according to company president Michael Glasfeld.

"We anticipate being sold out on quite a few runs," he said. "But we experience a lot of day-of passengers. We will be selling out right before the boat leaves," he said.

At Cape Air the staff is hoping for cooperative weather. Flights are booked for the weekend, although many people started arriving earlier this week.

"We are booked full and are expecting a very full weekend," said Tim Johnson, supervisor at Cape Air.

No Vacancy signs are up at many Island hotels and inns. Richard McAuliffe, general manager of the Harbor View Hotel and the Kelly House, has a few openings in both his hotels, but does not expect them to last.

"It's supposed to be a beautiful weekend. With the weather looking up I would expect to be sold out," he said. "I would expect we would have an excellent weekend all around. The demand is high so far for the Fourth of July."

Hotel staff are preparing to decorate the buildings overlooking the scenic Edgartown Light. A traditional Fourth of July barbecue is planned for today. On Monday at 4 p.m. the staff will dish out more barbecue to people who come to the hotel to watch the fireworks.

Residents and visitors from all over the Island will flock to Edgartown for the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks Monday. Parade marshal Fred B. (Ted) Morgan Jr. will retire after 20 years of organizing the event.

Mr. Morgan revamped the parade this year to try to bring it back to its roots - fewer cars and more floats. In past years the parade grew so long it ran into itself. So this year cars involved in the parade must date to 1955 or earlier except for convertibles.

"It's a hard and fast rule and I know some people I've talked to are upset about it," Mr. Morgan said. "But we want to bring the parade back to what it was originally."

The parade will step off at 5 p.m. from the Edgartown School; it will head down Pease's Point Way and all the way around Starbuck's Neck, then up North Water street the wrong way and into town, where it will take a right at the Four Corners and head up Main street the wrong way back to the school.

Music will be in no short supply before, during and after the parade. The Bay State Band from New Bedford will put on a concert at 2:30 p.m. on the front steps of the Old Whaling Church. The Vineyard Haven Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the church. Joining these bands in the parade will be the Colonial Navy Band and a Scottish bagpipe band.

"It's been a joy to do this over the years because many people are lined up along the parade route and they always seem to enjoy it and it's great for the people on the Vineyard," Mr. Morgan said. "I could name any number of people who have contributed to making this parade a success. I really thank those people."

When dusk falls, on a floating barge just outside the Edgartown harbor a pyrotechnics crew will begin final preparations for the fireworks display. At dark, around nine o'clock, colors will burst into the air and drop to the earth like falling stars.

The fireworks are sponsored by the Edgartown Volunteer Firemen's Association and cost about $30,000, according to Edgartown fire chief Antone Bettencourt. The pyrotechnics crew is from CR Pyro in Middletown.

"It's the same show as last year," Chief Bettencourt said. "It's beautiful out here so of course we're ready."

Edgartown hosts an old-fashioned Fourth of July, but across the Island towns are gearing up for the influx of visitors. Rumors have been flying in Oak Bluffs about a possible concert by a well-known rap group.

Richard Combra Jr., chairman of the Oak Bluffs park commission, said there was a request for a rap concert in Waban Park, but the request was denied.

Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake said his officers are prepared for a busy weekend and he has been busy dispelling rumors about rappers.

"We have had people coming forever," Chief Blake said. "From Carly Simon to NBA stars to President Clinton. That's a statement about the Vineyard itself that celebrities feel comfortable coming here."

James Hayes, manager of the Lampost, said yesterday that the tavern, which is under new ownership this year, will not close for a private party as previously planned.

Mr. Hayes said two Connecticut radio stations are sponsoring disc jockeys on Sunday and Monday nights at the Lampost. Disc jockey Billy Busch will perform Sunday, followed by Chubby Chubb on Monday.

Mr. Hayes said the Lampost has worked closely with the Oak Bluffs police for its weekend events.

A police detail will be posted at the Lampost on weekend nights throughout the summer, Mr. Hayes said. The tavern also plans to bring in extra bouncers for the holiday weekend, he said.

In addition to the off-Island disc jockeys, the Lampost also has scheduled bands and disc jockeys for the main floor and the lower level bar, the Rare Duck.

Chief Blake said he has no concerns about the weekend.

"We hope the weather is nice and everyone has a safe weekend," he said. "The last few years have been awesome, everything has run smoothly and everyone has had a great time."