Square dance the night away this Saturday. Pictured is Lea Scott, Mike Gilman, and Violet Southwick. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Rowing Club of Sail Martha’s Vineyard is hosting a benefit Contra Dance on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs starting at 6:30 pm. No contra experience is necessary to have a fun time dancing to music by The Flying Elbows paired with caller Kansas Brew.

“The thing about contra dancing is that it is great for families and inhibited dancers because you don’t have to make anything up,” said Rowing Club member Sarah Vail in a press release. “The caller, Kansas Brew, tells you exactly what to do and runs through it first.” Admission is $10; free for children. Tickets are available at Mocha Mott’s and Sail M.V., and at the door on Saturday night. For more information, call 508-696-7644 or visit

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Store signs from the past grace the walls of the M.V. Museum for its latest exhibit, The Art of Advertising. — Photo Courtesy M.V. Museum

In talking about the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s latest exhibit, assistant curator Anna Carringer borrows a quote from an 1897 issue of Harper’s Weekly. The magazine describes advertising as, “a true mirror of life, a sort of fossil history, from which the future chronicler might fully and graphically rewrite the history of time.” Ms. Carringer and chief curator Bonnie Stacy have done an excellent job in telling the story of the Vineyard in The Art of Advertising, which will be on display — starting this weekend — through May 26.

“It’s a fun graphic look at how advertising has changed over the years and some of the ways that advertising has has been used to sell products — graphically representing Island history through products and selling and marketing,” said Ms. Carringer. The pictures in this article can attest to the fact that the many colorful, imaginative, and, in many cases, clever examples of the history of Martha’s Vineyard advertising can best sell the exhibit itself.

Advertisements from the past tell stories about the Vineyard's history.
Advertisements from the past tell stories about the Vineyard’s history.

As anyone who watched last weekend’s Super Bowl telecast knows, advertising by its nature is a particularly attention-grabbing form of art. Walking into the small room containing the exhibit attests to that. The walls and cases are full of eye-catching mementos of the past, both distant and recent. And despite its small scope, one can spend a good deal of time admiring and being entertained by the many items, from tiny campaign buttons (including one for Calvin Coolidge and a beauty with the simple message, Votes for Women) to elaborately carved wooden shop signs (Borrowdale Book Store, Dr. Nevin, and others). The exhibit demonstrates that marketers often recruited some remarkable talent to help sell items, businesses, and even the Island itself.

The exhibit is divided into three sections. The first illustrates early newspaper ads and packaging for products sold (but not produced) on the Vineyard. Next to a wonderful old black-and-white photo of a Vineyard general store with its myriad selections is a case full of inspired colorful packaging. Among the items are old tins, elaborately decorated corset boxes, and a clever card designed to entice customers to John Bent’s store featuring a voluptuous beauty in a swimsuit, which if worn today, would be described as bondage gear. It’s easy to see why these things that could have been considered throwaways have survived for more than a century.

One of the prizes of the collection is a somewhat gruesome WWI poster for Victory Liberty Loans featuring a bloodied American soldier proudly displaying his trophies of conquest including some German helmets. A small section is devoted to the former Oak Bluffs roller skating rink and features a charming poster advertisement and a pair of skates named for the Vineyard. Ms. Carringer explains that the owner of the rink also manufactured skates and was able to use the product to promote the venue and vice versa.

Section two features materials intended to advertise the Vineyard itself. Among a good-sized collection of tourism pamphlets is one from the 1920s, most likely designed by an artist with no firsthand knowledge of the Island. It features a couple in resort wear enjoying the sea breezes in front of a bungalow shaded by a palm tree. Another charming early brochure shows ladies in full flowing early 20th century garb painting en plein air and a gentleman enjoying a sail, illustrating that some of the delights of the Vineyard have remained constant through the years.

“Advertising in the 20th century on the Vineyard is a combination of sophistication using all the latest90.81a.jpg advertising forms/materials, but also relying heavily on the personal connections that a small intimate community living on an island affords,” said museum oral historian Linsey Lee, who is involved with the exhibit.

