With two hours to go until parade time, the sun shone on the lines of brightly-decorated floats that filled the parking lot of the Edgartown School Thursday afternoon. Their occupants, which included members of organizations from across the Island, milled about.
When the time came to begin, the parade started with a bang — literally. The Colonial Navy Band of Massachusetts stood in formation, sweating in their period-correct sailor’s uniforms, a blast from their cannon startling the idle crowd. Behind them, the Bay State Band struck up a patriotic tune and an Edgartown police cruiser led the way with flashing lights.
Members of Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides free transportation for medical patients in need, struggled to keep a handmade hot air balloon in check as a breeze blew across the parking lot.
Employees of the British clothing retailer Jack Wills piled into their signature purple-and-blue Land Rover Defender. The driver, a Brit by the name of Hunter Evans, waxed romantic about this foreign holiday. He said he has been in the country one month to the day.
“I’m down for all the patriotism,” Mr. Evans said. “I love it!”
Farther down the line, Greg Patterson of the Edgartown Public Library helped attach a scale model of the library to the back of his float. Seventh grade students at the Edgartown School built the model, he said.
Islander David Whitmon and recent Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduate Trey Araujo manned their bright yellow velomobiles, fielding questions about the peculiar machines. The “bicycle-cars,” as they’re called in French, are surrounded by aerodynamic carbon fiber and can sometimes go as fast — or faster — than a car.
“I’ve actually gotten pulled over a couple of times in this thing,” Mr. Whitmon said. “When the police officer pulled me over I said, thanks for making my day, officer!”
Standing high above the crowd was David Whiting, a student at the Osceola County School for the Arts in Florida. He stood atop a pair of handmade stilts designed for his school’s production of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit.
“I wanted to play a human in the show, so I had to build stilts to make me taller than the rest of the cast,” Mr. Whiting said. “When I came to the Vineyard, I figured I’d wear them in the parade, too.”
In typical fashion, the floats in this year’s parade provided a jaunty display of Martha’s Vineyard’s characteristic wit and whimsy. The Massachusetts Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary won the award for most creative float with its Disney/Pixar-inspired A Bug’s Life float, which was loaded to the brim with smiling campers.
Other award-winning floats included Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey’s purple-and-white covered construction truck, which won best float, and Camp Jabberwocky’s Las Vegas-themed series of floats and marchers, which won best overall float.
Camp Jabberwocky’s campers, counselors and vehicles parodied a wide variety of Las Vegas landmarks and archetypes. A pickup truck led the procession, sided with plywood slot machines. Campers and counselors marched behind, dressed as dancers and magicians. Campers in wheelchairs sported more elaborate, three-dimensional costumes. The group included a cardboard blackjack table with a camper as dealer, a plywood racecar and even a magician with a saw-a-woman-in-half trick.
“We’ve been working on these costumes for about two days straight,” said counselor Liza Gallagher.
Other organizations, including Island fire departments and the Vineyard Gazette, showed off their vintage cars and trucks. And Island Alpaca brought two alpacas named Roberto and Salvador.
People of every description lined the parade route, loudly celebrating the nation’s independence. They cheered as the procession lurched past and children scampered into the street to collect candy tossed from the floats — or pitched, in the case of Martha’s Vineyard Little League, whose players competed to deliver candies to the crowd on the upper deck of the Harbor View Hotel.
And proving that this is still America, the land of free speech and diverse opinions, the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council had a float that raised the ire of at least one parade-goer. “Barack Obama? Nobel Peace Prize? Don’t even get me started on that,” said a man as the float passed by.
But of course most were there to share in the holiday’s patriotic spirit.
“The parade really shows the heart of the Vineyard,” said summer resident Austin Gampfer. “This is the best parade in the country!” added his friend Rob Gardner.
The sunny, humid weather held out just long enough for the last fire trucks to make their way up Main street and past the viewing stand in front of the Old Whaling Church. And then the fog rolled in off the Edgartown harbor.
“It was magnificent,” said Ben Stockman, handing out stickers in front of The Boneyard surf shop.
While the celebrations were going on, Edgartown police and emergency workers were busy fielding a flurry of calls for accidents and mishaps.
For more photos of the parade, see our gallery: Marching to the Beat of Independence.