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Omar Rayyan displays his winning Ag Fair poster design for 2014. — File photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society announced the opening of the annual Agricultural Fair poster contest, which will run through April 1, 2015. The 154th Agricultural Fair will take place from August 20 through August 23, 2015. Fair artwork should be submitted as a graphic design that will be used for the iconic Ag Fair posters and for reproduction on T-shirts, which will be available for purchase. Last year’s winning poster by artist Omar Rayyan depicted a portrait of Sonny Boy, a friend’s deceased horse, standing in a pasture, with a goose nearby. Submitted artwork must be sized to fit an 18-in. by 24-in. frame. Artwork should be sent to Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, P.O. Box 73, West Tisbury, MA 02575. For specifications and questions, call 508-693-4343.

The list of Martha’s Vineyard agencies prepared to react immediately in a major Island-wide emergency includes six town police departments, six town fire departments, airport fire crews, four ambulance services, the State Police, and Coast Guard Station Menemsha. These hundreds of men and women are bound by a singular dedication to protecting our Island community — and connected by the radio each responder holds in his or her hand in the midst of an emergency situation.

On Jan. 11, first responders from Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury participated in a training exercise intended to mimic a fire at the Lampost on Circuit Avenue. Over the course of three hours on a Sunday morning, volunteer firemen battled the “blaze,” searched the four-story structure for victims, and rescued a fellow firefighter.

In a follow-up assessment, Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose told The Times the drill highlighted the glaring inadequacy of the radio-communication system. “This has been an Island-wide problem for a while now,” Mr. Rose said. “We knew it was an issue, but we didn’t realize the extent of it until today. There were times I couldn’t get commands to my men because their radios weren’t working properly. When the rapid-intervention team went in on a mayday call to save a fellow firefighter, they weren’t able to communicate with him, and we couldn’t hear where they were. That’s completely unacceptable.”

Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling also expressed concern about a radio-communication system he said was designed in the 1960s.

The down-Island fire chiefs and fire department volunteers are to be commended for organizing a drill for an Island-wide emergency that imagines an all-too-real situation. Learning what did not work is just as important as learning what did. One day, the mayday call may be for real.

The Island has been fortunate, and very lucky when we consider the outcome in recent fire emergencies.

On July 4, 2008, a fire broke out in Cafe Moxie on the corner of Spring Street and Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Firefighters rallied quickly, despite the holiday, and contained the blaze. Although the fire caused considerable damage to the adjacent Bunch of Grapes bookstore, there were no injuries. Light winds that day and a quick, professional response were important factors that helped minimize damage to the downtown business district.

Two years later, on July 12, 2010, a fire destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse and numerous boats in Menemsha Harbor. Again, thankfully, there were no injuries. But for a fortuitous wind direction that blew the scorching flames across the water rather than into the harbor shacks, and a quick response by firefighters from across the Island, all of Menemsha might have gone up in flames.

Chief Rose is correct. The situation is completely unacceptable. First responders must be able to communicate effectively.

The current radio network is a hodgepodge of VHF equipment. There is no standard radio. One department uses one radio brand, another department a different brand. Many of the radios do not meet modern state standards. Cross-department communication is cumbersome.

On Friday, Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack hosted a meeting of Island public-safety officials and representatives of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to discuss the radio problem and possible solutions. It was a good start.

Island public-safety officials must work together to create a communications system that is dependable in all circumstances and under all conditions for the volunteers and professionals that man the front lines. Achieving that goal will take regional leadership on a technical and political level. Where will it come from?

The hub of the current system is the Island Communications Center, located at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport and under the control of Sheriff McCormack. Nine full-time telecommunicators staff the center seven days a week, 24 hours a day, skillfully and professionally dispatching help as needed around the Island.

Radio scanners make it possible for any citizen to listen in on most radio traffic. It can be an eye-opening experience for those unfamiliar with the level of activity that often occurs behind the scenes. Listen for any length of time, and you will hear the dispatcher say, “Call unreadable,” meaning the dispatcher was unable to clearly hear the first responder in the field. Unreadable is unacceptable.

Good job

The blizzard struck late Monday and lasted through Tuesday night. Throughout the storm, Island first responders — police, firefighters, EMS, and highway department crews — responded to numerous calls for medical assistance.

Unfortunately, their job was made more difficult by the poor judgement of those who decided to venture out during the height of the storm. First responders spent time Tuesday looking for a woman on skis in Long Point thought to be in distress, pulling drivers in stuck cars out of snow banks, and removing cars stuck in the middle of the road and blocking traffic.

In some cases, driving was difficult, and drifting snow made some roads and driveways virtually impassable. That did not stop the first responders. In each case, they found a way to reach those in need of help. Hats off to the first responders.

To the Editor:

As I approach my 75th year of a relatively agnostic life, I wonder how, if my religious friends are correct, there is no divine correction of all that is wrong with this world. Children dying of disease, starvation, murder. War and pestilence in every corner of the planet. Hatred, bigotry, poverty even in this, the greatest nation that ever existed. How could a divine being, that so many believe in, one that supposedly created humans in his (or her) own image allow all this to happen?