Ms. Carringer pointed out that many of the tourism materials featured similar taglines —calling the Vineyard variously the Island of Health and the Island of Beauty. “They used any way that they could to market this place,” she said. “The Vineyard advertised itself as a place of respite. They would tout the restorative benefits of coming to the Island.”

One of the gems of the collection is a poster advertising the Saturday Evening Post. It features one of four witty covers by artist Stevan Dohanos that spotlighted the Vineyard (all four covers are included in the exhibit). The painting shows a large extended family attempting to enjoy some outdoor time on a rainy day by crowding the porch of a small summer cottage.

Among the fascinating oral histories included is one with Phronsie Conlin, who was among the models in the painting. She says that although the family in the painting was supposed to be visitors from Ohio, “He wanted to put in some of us because we were his friends and it was convenient and it was fun.”

The poster is signed by all of the models including a young Sam Low of Oak Bluffs, who is depicted as a tot staring wistfully at a model sailboat in his hands. He has simply signed Sammy in a childish scrawl on the side of the poster along with some other familiar names.

The contemporary portion of the exhibit features advertising materials for local products and services including a tee-shirt from the late Che’s Lounge designed by Colin Ruel, a catalogue of 1980s fashions from local designer Lorraine Parish, and a series of clever campaign merchandise from clerk of courts Joe Solitto’s only contested run for office.

Marketing professional Carol Kolodny, of Kolodny Design Group, has donated a caseful of samples of her work for client The Black Dog, including some charming newspaper ads featuring the iconic dog in a rowboat dressed variously to represent some of the Tavern’s ethnic dinners. Ms. Kolodny, who is featured in a short video, provided inspiration for the exhibit by offering some examples of her work as a graphic designer throughout the years.

The video and all of the oral histories, including interviews by Ms. Lee with locals talking about the old Tashmoo Springs Bottling Company and Priscilla Hancock’s Candies, are very interesting glimpses into life in a small community in another era. By all means, take the time to check out the short audio clips.

Among other things, Ms. Carringer says the museum hopes to encourage new donations with the current exhibit. “Sometimes we have an ulterior motive,” she said. “We’re really looking at recent history where our collections are not that strong presently. There are a couple of things that people will leave the exhibit with. One is to really look at advertising around the Island. There’s a lot of really wonderful advertising around us and maybe in looking at that people will keep us in mind. We don’t have a lot in our collection from businesses of the last 30 or 40 years.”

Referring to one of the most effective marketing tools around, she said, “There’s nothing that really gets to you as much as looking at a shop’s sign. If a shop closes, you have to wonder,  where did the sign go?” Hopefully, some are stored away in local businesses and homes and may resurface after Islanders get a glimpse of how representative of our history and culture advertising can be.

The museum will be a particularly busy place this upcoming week, between the opening party for the new exhibit on Friday and a couple of other events. On Saturday, Feb. 8, from 10 am to 12 noon, Kay Mayhew, the museum’s genealogist, will lead an introduction to genealogy workshop. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Bonnie Stacy will present a slideshow and talk featuring the history of Valentines.

Exhibit opening for The Art of Advertising, Friday, Feb. 7, 5–7 pm, M.V. Museum, Edgartown. $7; free for members. Show runs through May 26. For more information, visit or call 508-627-4441.

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Daytrippers Shelagh Smilie and Boaz Kirschenbaum will play Saturday at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in celebration of Mr. Kirschenbaum's birthday. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Martha’s Vineyard musician and piano tuner Boaz Kirschenbaum is giving the Island a free mini-music festival for his 40th birthday on Saturday, Feb. 1.

A supergroup of eight local professional musicians, all Deadheads, will headline the show, performing songs from the Grateful Dead’s live album Europe ’72.

“There will be two drummers, backup singers. It will be a lot like the real Dead,” Mr. Kirschenbaum said. He will play the Jerry Garcia role on guitar. “No one has really heard me play like that. It’s been a closet passion of mine and of course having Mike Benjamin on guitar as well will be fun. We always have fun playing together. I have always wanted to perform this music, so this will be a dream for me if we pull it off.”

Brian Weiland, pictured, will play with his son, Liam, and high school freshman Tessa Whitaker.
Brian Weiland, pictured, will play with his son, Liam, and high school freshman Tessa Whitaker.

