Rain Fails to Dampen Parade, Fireworks

By KATE BRANNEN

All it takes to start a parade are some pots and pans and a couple of kids.

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Ten years ago on Fourth of July, two young mothers decided to march with their children around the block. They only went a few hundred yards down West Clinton street in Oak Bluffs. After making lots of noise banging on their pots and pans, they returned home.

"Honest to goodness, it started just four houses long," said Pamela Rogers, who along with her friend, Gretchen Rehak, started the parade with their children. At the time, Ms. Rogers's children were ages four and two, and Ms. Rehak had eight-month-old twins.

"The kids didn't even know what was going on back then," said Ms. Rogers.

Little did the parents know, but a tradition had been born.

On Wednesday, 10 years later, the Fourth of July children's parade in Oak Bluffs attracted about 200 people. They marched their way around the Camp Ground's Tabernacle while people watched from their front porch rocking chairs.

The Island celebrated the country's birthday on Wednesday with new traditions and old, combining the solemn with the silly, from veterans in uniform to miniature ponies.

In Oak Bluffs, against the backdrop of the historic Camp Ground cottages, the children's' parade was a reminder that there's still plenty of room for new traditions.

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A golf cart, on loan from the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, led the procession of bikes, wagons and people on foot.

Driving the cart, and wearing red, white and blue capes, were Ms. Rogers's parents, Jody and Bob Falkenburg, the parade's unofficial marshals.

A few members of the Vineyard Haven Band marched along and played You're a Grand Old Flag and God Bless America. Pin wheels and streamers covered the bikes and little girls wore red, white and blue bows in their hair. Parents cheered and took pictures of their children in face paint.

"The whole point is for the children to have a good time," said Mr. Falkenburg, wearing an American flag top hat. His grandchildren are the fifth generation of his family to stay in the campground.

His grandson, Scott Rogers, one of the original pot-bangers, is now 12. At the end of the parade, he joined the band on the snare drum and together they played The Star Spangled Banner while the crowd sang along.

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"The parade gets everyone out and started for the day," said Russ Dagnall, president of the Camp Meeting Association. His wife, Sally, handed out lollipops when the parade was over.

In the afternoon, a tradition older than the country was under way on the steps of the Colonial Inn in Edgartown. The Colonial Navy of Massachusetts, a fife and drum band from Fall River, Mass., entertained a crowd with songs of the sea.

The Massachusetts State Navy was founded in 1775 to defend the state against British gunboats during the Revolutionary War. In 1780, they became part of the Continental Navy and the militia changed their name to the Colonial Navy.

Dressed in black hats with ribbons, red and white striped crewneck jerseys and black neckerchiefs, they sang The Girl I Left Behind Me and Shenandoah.

The sound of their rifles firing never failed to scare passersby, although they seemed to enjoy the fright.

Nearby, under a green tent on Main street, Island students hosted a bake sale to raise money for an eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C., next spring.

Elizabeth Francis, Caroline Fournier and Maggie Lindland, all soon-to-be eighth graders, were standing behind the table selling cookies and sandwiches.

Miss Lindland is the reigning Miss Massachusetts Junior Teen and with this title came the chance to ride on top of the fire truck during the parade. She'll be in a national competition in Las Vegas later in the summer.

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Tim Schreck and Chris Pitt worked alongside the girls, selling raffle tickets. It was their third hour-long shift in a row.

Down the street people were flocking to St. Elizabeth's Church to get their annual Fourth of July lobster roll.

"Lobster rolls!" yelled Constance Mesmer over the sounds of the Vineyard Haven Band practicing inside the Old Whaling Church across the street. "Right here! Right now! Comes with chips!"

In addition to the $12 lobster rolls, the church tried something new this year: snow cones.

Brother and sister Anthony and Hayley Booth scooped shaved ice and squirted bright syrup on top. Natives of Tuscon, Ariz., they recommended either rainbow flavor or a "Sponge Bob" snow cone, which included banana and orange.

