Illumination Night will be held at the Camp Ground on Wednesday, August 20.
The first such event was sponsored by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company in 1869 as a real estate promotion. To add luster to the event, the governor was invited to speak.
The first Illumination Night was centered in Ocean Park. Because of the tradition of having the governor as a featured speaker, the event was moved to the Tabernacle to provide a venue with greater seating capacity for the attending crowds.
Over the years, Illumination Night has become a celebration of the end of the summer. It marked the end of camp meetings, which were Methodist Church services.
The precise date of the third Wednesday in August came from the studies of Winthrop Tripp. Trippy, as he was fondly nicknamed, was the head of buildings and grounds at the Camp Ground for years. He kept meticulous diaries that related to his work and Camp Ground events. According to Trippy’s diaries, the best weather day in August was the third Wednesday.
Illumination Night opens with a band concert at 7:30 p.m., which is followed by a community sing. At 8:30 p.m., the president of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association welcomes the audience and introduces the honorary lantern lighter. At that time, all lights are extinguished in the Campgrounds. When the first lantern is lit, it is taken to the main Tabernacle entrance where it is hung. Once this ritual is completed, lanterns are lit throughout the Camp Ground.
Why lanterns? The first lanterns were used by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company to dress up the town for its real estate promotion. The lanterns are Japanese because of Admiral Perry’s trip to Japan in 1852. In opening up trade with Asia, all things Asian became the rage of American consumers. This rage extended to residents of Oak Bluffs.
One of my sources for this Illumination lore is Nancy Goldthwait. Nancy’s parents purchased a home in the Campgrounds in 1958. In 1986, Nancy and her husband John purchased a second home next door.
For the Goldthwaits, Illumination Night is a celebration of the Vineyard which they like to share with family and friends. All the family will be there: son John and his wife Sandra from Arnold, Md., with Lydia and Johnny, son Edward and his wife Julie from Seattle Wash., with Charlie and Blake, and daughter Liz Donohue and her husband John from Hingham with Abby, Sophie, and Jack. With all that family, it’s nice to have a second home.
Doug Leasor is a quiet, soft-spoken man with an intense passion. He trains quarter horses for speed events. He and his wife Leslie own a horse farm in Holland, Mass. His successes speak for themselves. He has placed at least one horse in the top 10 of horses shown at the American Quarter Horse World Championships since 1999.
According to Doug, the most important lesson for a speed-event horse to learn is to remain calm until he is asked to run. In talking with Doug, I learned that a horse trainer is in many ways like a sports psychologist.
He told me about a horse that was sent to him that no one could get to go through the starting gate. After working with the horse, Doug determined that the horse had been through a traumatic experience, that someone had harmed the animal in some way. After months of working with the horse to regain his trust, the problem was solved.
I also learned something from Doug that may help my golf game. He said that in working with horses practice does not make perfect; only correct practice can do that. My problem with golf is that I’ve been practicing a slice for more than 30 years.
Doug and Leslie are here with their two daughters Lauren and Lindsey, visiting Leslie’s mother Linda Richardson Collette. Linda and her husband Joe Collette also reside in Holland, Mass.
Finally, Make Way for Molly took place last weekend. Molly Callahan, who is 12, has leukemia. Ted, Caitlin, and Brendan Callahan along with John Parisi, Shelley Barry, Peter Hutton, Matt Fortenbaugh, and Danny Patterson joined thousands of bicyclists to ride for Molly in the Pan Mass Challenge, an 84-mile bike ride from Wellesley to Bourne. Danny Patterson also rode for Lulu deVeer. Frank and Megan Lewis Hwang rode independently. Each rider must raise $3,000 to participate in the event. You can participate as a donor by going to pmc.org, and typing in the name of Molly Callahan or Lulu deVeer. It’s heartening to know that so many East Choppers were present at this great event.