The Flying Elbows, Jellybone Rivers, Nina Violet, the Island Beatles tribute band The Daytrippers, among others will join the festivities. Special guests Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School freshmen Tessa Whitaker and Liam Weiland will sing with Liam’s dad Brian Weiland, Oak Bluffs School music teacher, on guitar.

All ages are welcome. The performing musicians are all friends or clients of Mr. Kirschenbaum. “I thought it would be cool as a thank you to the community and all my friends to put on a concert,” he said. “Everyone I asked to play said ‘Where do I show up?’ and ‘What do you want to play?’”

Mr. Kirschenbaum also plays with The Daytrippers. “I used to play professionally, but now I have my tuning business,” he said. “I really wanted to see if I could put on a concert for the community that was a real professional concert but with no money involved. All tech people and musicians are donating their time for rehearsals and for the concert.”

Nina Violet joins the line-up for Boaz's birthday celebration on Saturday.
Nina Violet joins the line-up for Boaz’s birthday celebration on Saturday.

He said he wants to use the concert as a way to raise public awareness about the need for musical instrument maintenance at the Vineyard’s  schools as well as their need for musical materials. He also plans to mention the Island-wide string program at the concert. Concert-goers will be given a chance to donate to the music programs, but he said that no one has to donate to come to the concert.

The musicians filling the roles of the 1970s Grateful Dead lineup are: Mike Benjamin and Doug Brush (Bob Weir – vocals and guitar), Boaz Kirschenbaum (Jerry Garcia – vocals and guitar), Pinto Abrams (Phil Lesh – bass), Brian Weiland (Billy Kreutzmann – drums), Tauras Biskis (Mickey Hart – drums), Wes Nagy (Keith Godchaux – piano), Charlie Esposito (Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – organ), and Shelagh Hackett (Donna Godchaux – vocals).

Free Pop/Rock Concert, Saturday, Feb. 1, 5 to 10 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Free.

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The crowd at Black Dog Tavern enjoyed dinner before the lecture. — Photo by Susan Safford
A black and white photograph of the Charles W. Morgan.
A black and white photograph of the Charles W. Morgan.

Every so often a subject is made for a venue like a slice of gruyere cheese on a Carr’s cracker, and so it was Wednesday night, January 22 — a notably frigid five-degree evening — when a sold-out crowd dined at the nostalgically charming Black Dog Tavern on Vineyard Haven harbor and listened to Matthew Stackpole discuss the life and death and rebirth of the Charles W. Morgan. It was the first in a series of fundraising dinners and lectures hosted by Sail Martha’s Vineyard.

With its sloping wooden doors and windows aglow against massive drifts of snow and vistas of lonesome boats afloat on cold black waters, the restaurant made for a perfect backdrop for whopping tales of a mighty whaler and its 80 years of service.

Let it be noted that whenever the golden age of whaling is invoked, the geography is almost inevitably framed by Nantucket, New Bedford, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Stackpole’s life and achievements prove a case in point: He was born and raised for his first seven years on Nantucket before his historian dad was tapped to oversee the maritime museum at Mystic Seaport. Today Ms. Stackpole proudly proclaims, “I played on the Charles W. Morgan when it was moored right out in front of us.”

Today, as part of the fund raising team and ship’s historian for the Morgan Restoration Project of this, the oldest American commercial sailing ship in operation, he’s come full circle.

The Vineyard too lays claim to Mr. Stackpole. Over the years he served as executive director for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and president of Sail M.V. Now, as the ancient vessel nears a total retrofit, Mr. Stackpole is clearly thrilled about its date with Vineyard destiny: The wooden whaler that hasn’t sailed since 1922, will swan its glorious way into Vineyard Haven for a four day visit June 21 through 24.

At the Black Dog Tavern, paintings, drawings, and photographs flashed behind Mr. Stackpole as he regaled us with stories of the Charles W. Morgan’s maiden voyage on September 6, 1841. He quoted Island historian David McCullough: “The story of the American whaling industry, which the Charles W. Morgan so powerfully represents, is a rousing chapter in our nation’s history.”

