Island residents find many ways to spend the Fourth


It’s on!

While Memorial Day weekend is the nominal start of our summer season, the Fourth of July weekend is when the season really explodes.

The ferries have been busy delivering summer residents and visitors, traffic is crawling, and the recreation and entertainment options seem limitless with flea markets, art shows, and food festivals of every stripe.

The Edgartown Fourth of July parade is certainly the most popular holiday event, drawing thousands of residents and visitors to sidewalks and side streets for choice spots long before the parade steps off at 5 pm, at the intersection of West Tisbury Road and Pinehurst Road, winding through downtown.

Later that evening, residents and visitors will return to Edgartown harbor to find the best spot to view the annual fireworks display at 9 pm. But longtime residents also have a variety of traditional events. This week, The Times spoke with several Islanders about their Fourth of July plans.

Olive Tomlinson has been an Oak Bluffs social doyenne for decades, and the East Chop resident has a remarkable and longstanding plan for the Fourth:

“For more than 20 years, my friend Rochelle Davis and I get on the bus at the Civil War monument in Oak Bluffs on the morning of the Fourth, without children, and ride to the parade route in Edgartown.

“We buy every kind of food sold — lobster rolls, hot dogs, hamburgers — and eat it all. We’re careful to make sure the lobster rolls come with chips, as if we didn’t have enough to eat. Rochelle always gets a brownie, but I draw the line there.

“Even though we are mature women, we sit on the sidewalk in our summer skirts — not too short — and cheer vociferously for every float. The veterans especially touch our hearts. I think that’s really why we go. We duck when they throw candy, but if some lands on us, we give it to kids nearby.

“After the parade, we get back on bus to O.B. and stop at Ben and Bill’s for a black and white soda, then stagger home to East Chop. We don’t do the Edgartown fireworks. We’re Oak Bluffs people. We wait for O.B.’s fireworks in August.”

Dan Hanavan, the new Tisbury police chief, said this Fourth of July will be slightly different. But he plans to take it in stride, literally.

“I don’t know if it’ll change that much. I’ll go in and work a few hours; the Island definitely goes into high gear this weekend. It’s a busy time for police departments. It’s great to see summer people coming back. All chiefs march in the Edgartown parade, so I’ll be going to that. I really enjoy it, the bagpipes, boy and girl scout troops, seeing Island friends.”

Lisa Vanderhoop is an Aquinnah artist and graphic designer, and July Fourth weekend is ground zero for her. Ms. Vanderhoop publishes Vineyard Sea Dogs, a popular Island calendar each August, so July is busy. But she makes time for the Aquinnah children’s parade, now an up-Island Fourth of July tradition on Old South Road.

“We’re like a lot of Islanders, we work on the Fourth. My husband (fishing charter captain) Buddy will do two charters. The Fourth weekend is the beginning of his season.

“But I’ll be at the Children’s Parade at 10 am. Tom Murphy down the road started the Old South Road Association and then started a children’s parade five or six years ago that’s turned into a big event. We decorate our cars and trucks, our dogs and ourselves. Even the local fire truck comes. We have a scavenger hunt on Philbin’s Beach, and we dress up crazy. My favorite is a lavender wig, an old hippie shirt and polka dot fishing boots. Amos, our Weimaraner, wears a red, white and blue scarf.”

Marty Nadler, screenwriter and comedian, is a high-profile Island personality and is usually deluged with Fourth of July event invitations, but this year is a little different for the Oak Bluffs resident.

“Normally I get three or four invitations, barbecues and parties, but this year, nothing. I just got back to the Island, and I am a social whore so I’m sure something will turn up. My goal is to stay seven miles away from Edgartown, so I’m okay in Oak Bluffs. I just try to stay away from traffic and speed traps. I usually go to East Chop to watch the Falmouth fireworks. I always get a warm feeling in my heart on the Fourth of July for this country, and it isn’t heartburn.”

The Coogan family in Oak Bluffs could be a Fourth of July parade all by themselves. Selectman Greg Coogan of Oak Bluffs and Geoghan Coogan, his nephew, a Tisbury selectman, along with niece Nell Coogan, Island legislative liaison for state Sen. Rob O’Leary and state Rep. Tim Madden, will march in the Edgartown parade. But that’s only part of the day for the large Coogan clan, Greg says.

“We have a lot of family here, and we get together every year on Eastville Beach by the drawbridge for a cookout. It’s very low-key but it’s grown a lot over the years between families and friends. My wife Sharon and her sister Jackie Willey are the big organizers. They are like information central. Everyone brings something. It’s a busy weekend so the teenagers tend to eat and run, but the rest of us settle in and enjoy the family day.”