A weekend of memories and celebrations
Despite high gas prices and an uncertain economy, Memorial Day weekend ushered in glorious spring weather, a surge in visitors and returning seasonal residents, and the start-up of what some predict will be a promising summer season on Martha's Vineyard.
Weekend activities provided a mix of respectful remembrance and springtime celebration. In addition to paying tribute to those who died in service to their country, Islanders and visitors celebrated the safe return of two servicemen home from war. They also enjoyed family pastimes such as shopping, boating, and cookouts in the midst of sunshine-filled days.
Welcome-home crowds including Island veterans, police, fire, and ambulance personnel, friends, and families greeted Capt. Ron MacLaren, USNR, of Aquinnah, who returned to the Island last Thursday, and Lance Corporal Anthony Sullo, USMC, who arrived home Saturday.
Since last November, Captain MacLaren served in Kuwait as the Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward GOLF. He will resume his job as the Wampanoag Tribe's health director. Lance Corporal Sullo recently completed a seven-month tour in Kuwait from where he was deployed to patrol along the Iraq/Syrian border. He is home on leave for a three-week visit.
Flocking to the Island
Whether arriving by air or sea, weekend visitors flocked to the Vineyard. Although actual numbers won't be available until the end of the month, Martha's Vineyard Airport Manager Sean Flynn said traffic was a little higher than last year, based on fuel sales and revenue.
Final counts are also unavailable yet for weekend ferry traffic, but Steamship Authority (SSA) General Manager Wayne Lamson said, "I would say early indications are that there were about the same numbers as last year, which is good, considering factors such as higher gas prices."
Despite gas prices, Mr. Lamson said he thinks there will be a strong summer season. "I think people may be vacationing close to home, which bodes well for the Cape and Islands," he said.
As for recreational boaters, Oak Bluffs harbormaster and marina manager Todd Alexander and Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur both said they saw a good turnout. "I was worried in the beginning, because of fuel prices, but with near perfect weather for boaters, nothing stopped them," Mr. Alexander said.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
With most of Tisbury's moorings in use, Mr. Wilbur said, "I've never had so many happy folks in the harbor, happy to be here starting the season."
Chris Kennedy, Islands Regional Director of the Trustees of the Reservations (TOTR), gauged the weekend's visitor volume by looking at counts of over-sand vehicle traffic on Norton Point Beach and Dyke Bridge on Chappaquiddick, as well as the number of tour-takers and permits sold.
The number of vehicles visiting Norton Point Beach remained about the same as last year's Memorial Day weekend count, as did permit sales. However, there were about 1,000 fewer vehicles visiting Chappaquiddick this year, which Mr. Kennedy said might be linked to increases in gas prices and Chappy ferry fees, as well as a recent drop-off in fishing due to cooler weather.
"My experience in talking with people this year is they are a lot more aware of what they're spending than in years past," Mr. Kennedy said. He also noticed more than half of those taking weekend TOTR tours were English, Irish, German, and Canadian visitors.
A day for Isabel West
A large crowd turned out for the Memorial Day picnic hosted by Tisbury at the Water Works grounds off West Spring Street.
Picnic organizers estimated there were more than 200 in attendance at the event's peak at 2 pm. The Tisbury selectmen dedicated this year's picnic in honor of Isabel West, who rejuvenated the event in the early 1970s after its organization and attendance had lapsed.
Ms. West, aided by Long Hill nursing home owner Elizabeth Sandlin and assistant Nancy Nevin, arrived at the picnic with her friends Ed Sons, Mary Dias, and Eileen Mayhew, who reside with her at the home in Edgartown.
Tisbury selectmen Denys Wortman and Tristan Israel presented Ms. West with a framed copy of the 2008 picnic promotional poster, along with a proclamation making May 26 her day. Picnic committee member Sandra Kingsman also brought a birthday cake for Ms. West, who turned 96 on May 17.
When someone asked what made her take on the role of reviving the picnic years ago, Ms. West said with a shrug, "Somebody had to do it."
Ms. West, the daughter of long-time Vineyard residents Wilfrid and Ruth White, was born in Braintree and spent summers on the Island. In the early 1960's she and her husband Pat West moved to the Island where they lived on Lake Tashmoo.
"She loved that picnic at the water works - she decided it was a cause to champion," said her son Dan, who lives with his wife in Friendship, Maine, in a phone call this week. Ms. West remains a member emeritus of Tisbury's picnic committee.
Many in the Island's business community said the influx in visitors resulted in increased weekend revenues, which they hope will be a good precursor for the summer ahead.
"We had a good weekend, which leads us to believe summer is going to be as busy as it has been," said Jon Nelson, owner of the Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven.
Barbara Jamgochian, manager of Bryn Walker in Edgartown, said business was wonderful, with a lot of shoppers coming in to take advantage of the store's big sale. "We were very happy; we had smiles on our faces at the end of the day on Monday," she said.
At the Wharf Restaurant in Edgartown, manager Jeff Voorhees said although he wasn't sure what to expect this year, "It was a really good weekend."
In addition to shopping and eating, the return of nice weather inspired many Vineyarders to work outdoors. "I think almost everybody I know was gardening this weekend," said Chris Wiley, who co-owns Vineyard Gardens in West Tisbury with her husband Chuck. "We had a very good weekend and a lot of happy customers, who we thank very much."
Although nighttime business was good and daytime business a little slower at Seasons Eatery and Pub and the Lookout Tavern, managing partner Mike Santoro remains cautious about the upcoming season. "You can't look at last weekend as barometer of what's to come - there are too many factors facing us," he said. "With the economy worsening as each week goes by, you never know. I wouldn't want to be a betting man to predict what's going to happen this summer."
Holiday keeps Oak Bluffs police hopping
Among the Island police departments, the Oak Bluffs Police Department reported the most activity, responding to 101 calls for service and making 4 arrests from Friday through Monday.
A copy of the police log from Lt. Timothy Williamson provided the highlights:
Friday, 8:07 pm: A police officer arrested 21-year-old Arron Blake of Oak Bluffs on charges of possession with intent to distribute a class B drug after discovering a bag containing 12 ecstasy tablets in his possession during a motor vehicle stop on Barnes Road.
Saturday, 9:40 pm: After responding to a call from the U.S. Coast Guard requesting assistance with boarding a vessel in the Oak Bluffs harbor, police arrested Ryan M. Smith, age 36, of Mashpee, who was charged with operating under the influence (third offense).
Sunday, 12:40 am: Oak Bluffs police officers placed Sean J. Lynch, age 39, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., into protective custody after observing him urinating behind a trash can and later climbing into a parked vehicle belonging to a local resident. At an inventory search at the jail, Mr. Lynch was subsequently charged with possession of a class B substance (cocaine).
Sunday, 6:45 pm: Officers responded to a report of breaking and entering and the theft of a cash register containing $200 at the Thai Cuisine restaurant at 67 Circuit Avenue. The case is under investigation. Anyone who might have information should call the Oak Bluffs police at 508-693-0750.
Monday, 5:44 pm: Officers responded to a report of lascivious behavior at a business on Lake Ave. According to the log, "The reporting party explained that a male had come into the store and dropped his pants and underwear and exposed himself. Officers were unable to locate the individual described after a thorough search of the area. The victim was asked to call the police back if she saw the man return to the area."
The only other incidents of note from other Island police departments included two accidents. On Friday in West Tisbury a bicyclist was injured when struck on the elbow by the mirror on a van driving by on State Road, which did not stop. On Saturday, a single car careered off Herring Creek Road and flipped over twice before landing in Katama Airfield in Edgartown. Both accident victims had minor injuries. (See related news briefs on Page 2.)