Renowned painter Frederick Cousins captured the vessel on canvas, with its myriad ruffles — like a lady’s petticoat — hued with a pale amber glow of sunrise as it left New Bedford under full sail. It was 113 feet long, with a beam of 27 feet, six inches. Its rigging soared 135 feet above the water, and it has a depth of hold of 17 feet, six inches.

Its first voyage went first to the Azores, down the west coast of Africa, then over to the eastern coast of South America, around Cape Horn, up to the Arctic, and then back around Cape Horn to New Bedford. It took three years and four months. The captain was Islander Thomas Norton, with a crew of 35, many of them fellow Vineyarders.

Mr. Stackpole described a convocation — called a gam — of two New England whaleships near to the equator in the Pacific in 1841. “Whalers at sea would drop sail and send small ships back and forth to share letters and news with one another.” On this particular gam, a young feckless sailor on the Achusnet (feckless because the sailor later deserted to Taipei) happened to be named Herman Melville.

In the chit-chat and swapping of war stories with sailors from the other ship, Melville learned about the wreck of the Nantucket whaling ship Essex, struck by a whale in 1820, thus sending its survivors in life boats out into a merciless sea. Melville’s imagination was so inflamed by this story of a homicidal whale that back home he wrote “Moby Dick,” a book that sold few copies in its author’s lifetime but that since, of course, has served as the masterwork of the whaling era, and of American letters as well.

On that first voyage, the crew of the Morgan harpooned 70 whales and brought back 1,600 barrels of sperm oil, the finest lubricant and fuel for lanterns and machines of its time. During the more than 250 years of whaling under sail, 2,700 whaling ships plied the world’s oceans. Mariners on these ships compiled charts so meticulous, they were used in World War II to guide our battleships.

The Charles W. Morgan was deemed a “lucky ship” for surviving all the ordeals accrued from its 37 voyages — typhoons, near wreckage on a coral reef while being attacked by hostile speared natives, enclosure by Arctic ice, attacks on the whaling fleet by Confederate raiders during the Civil War, all of these near escapes culminating in valiant and lucrative returns to New Bedford, the hold a-groan with barrels of oil and baleen (whale bone used for a multiplicity of things, including ladies’ corsets).

In 1941, a decommissioned Charles W. Morgan arrived in Mystic as the Seaport’s key attraction. Many years later, with the restoration in full bloom, marine archeologists have been given a unique glimpse of the original wooden material. Meanwhile, new joists and beams right down to the keel have been wrought from white oak and locust trees shipped from Virginia and Connecticut, live oak from hurricanes, and long leaf yellow pine from Florida, Virginia, and Alabama.

There remains a wealth of whaling lore — almost, it would seem, an infinite amount. Mr. Stackpole treated his audience to the spoken equivalent of a full book. And books galore await the avid arm-chair mariner, not forgetting visits to the M.V. Museum filled with memorabilia of all things nautical. But in the meantime, a profound immersion lies in store for all of us on June 21–24 when a-whaling we may go (in a stationary sort of way), aboard the Charles W. Morgan in a neighborhood near you.

The next fundraising dinner is on Wednesday, Feb. 12, from 6 to 9 pm, at the Black Dog Tavern. For more information, visit or call 508-696-7644.


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Brianna Albert and Bethany Butler of Middleboro were appropriately dressed. — Photo by Ralph Stewart
The crew from Quahog Republic restaurant in Falmouth and Onset celebrate first place in the Professional category.
The crew from Quahog Republic restaurant in Falmouth and Onset celebrate first place in the Professional category.

Approximately 2,000 people made their way to the 28th annual Big Chili Contest at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs last Saturday, Jan. 25, and tasted chili from 16 vendors. The event’s beneficiary, The Red Stocking Fund, netted approximately $34,000, according to Greg Orcutt, general manager of mvyradio, the event’s sponsor.

Many Island restaurants, as well as amateur chili aficionados, made their special recipes for the contest. The competition categories include “Is It Really Chili?,” “Farthest Traveled” (last year’s came from Florida), “Best Presentation,” “Steve Jordan Memorial Hottest Chili” (Mr. Jordan retired from the contest to judge after winning the category 18 straight years), “Best Pro” and “Best Amateur” chili.

