The West Tisbury Holiday Party

The town gathers to celebrate the season.

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From left, Nancy Cabot, Linda Hearn, and Cathy Minkiewicz had a hand in organizing the 2016 West Tisbury town party. — Stacey Rupolo

About 200 people turned out for West Tisbury’s annual Holiday Party on Thursday, Dec. 8. The Ag Hall was packed with people, conversation, music, and tables of potluck dishes. It is always a wonderful party, and a wonderful occasion to get together over the holidays.

Members of the Garden Club had decorated the hall earlier in the week. Sue Silva, Nancy Cabot, Cathy Minkiewicz, Judy Bryant, and Susie Boass cut greens at the Polly Hill

Arboretum and from their own gardens, and arranged them into splendid displays. I always marvel at the sprays of greenery and big red bows set high up on the windowsills around the room, glad not to be the person who has to climb that tall ladder. Huge baskets of evergreens decorated the tables and a fire kept the room toasty warm. 

The party is an all-town effort. The selectmen provide the drinks, firewood, some cash for supplies, and Skipper Manter donates turkeys he raises at his farm on Muddy Cove. Turkeys and hams are roasted and delivered by John and Linda Powers, Bob and Maggie Schwartz, Mike and Cathy Minkiewicz, and Jerry and Margaret Gallagher. David Merry and Tara Whiting supplied dozens of perfectly shucked oysters on icy platters. Jane Rossi and

Kathy Lobb ran the kitchen with their customary efficiency. Cheryl and Erik Lowe and Harry Athearn set up and cleaned up. Hors d’oeuvres, salads, desserts, casseroles, and vegetables were all potluck. As everyone knows, West Tisbury has the best potlucks. 

Vineyard Classic Brass gave a wonderful concert. They had set up a paneled enclosure for acoustics and to keep them warm. The sound was great, and everyone who had gathered on benches around the fire had the best seats.

Selectman Richard Knabel gave a brief speech welcoming and thanking everyone.

The Town Party is a holiday tradition dating back to the early 1990s. “It evolved,” said selectman Cindy Mitchell. She remembered the early days when town hall employees got together on the second floor of the old town hall for a little holiday festivity. After the new Ag Hall was built, Cindy and Lesley Eaton thought that more people should be included. The first year it was invitation-only, opened up to members and volunteers on town boards. Then it was decided that a party for the whole town was what was needed, and that’s what we have to this day.

Cindy, John Alley, and John Early made up the board of selectmen. They and Maureen Healy, then our executive secretary, oversaw the details. Simone DeSorcy and Lesley Eaton made the hams and turkeys. There was a still-secret Santa who donated $500 every year for expenses.

Over the years, personnel changed. Linda Hearn took over during her husband Glenn’s six years as selectman. Linda decorated, with help from Nancy Cabot, Judy Bryant, Sue Silva, and Mary Lou Perry, who climbed the ladder to festoon those windowsills. Now that’s Cathy Minkiewicz’s job. Janet Bank was involved, too. Tom Vogl and Katherine Long, and Maggie and Bob Schwartz, roasted the turkeys and hams. I remember doing that, too, for a few years, then carving in the kitchen and setting out the food with Maggie and Bob.

It’s lovely to see old friends, senior members of our town, many who were born here, many who have lived most of their lives here, along with new residents, everybody mixed together as we are. Everyone brings something to share, in West Tisbury tradition. And we all celebrate the season together with generosity, good cheer, and good humor. That’s a tradition to cherish and be proud of.

As Henry Bassett, of Music Street and Boston, says, “Happy everything.”