Under a new moon and thick summer air, picnickers, families and newcomers gathered at the Tabernacle on Wednesday night to mark the 147th Grand Illumination.

It's a good night to be a porch. — Maria Thibodeau

Lanterns from around the world, some passed down through generations of Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association families, decorated the porches of the gingerbread cottages in the center of Oak Bluffs. It was a night filled with whimsy, tradition and song.

“Good evening,” master of ceremonies and director of programming Bob Cleasby said to the crowd. It would be the first of many greetings throughout the evening.

The Vineyard Haven Band opened the evening with the Military Escort tune, followed by a full compliment of the Americana songbook with 76 Trombones, When the Saints Go Marching In and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Trumpeter Ed Rodgers serenaded the crowd with a rendition of Moon River, and when it came time for I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Mr. Cleasby harmonized with the crowd.

Several camp ground members walked around in Victorian costumes, and kids zoomed around the lawn with a trail of glow sticks whirling behind them. A group of picnickers lit sparklers during Glory, Glory Hallelujah as several girls stood in rapt fixation at the twinkling lights.

Surrounded by 300 cottages in the Methodist camp ground, the oldest dating to 1864, Betsy and Bob Bogle held the honor this year of lighting the first lantern.

Bob and Betsy Bogle light the first lantern. — Maria Thibodeau

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be lighting the first candle,” Mr. Bogle said.

The lights dimmed, the candle was lit and Mr. Cleasby walked the lantern up the center aisle of the Tabernacle to hang it in place. The switch was flipped and the lanterns around the Tabernacle all came on. There was a small gasp, followed by large applause rippling out across the camp ground. And then, house by house, lantern by lantern, the lights in the camp ground went on and what was once dark began to glow.

Jackie Kaser and her friend Kim Anderson were sitting on Ms. Kaser’s front porch on Clinton avenue. Ms. Kaser’s father-in-law bought the Bishop Gilbert Cottage in 1962. The cottage once welcomed President Ulysses S. Grant.

Ms. Kaser’s nephew served in Iraq and she tries to honor his service with a red, white and blue themed lantern display.

Victorian outfits are still the rage when in a Victorian wonderland. — Maria Thibodeau

“It marks the end of summer,” she said. “It’s a nice celebration of food, friends and family.”

Ms. Kaser invited her college girlfriends, including Ms. Anderson and friend Paula Clark, for a reunion. It was the first time the Ohio natives had seen each other in 30 years and it was Ms. Anderson’s first time at Illumination Night.

“It’s very impressive and special,” Ms. Anderson said.

Further down the street, Dana Robinson was sitting on his porch with family. His sister Jennifer’s hand-painted lanterns, adorned with irises, hydrangeas and roses, hung around the wraparound porch. Mr. Robinson, who lives in Tennessee, hadn’t been to Grand Illumination since 1993. His mother, Eileen, grew up on the Vineyard and was holding court as friends stopped by.

“I don’t think there’s anything else in the world that does this,” Mr. Robinson said.

An annual show stopper, a cottage a bit further down the path was decorated with hot air balloon lanterns and drew curious photographers and wide eyes. Ernie Mallory, 91, is a former hot air balloon pilot. He’s been coming to the Vineyard since 1946 and renting the same cottage for 53 years. He was on the porch with a T-shirt of his actual hot air balloon, Last Chance. Mr. Mallory said he began piloting hot air balloons when he was 61 years old in his hometown of Cumberland, R.I. During his lifetime, he’s flown hot air balloons around the world.

“Every place we go, my family and friends are looking for balloon lanterns,” he said as four generations of family members wandered in and out of the house. “It’s been a lot of fun. The kids enjoy the lights and the balloons, and I love seeing people enjoy this place.”