And the winners are:

Best Professional chili, third place: Wicked Chili  from the Wicked Restaurant and Wine Bar in Mashpee and Dedham.

Best professional chili, second place: The Black Dog.

Best professional chili, first place: Quahog Republic of Falmouth.

Farthest traveled chili: Dr. Jack’s Love Chili from Glastonbury, Connecticut. Dr. Jack has won before but not last year.

No Teenie Peenie of Hopkinton won for Best Vegetarian Chili.
No Teenie Peenie of Hopkinton won for Best Vegetarian Chili.

Best veggie chili: No Teenie Peenie from Hopkinton.

Best Presentation: Edgartown Firemen’s Association.

Is that really chili?:  MVOL won for their chili chocolate bites.

Hottest chili: Wicked Chili won the fire extinguisher prize.

For the Amateur third place, Dr. Jack’s Better Love Chili by Jack Lavalette and Mike Spellman of Glastonbury, Ct.

Amateur second prize went to Jim Pringle.

Amateur first prize went to Bob Costello for his official Carver Cranberry Chili. (Times Calendar editor Eleni Roriz reported: “It was SO GOOD!!!”)

Times photo editor Ralph Stewart was on the scene and reports:

“I tasted all of the chili but two.  There also was MV Ole mole chili chocolate bites. Didn’t try that. So, I tasted 10 chilis from nine vendors. No Teenie Peenie Chili of Hopkinton had two versions—Venison and bacon; and a veggie (I had both). The Newes had a chicken, white bean chili with a creme fraiche and nine different peppers that was actually pretty tasty, though more like a soup.

Ramon Ruiz of Mariachi Mexico Lindo.
Ramon Ruiz of Mariachi Mexico Lindo.

“The tent in front of the PA Club (and the club itself) was still filling up when I left. The Mariachi Mexico Lindo band was in full swing. My favorite chili was Official Carver Chili (amateurs from Carver, Mass.) Rob Costello and Bob Poulin were serving; a sweet and spicy chili that had cranberries in it. Next, gotta say, The Black Dog. A little hotter (spicier) this year but terrific. Third, I liked another amateur chili called Que Tease Barbecue from Plymouth. Christine and Mike Conrod served it up. The chili had a variety of peppers and smoked meats. They said that they were on the Pitmasters TV Show. But I wish I had tasted that Quahog chili.”

Mr. Orcutt said the threat of bad weather and high winds caused the contest to lose some off-Island regular contestants and one new contestant.

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Pathways held its first Arts & Scripts evening last Saturday, Jan. 18. — Photo by Susan Safford

Last Saturday night, Pathways Projects Institutes, a local arts organization, presented a good sampling of the variety of creative endeavors being pursued by Islanders.

In a cabaret style evening — the first of a series of multi-arts installations at the Chilmark Tavern — a capacity crowd was treated to samples of dance, music, and poetry as well as a preview of a new research-based book and a presentation of work by an engineer/furniture designer. The event, titled Arts & Scripts, also included a showcase of work by visual artists.

All in all it was an entertaining, informative evening and a good indication of what the Pathways team has in store for the remainder of the winter. For the past three years, Pathways has hosted an extensive seasonal program of arts-based events at its temporary home, the Chilmark Tavern. Islanders involved in music, dance, theater, poetry, writing, and the visual arts, along with innovators —especially those with a concentration on sustainability and the environment — have been among the individuals who have participated in public presentations.

Ted Perry performed at Pathways this past Saturday evening.
Ted Perry performed at Pathways this past Saturday evening.

The Pathways space also features an art gallery, a library of art and poetry books, DVDs and CDs for public perusal and purchase, and something called ArTbar and Writing Room which, according to promotional material is, “for writing, drawing, camaraderie and conversation” and is open from 6 pm on every evening that there is a performance.

The aim of the organization is to foster the arts in their myriad forms and encourage collaboration among those working in various fields. All events and resources are free.

Pathways, founded by Marianne Goldberg of Chilmark, launched its 2014 season with a small New Year’s Eve party featuring music and poetry by some of the organization’s past presenters. Last Tuesday a handful of poets read from their work in the first of a series of weekday evening jams dedicated variously to poetry, music, and videography.

