antique bicycles
With antique bicycles on the street, this could have been an Oak Bluffs scene from a century ago instead of Circuit Avenue last Sunday. Photos by Lynn Christoffers

Tivoli at 30

By Heather Curtis - September 20, 2007

Skirts and tee-shirts swayed in the gentle breeze, gemstones glistened under the sun and the smell of ribs and popcorn wafted through the crisp air on Circuit Avenue on Sunday. Close to 100 vendors lined the street, taking over the town's hub for the 30th Annual Tivoli Day. After being rained out Saturday, the celebration was in full swing Sunday morning. Islanders strolled down the street shopping, eating, and re-connecting with old friends who resurfaced after being lost in the summer madness.

President of the Oak Bluffs Association and event chair Dennis daRosa was pleased with the turnout, even though he thought the crowd would have been bigger if it hadn't been postponed. "You always wonder after a rain date, but there's a nice, steady crowd," Mr. daRosa said as he surveyed the crowd from the doorway of his store, daRosa's-Martha's Vineyard Printing Co.

Hammarlund family
The Hammarlund family won top prize in the wagon category at last weekend's Tivoli Day Kid's Parade. (From left) Karena Hammarlund and her children, Abigail, Delilah, and Simon.

Tivoli Day was started in 1977 by local conservationist Michael Wild and teacher Ed Coogan. "It was really a celebration of the end of the summer for the local businesses," says Mr. daRosa. The name comes from the Tivoli building, which was a popular dance hall in the first half of last century. "It was the center of entertainment on the Vineyard for years," says Mr. daRosa, whose parents frequented the Tivoli. The building, which stood where the police station is today, was torn down in the 1960s.

Mr. daRosa remembers the first Tivoli Day. "In those days, there weren't as many off-season people here. It was much quieter." But as the year-round population grew, so did the festivities.

This year, vendors were out in full force. Stores along Circuit Avenue took leftover summer merchandise outside adorned with signs boasting big discounts. Island artisans displayed hand-made crafts like jewelry alongside booths set-up by local nonprofits, such as the Community Solar Greenhouse (COMSOG) and Island Affordable Housing.

Street vendors
Street vendors were a popular addition to Circuit Avenue.

Children in fluorescent clown suits and oversized rubber shoes diligently followed a man beating a drum in the morning parade. The group weaved in and out of the crowd catching the eyes and ears of those standing along the street.

People waited excitedly with outstretched arms for loot in front of the Black Pearl, a replica of the pirate ship from the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series. The ship is built out of Styrofoam insulation on a framework of wood by local craftsman Richard Mello Jr. In a scene that looked like something from a Mardi Gras parade, members of the extended Mello family dressed in full pirate regalia (including the ever-popular pirate Jack Sparrow) and reached below deck giving out tee-shirts, bags and shiny, metallic beads. The float was built for the Edgartown Fourth of July parade this year and since that time has set sail for other community events, such as Tivoli Day.

Members of the Wheelmen, a national non-profit organization dedicated to restoring and riding antique bicycles, came from as far away as Vermont to ride the streets atop their high wheeler bikes. They even ventured off Circuit Avenue to adjoining streets, casually riding their antique bikes alongside cars. Malcolm McNair explained that the bikes were only popular for eight or nine years in the late 1800s until they were replaced by smaller bikes with chains.

New this year was a live broadcast by WMVY. Program director PJ Finn broadcast live in front of daRosa's from 11 am to 1 pm. WMVY's general manager and Island native Greg Orcutt was happy the station was involved in Tivoli Day: "It's a great community event. It extends the season."

At 1 pm, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish hit the scene, setting up on the corner of the avenue in front of Third World Trading Company. Attracting a crowd both young and old, Johnny Hoy poured soul into the microphone. Moved by the blues, a few people danced. Mr. Hoy sold CDs from a box at his feet. "It's a self-serve operation. You can make change out of that cooler," he said motioning to a large, open cooler next to the CD box.

In the past, Tivoli day has attracted as many as 5,000 people. Mr. daRosa estimated this year roughly 4,000 people walked down Circuit Avenue at some point during the day. "It's just terrific to see the street closed down for the day to let people discover certain shops," Mr. daRosa said.

Heather Curtis is a contributing writer to The Times.