A tour of Vineyard Christmas lights


City dwellers are not the only ones treated to fantastic light displays this time of year. Vineyarders step up to the plate when it comes to holiday decorations, with some homes and businesses going all out to light up the season, and others adding unique Vineyard touches to their illuminated Christmas displays. A trip around the Island may be the perfect way to summon up the holiday spirit in even the most hardened Scrooge. Here are some highlights.

Oak Bluffs, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Crossland Landscape, undergoes perhaps the most spectacular holiday transformation of the Island towns every year. The landscaping team, which was responsible for the resurrection of Ocean Park in 2002, have for the past five years turned the park into a wonderful winterscape of multicolored cone-shaped Christmas trees, sparkly reindeer grazing next to a green fountain, and the traditional white lit pine tree capping off the spectacle from inside the light-festooned Band Stand. The picturesque park, with its open treeless expanse, is a winter wonderland display.

For the past two years, drivers pulling into Oak Bluffs along New York Avenue have been treated to the romantic sight of a lone lighted Christmas tree floating in Sunset Lake. The tree and dock, along with the striking sight of the decorated mini trees lining the harbor walk, are also thanks to Crossland Landscape, as are the draped trees lining Main Street. The two town trees — the one in the Band Stand and the colorful centerpiece of Post Office Square — are provided every year by the Oak Bluffs Highway Department. The vintage pickup truck illuminated with white lights next to Jim’s Package Store completes the fantasy scene.

One easily overlooked, yet charmingly old-fashioned decorative touch is the blue lighted tree high up in the tower of the Admiral Benbow Inn, next to DeBettencourt Nelson J. and Sons gas station. The inn itself is otherwise unadorned, save for single candles in each of its windows. This understated display is one of those unexpected treats of the holiday.

Checking out the fantastic display at the Gatchell house on County Road has become a Christmas tradition for many Islanders. Lynn and Robert Gatchell, owners of Splinters and Sawdust fine woodworking, have been giving passersby something to look at for 25 years. All are welcome to pull into the circular drive for closer inspection and full immersion in this feat of Christmas sight and sound. Viewers are encouraged to make a contribution to the Island Food Pantry as they drive through, and the Gatchell’s collect up to 15 cases of food and hundreds of dollars in donations each year.

Says Ms. Gatchell, “This is a gift to the community for those who can’t do this.” The lights are on from 5:30 to 11 pm through Christmas day and then from 5:30 to 8 pm through New Years Day. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for a meet and greet on Christmas Eve from approximately 6:30 to 8:30 pm, weather permitting.

While Oak Bluffs tends to be home to grand displays, Edgartown has the more refined displays. The highlight perhaps being the multitude of tiny white lights sprinkled generously on the huge bushes in front of the Daniel Fischer House on upper Main Street. The all white theme, so appropriate for a town known for its colonial whitewashed buildings, extends to the porch and other trees on the property, making for a brilliant white display.

Donaroma’s Nursery has its entryway decked out in seasonally appropriate display. The holiday decorations include a lighted sleigh and a row of trees each lit up in a different bright color. Cannonball Park is very festive with its large, bare deciduous trees draped with looping white lights, and the smaller fir trees shine with multicolored lights. The Edgartown Town Hall is a brightly lit cheerful sight featuring lighted garlands wound around posts and banisters and a colorful Christmas tree blazing from the upper deck.

The Edgartown Lighthouse, dressed up in multi-colored lights for the holidays, really stands out in the darkness of the desolate jetty, creating somewhat of a lonesome image. The lovely effect of solitude on a winter night is counteracted by the warm and welcoming sight of the Harbor View Hotel directly across, decked in lots of white lights and a beautiful huge Christmas tree, which almost overwhelms the small porch tower under which it shines.

In Vineyard Haven, two small shining trees sparkling out on the darkened ocean would be very easy to miss. One is at the end of the dock at the bottom of Owen Park and the other is at the end of the Maciel Marine pier, visible from Hines Point. These make for very Vineyard displays, as do the two tractors draped with lights in front of Island Entertainment and Radio Shack on State Road.

The Vineyard Haven best-dressed house award goes to the home of the Grace Church minister, Rob Hensley, just past the church on Woodlawn Avenue. Just a notch below excessive, the decorations include candy cane lanes, Santas in airplanes, polar bears, and more. The lights on the house are synched to holiday music, blinking on and off to the rhythms of Christmas songs, while polar bears out front bob their heads to the music. Make sure to roll down your car windows for full sensory effect.