Last Saturday’s event was the first of a lineup of multi-discipline evenings of entertainment for the seven-year-old organization. The event was called Arts and Scripts and was the first of two such events to be included in the four-month-long program. The second will take place Thursday, Jan. 23.

“I am exhilarated plus fulfilled with this first installation of the 2014 season,” said Ms. Goldberg. “This is our second year of Arts & Scripts focusing on what Pathways is all about — a gathering to celebrate creative action in process at any given moment all across the Island.”

The evening started off with a presentation of a new dance by Ms. Goldberg performed by Jesse Keller of The Yard. Accompanied by William Waterway on a variety of Native American flutes, Ms. Keller performed a lovely interpretive number incorporating both serene moments and some impressively acrobatic moves.

Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier explained how he made this spiral staircase.
Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier explained how he made this spiral staircase.

This was followed by two very interesting — and very different — presentations. Furniture maker and designer Nick Fournier gave a slideshow talk focusing on some of his innovative work. A highlight was a unique bending spiral staircase modeled in part after spinal anatomy. Mr. Fournier, who just recently moved to the Vineyard, explained how he uses digital technology in rendering his designs and has at times had to invent his own equipment to execute his work.

William Waterway spoke about the book he is writing about the history of the Gay Head Lighthouse, from 1799 to the present. For the past 30 years, Mr. Waterway has been instrumental in saving Island lighthouses, and has been particularly involved with the preservation of the Gay Head Light. His book, published by The History Press, will be released in late June or early July of this year.

Interspersed throughout the evening were readings by Island poets, and one writer. Barbara Peckham shared nature-themed poems. Richard Skidmore read a politically charged poem, and Scott Crawford read from his series of vignettes set in the New York City subway.

Claudia Taylor, 17, wowed the crowd with an impressively mature poem chronicling the birth cycle with the theme of “order from chaos.” Ms. Taylor has been involved in Pathways readings for the past two years and has proven herself to be an emerging talent to keep an eye on.

William Waterway spoke about the Gay Head Light, the subject of a book he is writing.
William Waterway spoke about the Gay Head Light, the subject of a book he is writing.

Rounding out the performance arts roster, the evening ended with acoustic sets by musicians Ted Perry and Rick Padilla, who have both been involved with Pathways for the past two years.

Visual artists represented at the event were painters Kara Taylor, Ed Schulman, and Chris Radant; sculptors James Masek and Cody Jephcote, and jeweler Joan LeLacheur. Photographer Christopher Wright presented a slideshow and elaborated on his process involving printing on metal.

A crowd of about 70 was treated to refreshments and what proved to be a very full evening with lots of variety and impressive demonstration of the unlimited creative energy of the Island.

“Last night was a wonderful gathering of creative spirit, learning about projects in process of creation now,” said Ms. Goldberg, herself an accomplished dancer, choreographer, visual artist, dance critic, and writer with a doctorate in performance studies from New York University.

In addition to this Thursday’s Arts & Scripts, upcoming events include poetry jams on the next two Tuesdays and music jams on the next two Fridays. The program continues through the end of April, with two to four events per week including scheduled performers, open jams for music, writing and digital projects, and two installations in April named Oceans Wilderness and Space Wilderness, focusing on art and the environment.

Arts & Scripts, Thursday, Jan. 23, 7–9 pm, Pathways (Chilmark Tavern), Chilmark. Music by Alex Karalekas, Ted Perry, Meghan La Roque, and Garrett James, a reading from a new novel “Child Bride” by author Jennifer Turner-Smith, and digital media arts by Danielle Mulcahay. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 508-645-9098.

From left: Minnesingers Darby Patterson, Zana Van Rooyen, and Shannon O' Connor. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Minnesinger Parent Group will warm up the Island by hosting a Mid-Winter Ball and Gala at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown this Saturday evening, January 25.

Music for the evening will be provided by the Vineyard’s own Sultans of Swing, and the event features dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. Silent and live auctions will fill out the evening, and proceeds from the event will support international travel and scholarships for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Minnesingers, an elite choral ensemble from the high school that is well-loved for their annual shows at Christmas and springtime. The Minnesingers travel to Europe every two years to make a concert tour and promote cultural awareness.