I finally got my answer. This being is a football fan (and no doubt a fan of baseball, basketball, and hockey, among other sports). After the NFC championship game, the Seattle quarterback, Russell Wilson, an excellent athlete, allowed that their victory and indeed, the progress of the game, was coordinated by heavenly intervention. Perhaps this intervention caused the amateurish and conservative play calling on the part of the Packers. No doubt after the Super Bowl, which hopefully the Patriots will win, with or without deflated footballs, there will be a great deal of prayer and gratitude to the celestial being that brought victory. I was brought up in the original monotheistic religion, but I was never taught that there was some regular guy, sitting around, having a brew, watching the game, with the added advantage of being able to affect the outcome. I was taught that my people were the “chosen people”; I didn’t learn that there were also “chosen” football teams, baseball teams, etc.

I am a huge sports fan. I love all sports, and I’d like to think that those who win do so because they practice more or are more talented. Sometimes luck is involved, but I doubt that there is someone in the sky above pulling strings to get a ball dropped or a kick to go wide right. If such a person or being existed, wouldn’t their powers be better used to make this a better world to live in? If I had a prayer, I would pray that this divinity would get off the couch, put down the beer, and attend to us mortals that he or she created.

Ted Jochsberger

West Tisbury

To the Editor:

As a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club board of directors, I would like to thank WMVY radio for the public service announcement regarding the cancellation of our monthly meeting. It is so nice to know that we have a public radio station back on the Island, ready and willing to help the community when needed. Thank you.

Karen Kukolich

Edgartown

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Pathways invites poets and writers to the Chilmark Tavern to read their works. – File photo by Michael Cummo

The Open Poetry and Writing Series at Pathways continues Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 9 pm at Pathways Living Room Studios at the Chilmark Tavern. All writers are welcome to bring new work in process to share — poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, prose, songwriting, theater or film scripts, spoken word, and all other writing forms. This Tuesday, Shirley Mayhew and Susanna J. Sturgis will read from their books. Pathways hosts Open Poetry and Writing Evenings and special literary events each Tuesday through April. For more information, email pathwaysprojectsinstitutes@gmail.com, or call 508-645-9098.

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The West Tisbury library will host teen yoga on Saturdays. – Photos by Michael Cummo

Beginning this Saturday, Jan. 31, and running through Feb. 21, certified children’s yoga instructor Laura Edelman will be teaching yoga classes for tweens and teens at the West Tisbury library. Each Saturday the tween classes will be from 10:15 am to 11 am, and the teen classes will be from 11:15 am to 12 noon. These free yoga classes are limited to 8 participants per session, and those interested can preregister at the library. Please wear comfortable clothing. The classes are open to the public. For more information, call 508-693-3366, or email programs@westtisburylibrary.org.

— File photo by Susan Safford

Earlier this month the Ocean View Restaurant in Oak Bluffs came under the ownership of Mike Santoro, who owns the Lookout Tavern and Fishbones Grille. Mr. Santoro purchased the restaurant from Ron and Peggy Jackson, who had owned the popular year-round restaurant for close to 35 years.

New General Manager Jennifer Toppin, formerly of the Lookout Tavern, notes that the tried-and-true Ocean View menu will remain intact, with some new additions that were popular at the Lookout, including the Tuesday-night burger special. Now Ocean View customers can enjoy a ½-lb. burger with cheese for $8, or a specialty burger for $10, which includes fries. Customers can still take advantage of the popular prime rib special on Saturdays and lobster night on Wednesdays.

The Ocean View serves a full menu for lunch and dinner daily, including Sundays, from 11:30 am to 10 pm. Their pizza and bar menu is also available until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Ms. Toppin said that the restaurant can accommodate large parties, and is a great option for the sporting groups crowd after a late game, given their reliable late hours.

Mr. Santoro and Ms. Toppin also managed the serving staff at this past Saturday’s Big Chili Contest. “Now that Chilifest is behind us, we’re excited to hit the ground running. It’s already been amazing, and everyone has been so supportive,” said Ms. Toppin.

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We gather together to regift, at St. Andrews.

Winter Regifting Bingo will take place this Saturday, Jan. 31, at 4 pm at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown. Attendees are required to bring a wrapped regifting “prize” to be won. The regifting will continue until prizes are gone, so bring as many prizes as you have to give away. Edgartown Second Hand Store will provide coffee and popcorn for refreshments. The event is free and open to all. For more information, call Barbara at 774-310-0209, or Heather Anne at 508-627-5330.

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Vineyard Tennis Center will host a huge Pickleball weekend on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30 and 31. Helen White from Washington, D.C. is a silver medalist at the National Senior Games, and will give the demonstrations and clinics. She is a USA Pickleball ambassador, who has taught more than 1,000 players and competed throughout our country and in Europe.

Clinics and demonstrations are open to the public. The first clinic is Friday morning, Jan. 30, from 10:30 am to 12 noon; the second clinic is Saturday, Jan. 31, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm.

In addition, there will be an Australian Open and Pickleball party on Saturday night from 6 to 9 pm that is also a potluck dinner.

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Vineyard Youth Tennis will hold a Munchkin Day on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 3 pm to 4 pm. Children who are in preschool or kindergarten are eligible to sign up, with a minimum age of 4. Children will partake in fun drills, games with prizes, and a snack afterward. Parents must call 508-693-7762 starting on Monday, Feb. 2, at 11 am to register. There is limited availability, and it is expected to fill up fast.