As people started setting up their beach chairs and picnic blankets along Main street, last-minute touches were made to floats and costumes behind Edgartown school.

Julia Prince, dressed as an everlasting gobstopper, and Christine Quiambao, in an oompa loompa costume, were both excited for their first year in the parade. They are both first-year counselors at Camp Jabberwocky and said the campers and counselors had been working on their Jabber Wonka float for the past three days. The wheels of campers' wheelchairs were being outfitted with drums and painted cardboard hubcaps.

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The young gymnasts, who would wow the crowds later with their cartwheels and round-offs on board the Circus Smirkus float, laughed with their classmates while they waited for the festivities to begin. Their float, designed and constructed by Terry and Tony Gramkowski and Arty Moran, included a giant elephant head and flapping ears.

Ms. Gramkowski said she hoped their presence in the parade would get people excited for Circus Smirkus, a fundraiser for the Edgartown seventh grade, which will take place July 27 to 29.

The Chamber of Commerce carted out Bruce the Shark for their menacing Jaws float. It was Bruce's debut in the parade. He was created for the 2005 Jaws Fest.

Donna Honig, who was standing by, keeping an eye on him, said he was an exact replica of the shark model used in the movie. She said he was named after Steven Spielburg's lawyer, a real shark.

The campers from Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary were also making their first appearance in the parade. They worked on their float, which featured an osprey and a barn owl, during their first week of camp, said director Suzan Bellincampi.

Pimpneymouse Farm's float of the retired ferry, The Islander, won the prize for most original. Made with white spray-painted straw, it had blue waves lapping at its side and a blazing construction-paper sun setting behind it.

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At the historical Daniel Fisher house, behind the white picket fence, a barbecue, a staple of Fourth of July, was hosted by Fella Caters. People stood at the condiments table squirting generous amounts of mustard and ketchup on their hot dogs and hamburgers while reggae music played and the staff flipped burgers.

Waiting for the official parade to start, the people strolling and strutting by in their patriotic outfits and summer dresses created a parade-before-the-parade. Trash bag ponchos emerged as the clouds grew darker and a few drops began to fall.

The crowd looked down the road eagerly, getting antsy as their backs got stiff and bottoms sore.

The roar of the police motorcycles made children and adults stand up and clap.

Finally, the parade.

The whoop, whoop of the sirens and the revving of engines raised the excitement level to fever pitch.

Men in uniform, from the state police to the U.S. Navy, marched proudly or drove by in snazzy convertibles.

Firemen, in hard hats and red suspenders, got the crowd going with a wave. At a full-speed run, they manually pushed an old firetruck up Main street.

Their sprinting, the smell of gasoline and the whir of the sirens got everyone's hearts beating faster. Following the fire trucks was the sound of an old automobile horn, "A-woo-ga!"

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Paper doves, homemade protest signs that read "Making Peace is patriotic," and handfuls of wildflowers were held aloft by members of the Martha's Vineyard Peace Council.

The state champion soccer team got loud cheers as they walked up the street in their purple warm-up clothes.

The Dairy Queen Swingers danced and waved to the sounds of Can't Touch This, while the people on board the YMCA's float made letters with their arms as the Village People sang.

After the party of the parade, the Vineyard Haven Band started their concert on a more somber note, playing Amazing Grace to a good-sized crowd gathered in the Old Whaling Church at 7:30 p.m. The soar of the trumpets and low groan of the tuba filled the austere, high-ceilinged room.

At 9 p.m., in raincoats and under umbrellas, a smaller than usual crowd assembled down by the harbor for the fireworks display. Puddles glistened on the street and the smell of salty air mixed with the cool breeze. Colors inside colors exploded above as the fireworks made giant weeping willows of gold dust in the sky.

Children with their hoods on and glow sticks hanging around their necks covered their ears at the big cannon booms.

Cars and boats honked their horns after the last ka-boom and as people turned away from the harbor to walk back to their cars, it began to rain.