The Minnesingers performing during Christmas in Edgartown. Jerry Bennett of the Sultans of Swing will record their version of "Africa" Saturday at the gala.
The Minnesingers performing during Christmas in Edgartown. Jerry Bennett of the Sultans of Swing will record their version of “Africa” Saturday at the gala.

The annual auction has been held at Farm Neck Golf Club for the last two years, and has been met with unbridled enthusiasm, according to a press release. The highlight of the event has been a mini-performance by the student singers, and they have even offered private performances as an auction item. Hundreds of local artisans and businesses have supported the Minnesingers by donating goods and services for the auction, and it has grown into the largest fundraiser of the year for the group.

“We have been bursting through the space at Farm Neck,” said parent group vice-president Michele Ortlip. “This year we decided it would be amazing to expand our capacity and hold a magical dance event that would be an exciting night out for the Island community in the winter.” The event has received generous support from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Fund, which is a donor advised fund of the Permanent Endowment.

The Sultans of Swing, a much-loved band that plays fundraising events on the Island such as The Taste of the Vineyard in June for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, will provide musical entertainment for the evening. Jerry Bennett, founder and leader of the Sultans, has a special reason for supporting the auction — his daughter Caley is a member of the Minnesingers.

Attendees of the event are in for a special treat — Mr. Bennett is planning to record the Minnesingers live singing “Africa” by Toto, which has been a regular part of their repertoire over the last year. He explained, “When I was working on the Yes Union album one of the founders of Toto, Steve Porcaro, was a keyboard player in L.A. working on the same record at the same time. He has won countless Grammys. This was in the 80s, so 30 years later to play that great song with my daughter is inspiring… Proves that great music endures.”

The Minnesingers have been going strong since 1967, and they head off on an international concert tour every other year. During April 2013, the group spent 10 days traveling through Croatia, singing in churches and schools and concert halls. Much of the expenses for the travel are underwritten by the Minnesinger Parent Group, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The parents work throughout the year in support of the demanding schedule of the singers. The Minnesingers hold sold-out performances each year at the Old Whaling Church during Christmas in Edgartown, and they put on a dance show in May at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. They also provide numerous performances throughout the community, including at the local senior centers and Windemere.

Benefit Mid-Winter Ball and Gala, 7 pm, Saturday, Jan. 25, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. $40; $35 in advance at

Dance to music by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish Sunday night at the Chilmark Community Center. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Join The Yard as they dance this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in support of YardWorks year-round programming. Public Dancing Allowed featuring Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish is this Sunday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 pm at the Chilmark Community Center.

The evening’s ticket sales, $10/person, will help The Yard continue to bring artists to Martha’s Vineyard this winter and spring, according to a press release. These artists will work with the Island’s schools, the YMCA, and Teen Center.

Last spring, The Yard had the opportunity to bring nationally accredited tap and rhythm based artists out of New York City. These included Dorrance Dance David Parker’s The Bang Group along with Boston’s own Hip-Hop duo, The WonderTwins. These artists visited five Island schools and the YMCA to educate Vineyard students on the history of tap dance and hip-hop, its evolution to their generation. Students even learned a couple moves they could take home to their parents.

The Yard has entered its third year of partnership with the YMCA, and this past December collaborated with Alex’s Place to bring Providence based hip-hop troupe Case Closed to the Teen Center. The five young artists held a free hip-hop workshop for teens and participated in the Teen Center’s Open Stage that evening. This collaboration allowed the dancers to teach students and perform for the community. In the spring of 2014, The Yard will back the troupe for a more in-depth exploration of rhythm dance over a two-week period.

Public Dancing Allowed, 7:30 pm, Sunday, Jan. 19, Chilmark Community Center. Bring your own beverages. $10; free for children under 12. For more information, call 508-645-9662 or visit

Susan Huck skates with her daughter, Haven. — Photo by Meg Higgins

The Martha’s Vineyard Arena was a happening place this past weekend, with the Ryan Mone Memorial hockey tournament and a free public skate on Saturday night, sponsored by Mone Insurance. As a special treat to arena attendees, the ArtCliff truck served food all weekend.