Memorial Day Was Busy and Crowded, Good for Businesses

By JULIA RAPPAPORT

Traffic was up, sales were up and spirits were up to match as business owners across the board reported a generally busy Memorial Day weekend and a healthy start to the season this year.

Steamship Authority traffic to the Vineyard between Thursday and Saturday was up four per cent for passenger traffic and two and a half per cent for car traffic over last year. And Saturday alone saw a 19 per cent increase in passenger traffic from the previous year.

Martha\'s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn reported that jet fuel sales were up 45 per cent from the previous year for a weekend that started on Thursday and ended Tuesday. No numbers were available yet for actual landings.

But Michelle Haynes, communications director at Cape Air, reported no delays in flights and a blockbuster weekend for travel. The airline flew just under 500 passengers from Boston to the Vineyard. Last year, due to bad weather, about 50 passengers made the trip. \"I am very happy, ecstatic that we had one of the best in Cape Air history,\" she said. Ms. Haynes partly attributed the heavy traffic to good weather, but also to the first holiday weekend in which the connecting service between Jet Blue and Cape Air, which began in mid-March, was in effect. She anticipates that the new connection will continue to contribute to an upward trend in Cape Air passengers throughout the summer. \"It\'s 11 steps from the Jet Blue gate to Cape Air,\" she said.

The increase in traffic came despite the cost of gas, which rose in Massachusetts during the week leading up to the holiday. The American Automobile Association reported that the average gas price in New England was $3.09 a week before Memorial Day, up 6.3 cents from the previous week and 12.2 cents from a year ago. Gas prices on the Vineyard are of course much higher, ranging well over $3.50 a gallon in most places.

Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal manager Bridget Tobin also said the summer-like weather was a boon. Boat line parking lots on the mainland filled up quickly and by Saturday both extra lots at Cataumet and Gifford street were in use. Numbers told part of the story. Between Thursday and Saturday, 24,940 people rode the ferries, and 3,859 cars were carried on the Vineyard run.

Chris Scott, executive director of the Martha\'s Vineyard Preservation Trust, reported a line of passengers waiting to leave Oak Bluffs that reached from the ferry dock all the way to the end of Ocean Park on Saturday. \"I\'ve never seen anything like it,\" he said.

Across the water the scene was just as jammed. On Monday a 17-mile traffic backup was reported at the Sagamore Bridge as a flood of weekend visitors poured off Cape Cod.

On the Vineyard most merchants reported doing brisk business. Patricia Wheeler, concierge at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, said it was an extremely busy weekend with all 130 available rooms booked on Saturday. She said the Coach House, the hotel restaurant, served over 300 brunches on Sunday morning.

Mary Gosselin, manager of Island Cove Mini Golf, reported that Sunday was the busiest day for miniature golf. \"On the first beautiful day, people head to the beach,\" she said. \"After that, they\'re looking for something to do.\" The weekend was, on a whole, busier than Memorial Day last year, she said.

The Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs sold 5,250 rides, up from last year. \"It\'s a start to the season, a quick burst,\" said manager Robin Meader.

Robert Murphy, co-owner of Seasons, the Game Room and the Lookout Tavern in Oak Bluffs, was out surveying the scene on Sunday night, while a large crowd listened to live music at Seasons. \"It was nice to see,\" he said of the late night hustle and bustle. \"It has been such a quiet spring.\"