From the July 5, 1977 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The annual celebration of the nation’s independence showed Vineyard colors flying and its crowds smiling. Thousands battled for parking spaces, vantage points and bottles of beer, but the night was a friendly one, and the weekend had been quiet.

The first sounds of Bill Bailey, struck up by St. Anthony’s Marching Band of Fall River, were heard by an impatient gathering at 7:10 p.m. in Edgartown. But the festivities had begun long before that — in the quickened paces of the onlookers, in the reds, whites and blues they wore, in their easy laughter and applause.

Cheers for the towing of cars stationed on Main street. Cheers for the reviewing officers. Cheers for the Prom Queen and for the clowns.

Laughter greeted two children carrying the Martha’s Vineyard secession flag, and the hoots came loudly for the young man who took a bath on the “Most Original” (to say the least) float — that of Solar Systems Construction. There was the Coast Guard, the American Legion, the VFW auxiliary, the selectmen and the county commissioners. There was publicity for auctions and restaurants and landscapers. There was the constant rush of faces and the inevitable exchanges between participants and crowd.

“Come on! Come on! Let’s beef up that applause” was the cry of one truck driver who found a lull in the enthusiasm.

“Hey!” yelled a clown in checkered shirt and striped pants, “Smile. Let’s see some smiles.”

And both got what they asked for.

When the fire trucks from the six towns made their screaming voyage past the people, cries of pleasure almost matched the volume, and certainly matched the spirit.

For two hours afterwards there was talk of the parade; how it compared to last year; how it compared to the year before. People drifted, happily munching dinner or quaffing a beer. At nine, they had assembled again, children on laps, handbags at sides, cameras all set. And the fireworks were right on schedule. If Edgartown’s skies had ever before been lit so brightly or so magically, it was far beyond the memory of most onlookers assembled at the wharf.

Confusion and happiness reigned. Temporary loss of children was O.K. So were the lines for food and drink, so was the long walk back to the car.

“You have to take everything with a grain of salt tonight,” Chief Bruce Pratt said. “After all, it’s the Fourth of July, and everybody’s just having a good time.”

But last night’s business was only the icing on the cake for most Island merchants. Shops and restaurants fairly echoed with the sounds of “Sure we’ll need another six” and “Oh, isn’t it charming, dear?” and “Daddy! you promised!”

Down-Island shops reported a great improvement on last year’s results: more people, more business. A harried waitress at Helios sighed that Monday morning’s breakfast tables seated a total of 140 — nearly twice the usual number.

Lawrey’s, Al’s, Martha’s Cheeses, Big Belly’s Deli and the Cycle Works have had the best sales ever, they say, and the superlative is repeated wearily in other places of business.

Cap’n Dave Chase at Harborside was pleased with three days of exceptional business, almost all his boats outs, all the time. John S. Moffett, manager of the Kelley House, sees a tremendous difference since last year. His dining room was twice as busy as last year, he said, even without the Universal Jaws.

Tonic, toilet paper and ice cream sticks and popsicles were sold in a flurry this weekend at up-Island markets and stores. From Seward’s market in Menemsha came this report: “Tonic. It’s been unbelievable with the tonic. We can hardly keep it stocked.”

Summertime gin and tonics on backyard porches broke the holiday routine of tennis and sunbathing, came the report.

And somewhere up-Island, there is a fancier of mineral water. The same Menemsha market had its full supply depleted by a single connoisseur.

Yesterday afternoon, as he was about to leave his store for holiday partying, Hugh Taylor said summer shoppers cleaned his stock. “We sold everything. We sold all my produce, all my meat, and all my toilet paper.”

Alley’s General store in West Tisbury’s center bustled with people for four straight days. “Since Friday, we haven’t stopped until closing,” John Alley reported.

Down-Island, the pace was about the same. “As great a Fourth of July weekend as ever,” said Arthur Ben David, harbormaster of Oak Bluffs.

Edgartown was packed with people this weekend, coming in on tour buses with curiosity and guidebooks. On South Beach, a few men had the Jungle Beach spirit as they paraded past family groups, gathering a few stares but more complaints.

The ferry services, good-naturedly responsible for the deluge, had a few customers waiting long hours in Woods Hole, and several rowdies on Saturday who thought it fun to hold a friend over the railing above the water.

But otherwise, quiet — lots of sun, lots of sand, and lost of red, white and blue.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox