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Guest performer Jennifer Kreisberg (center) was joined in song by Coty Spears, left, and her mother Dawn Spears. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

This past Saturday, July 23, artisans specializing in Native American crafts and jewelry displayed their wares at the fifth annual Native American Artisans’ Festival at the Aquinnah Cultural Center. Festival goers could try their hands at ancient arts such as drilling wampum, or making clay pinch pots and sailor’s valentines. Jennifer Kreisberg, member of the Tuscarora American Indian tribe and part of the Native Women’s Trio Ulali, was the special guest performer.

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On Sunday, June 5, State Road Restaurant hosted a fundraising dinner for Island Grown Schools (IGS), part of Island Grown Initiative (IGI).

Farms and businesses across the Island donated their goods for the feast: there was lamb from Allen Farm, bok choy from Bluebird Farm, The FARM Institute’s pork, chicken from The Good Farm, eggs from The Grey Barn Farm, bluefish from Gus Leaf, veggies, herbs, and eggs from Morning Glory Farm, shiitake mushrooms and lettuce from North Tabor Farm, Rickard’s Bakery bread, and Sweetneck Farm oysters.

Island children participated with readings, songs, poems, and artwork. Violet Cabot, West Tisbury School third grader, sang and read a poem she wrote. Third grader Katherine, second grader Amber, and kindergartener Nathan, all of the Cuthbert family of Edgartown, presented drawings and poems. First grader Oliver Lively and sixth grader Abbie Lively, also of the Edgartown School, read to the crowd.

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Gail Farrish and her hat sat proudly at Featherstone's Fashion Show and Tea Party on Saturday, May 7. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

It seemed like it was ladies’ day at Featherstone Saturday, May 7, as more than 200 guests, almost all women, enjoyed the Garden Tea Party and Fashion Show that kicked off the annual Art of Flowers show.

Filling a large pleated tent and spilling out onto the lawn on a beautiful spring afternoon, a crowd of seasonally clad women mingled and nibbled tea sandwiches and sweet morsels by Cakes by Liz in anticipation of the feature event.

Many guests wore hats, which tended to be as varied as the charmingly mismatched china teacups on the tables. In honor of the season, as well as the Kentucky Derby, a best hat contest inspired some very imaginative designs. A teapot hat and a birdhouse hat — two of the winners — were among the fancy headwear displayed in a pre-show catwalk parade.

The event was launched last year to provide a preview of the first of Featherstone’s season of guest-curated summer shows. Holly Alaimo, former owner of the Dragonfly Gallery has been hosting a spring flower art show for 15 years and she transferred the show to Featherstone when she sold her Arts District gallery two years ago.

Last year the Tea and Fashion Show drew an oversold crowd of 150, so this year Featherstone events coordinator, Patsy McCornack, and Fashion Show coordinators Nancy Neil and Barbara St. Germaine, decided to rent a bigger tent. The show sold out once again, with approximately 230 guests paying $25 for the refreshments, entertainment, and a chance to get a sneak peek of the popular Art of Flowers show.

Michael Hunter of PIKNIK Art & Apparel, the fashion show consultant, started off the show with a fun bit of fashion drama. After running out onto the catwalk looking a little distraught and overburdened by a number of large bags, he proceeded to dress his models, who arrived in bathrobes, onstage. Building his signature look layer by layer, Mr. Hunter demonstrated a flair for putting together improbable combinations of patterns and textures to create a very chic and comfortable personalized look.

After, a parade of looks by local designers graced the catwalk. The variety of styles and the inspired musical selections by DJ Philippe Borde kept a very animated crowd’s attention throughout the hour-long presentation.

There were striking looks from stores Laughing Bear, Outrageous, and Soul Sister (represented at Featherstone Flea Market), elegant evening wear by Lorraine Parrish and Timeless Treasures, and fun kids’ clothes from Tyler and Tallulah and Kiddos, but the looks were predominately upscale casual.

The sister stores Bananas, Once in a Blue Moon, and the soon to reopen Red Mannequin (on Saturday) provided some of the best examples of that uniquely Vineyard chic-yet-comfortable style in keeping with this year’s theme A Day in the Life of the Vineyard. Fashions by Stina Sayre raised the look to the next level of sophistication, and Beldan Radcliffe’s unique line of sweaters demonstrated a combination of style and function.

Some of the afternoon’s most interesting looks came from Minor Knight, who also emceed the event. Her designs featured striking fabrics, a nod to earlier eras, and an eye for texture and flow. The event gave a chance for some of the Island’s designers, such as Ms. Knight and Chrysal Parrot, who sell from their studios, to display their lines to a wider audience.

Also included in the show were styles from hanna b. Midnight Farm, Citrine, The Green Room, Bramhall & Dunn, Alley Cat, Saffron, Chrysal Parrot, and Laughing Bear. Hair and makeup was done by Bouclé Salon and Spa.

The variety extended to the models, who represented a wide age range. A few mother/daughter duos walked the catwalk, including Kerry Quinlan Potter and daughter Chesca, who brought in a third generation when Joan Potter accompanied her granddaughter at one point. A number of the models were familiar to the guests and many of them clearly had a lot of fun working the catwalk to full effect to the delight of the audience.

The hardest working woman in fashion that day was Marilyn Wortman who modeled a total of six outfits and also began the festivities by showing off the highly coveted Community Services Thrift Shop chicken handbag. Ms. Wortman’s husband, Denys, was among a handful of male models who strutted the catwalk in menswear looks by Sundog and also donned black tie to accompany the female models in the closing evening wear display. Artist Traeger di Pietro showed off what was among the last looks of the day — a wild and colorful ensemble from PIKNIK that suited the artist’s striking look well.

Raffle tickets were on sale for one of Peggy Zablotny’s striking botanical collage photos. The raffle continues through the end of the Art of Flowers show, May 25. Many of the Fashion Show guests strolled over to the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery after the event to enjoy a preview of the show, featuring 42 Island artists.

The gallery is abloom with a range of floral-themed works ranging from paintings in a number of media, photography, sculpture, and fabric creations. Established artists such as Mr. di Pietro and Leslie Baker are represented along with first time exhibitors and Featherstone teachers and students — providing for a broad range of styles and prices.

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Michelle Baum and Bob Dillon from The Little Red Smokehouse in Carver celebrated their win in the professional category — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Saturday’s 25th annual Big Chili Contest was big indeed, no matter how you measure it — 2,000 tickets sold and about $35,000 raised for the Red Stocking Fund.

“It was the most successful Chili Contest to date,” Greg Orcutt, MVY Radio general manager, said. The radio station hosts the event. “We could have sold another thousand. Tickets went really fast. After 25 years, I think people recognize they have a great time with it. They know it’s going to be a great afternoon.”

Organizers sold a few hundred more tickets than usual by expanding the tent set up on the grounds of the Portuguese-American Club (P-A Club) in Oak Bluffs. Vendors occupied two additional alcoves off the big tent, to give attendees more room to socialize on the main floor.

Chili Contest results:

Professional Category

1. Little Red Smokehouse

2. Black Dog Tavern

3. JR Brody’s Roadside Tavern

Amateur Category

1. Bonnie Bearse & Dave Mutti

2. Don Welts (P-A Club)

3. Edgartown Firemen’s Association

Special mvyradio awards:

Best veggie chili: The Black Dog

Best Presentation: Little Red Smokehouse

Hottest Chili: Steve Jordan’s Pirate Chili

Is It Really Chili?: Seafood chili from Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Co.

Most Traveled: Dr. Jack’s Love Chili of Glastonbury, Conn.

Jenny Johnson, host of NECN’s TV Diner, top 3 picks.

1. ($500 prize): Offshore Ale

2. ($300 prize): Little Red Smokehouse

3. ($100 prize): Brendan Cooney (Oak Bluffs EMS)

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With Halloween falling on a Sunday this year, there were ample parties at which to celebrate, starting Friday. Families gathered at The FARM Institute on Saturday for a fest, on Sunday at the West Tisbury Library’s annual party, and trick-or-treated through Main Street, Vineyard Haven, among many other stops. Adults vied for bragging rights and prizes at Atlantic on Friday, The Lampost on Saturday, and at Nectar’s Sunday. Nectar’s celebrated its last night of the season with The Boogies-turned-midgets (with help from a special stage) playing classic disco tunes.

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Mother and daughter Gloria Asquith and Marcia Kaufman look content at the Grand Tasting. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The fourth annual Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival was enormous in both its size and its scope, and it seemed as though there was not an Island resource the organizers did not tap into.

Local businesses offered in-store discounts, celebrity chef Dave Martin gave a demonstration to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) culinary students, ECO MV vowed to make the festival a zero-waste event, and local Sweetneck oysters were paired along with wines of the world during the Sweet Petites Tour of the World seminar.

The festival also benefited three local organizations: the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Robin Jones, public relations and marketing director, stressed how important the community was to the festival’s organizers, which is why they encouraged residents to attend the Grand Tasting on Saturday by offering the greatly reduced ticket price of $50. The tasting was originally scheduled to be held at The Field Club in Katama, but after winds damaged the tent on Friday, was relocated to both the Edgartown Yacht Club and The Boathouse. Whether guests were Island residents or not, Ms. Jones explained the event was for “foodies and wine lovers.”

But the event was not limited to local businesses only. More than 50 wineries were represented from around the world — from Tasmania to Argentina, the United States to Italy and France, Australia and New Zealand to the Duero region in Spain. Valerie Rousselle-Riboud of Chateau Roubine attended to talk about her vineyard in Provence, as did wine négociant Joseph Carr of Napa Valley.

The festival spanned over 24 hours and included an opening ceremony, seminars, instructional cooking classes and chef demonstrations, the Grand Tasting, and various wine dinners. Restaurants from the Vineyard, Boston, and Connecticut were represented, as were acclaimed chefs including Dave Martin of the inaugural season of Top Chef, and Elizabeth Germain of Slow Food and a private chef on Martha’s Vineyard.

Some may argue that the Food and Wine Festival is not representative of Island businesses; however Ms. Jones explains, “We pulled in as many local restaurants as we could, but it’s hard because so many restaurants close after Labor Day.”

Lure at the Winnetu Ocean Resort, The Atlantic Fish and Chop House, and Espresso Love were three local restaurants involved in the Grand Tasting, while Saltwater held an evening wine dinner on Saturday night. Ms. Jones added that it is exciting to have restaurants and chefs not too familiar to Islanders, to broaden horizons. Chef Chris Combs of D Bar and Deuxave, both in Boston was certainly excited to participate: “This is my first time here, but hopefully not the last.”

The festival doubled in size this year. Some guests, chefs, and wine distributors traveled specifically to the Vineyard for this one weekend of wine and food. Ken Gilbert travelled to the Island specifically for Dan Carbon’s Port 101 Seminar, which he declared “fantastic.”

Now, what truly gave the two-day festival character were the personal touches that turned up in the most unusual places. Like a glass of wine that astounds you, because there is heart and personality that fills out the body in the glass.

The first sign of something unique was when the MVRHS’ culinary students participated in a demonstration led by Mr. Martin of Top Chef fame. These sophomores, juniors, and seniors showed an excitement for cooking that was thrilling to see. From pastries to southern soul food, the students were proud of their own specialties and happy to participate in making peanut butter cookies with Chef Martin.

Dan Carbon, who led the seminar Port 101, Everything you Always Wanted to Know about Port but Were Afraid to Ask, recently returned from living in Porto for seven years, where he worked for Symington Family Estates, a leading producer of Port. His personal stories, from treading wine with his own feet to the difficulties of picking grapes on a steep mountain face, as well as his own photographs, created a unique, very knowledgeable, and enjoyable seminar.

Dante de Magistris, of Dante Restaurant in Boston, served exquisite Swordfish Spiedini Agro e Dolche Sugo (Swordfish skewers). When asked what he thought would pair well with his food, he recommended the 2008 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo of the vineyards in Tufo, Santa Paolina, and Torrione; he mentioned that grapes from his own family’s vineyard were most likely in the bottles of wine that were being served next to him, along with the food he created. The wine, by the way, was beautiful: Oily and rich, the perfect amount of body to complement the swordfish, excellent minerality, spicy, with lots of lemon flavors.

All the food I sampled was remarkably delicious. Especially Deuxave’s pan-roasted lamb with tabouli and minted cucumber raita. The wine ranged as broadly as the event itself. Some were wonderful, some were not. The 2004 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was everything I wanted in a California Cabernet: delicious red fruit, solid tannins, and long finish. The full-bodied 2008 Domaine Du Vieux Lazret Chateauneuf Du Pape Blanc tasted like sunlight in a glass, minerally, with notes of lemon rind.

These unlikely personal stories and experiences filled the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival with character and soul. The two days offered experiences for the foodiest of foodies and hundreds of wines for the most avid wine lover. But the best part of the whole event was the personal touches offered by each restaurateur, chef, wine distributor, and host. Everyone put their hearts into this event and it showed. With character and personality, the fourth annual Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival was remarkable, and remarkably successful.

Freelance writer and wine enthusiast Anna Ward, of Vineyard Haven, is a 2004 graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and a 2008 graduate of Marymount Manhattan College.

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Paul Jackson's display of fruit and vegetables won best in show at the annual Agricultural Fair last weekend. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

August’s headline evenings – Illumination Night, the Agricultural Fair, and the Oak Bluffs Fireworks – all took place last week in to the weekend. Though it was drizzly for Illumination Night, the Fireworks seemed to make up for it with a grand finale fit for the President. The 149th Fair had a great four-day run with pig races, skillet throwing, great food, and rides.

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From left, Lorna Andrade, Grace Robinson, the Rev. Roger Spinney, and Laurie Perry-Henry celebrate Mr. Spinney's award. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The theme of the annual Martha’s Vineyard NAACP membership and award brunch this year was “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack Obama” and the emphasis was on continuing the fight for civil rights and individual freedom. The local chapter chose to focus the event – held each year on Martin Luther King Day and dedicated to him – on the youth of the Island in an effort to ensure the organization’s future.

Laurie Perry-Henry, president of the M.V. NAACP.
Laurie Perry-Henry, president of the M.V. NAACP.

Braving Monday’s blustery weather, approximately 100 people attended the sold-out affair, packing Deon’s Restaurant in Oak Bluffs. A jovial, multiracial group visibly enjoyed the camaraderie, uplifting speeches, music, and fabulous food.

The memorial event opened up with M.V. NAACP president Laurie Perry-Henry delivering the greeting and opening speech. She started out by calling 2009 a year of victories, but went on to caution against complacency, referencing Dr. King’s phrase “the fierce urgency of now” followed by a quote from Barack Obama, “There is such a thing as being too late and that hour is almost upon us.”

Ms. Perry-Henry urged the assembled to donate to relief efforts in Haiti and offered up thoughts and prayers to those affected by the recent tragedy.

The NAACP president used the occasion to officially announce a renewed partnership with Island Affordable Housing (IAH), which will involve a commitment to relieve IAH’s debt accrued by the Bradley Square Project.

After Pastor Marcia Buckley of the Apostolic House of Prayer offered up the invocation and prayer, brunch was served. House specialties included jerk chicken and grouper with a Trinidad curry, as well as rice and beans, plantains, and traditional breakfast items.

The second part of the program was turned over to students of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Elaine Cawley-Weintraub, teacher and founder of the African-American Heritage Trail project, introduced the afternoon’s two speakers, Randall Jette and Troy Small.

In an address called “What Martin Luther King, Jr. Means to Me,” Mr. Jette talked about how he has had limited exposure to race issues, thanks to the barriers that have been broken by others. In calling the civil rights struggle a team effort, he referred to Dr. King as the “most valuable player” of the movement. His speech, delivered with humor and humility, was original and nicely personal.

Senior Troy Small spoke about his research on Sen. Edward Brooke, whose home in Oak Bluffs is on the African American Heritage Trail. Mr. Small related his reflections on both Senator Brooke and Dr. King and how their efforts have helped shape his world. He quoted Dr. King’s speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” and finished by saying, “It’s not yet the promised land, but I stand before you today, as a young African American man who has lived what Martin Luther King dreamed about.”

Following the guest speakers, four students – Toby Riseborough, Amanda Rose, Rykker Maynard, and Jenna Lambert – performed two a cappella songs. “Run, Mary, Run,” an African-American spiritual, was followed by “Lift Every Heart,” the anthem that is traditionally sung at NAACP gatherings.

Lorna Andrade, co-chair of the event then made the presentations to this year’s recipients of the NAACPs Certificate of Merit. Wampanoag tribal leader Tobias Vanderhoop and the Reverend Roger Spinney of both the Baptist Church of Vineyard Haven and the Gay Head Church were on hand to receive their awards, while Constance Messmer accepted on behalf of her husband Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market. Ms. Andrade announced that the recipients were honored this year for their dedication to working with young people on the Island.

The brunch, which ran just under two hours, was completed with closing remarks by Ms. Perry-Henry. After reminding the audience to vote on Tuesday, she urged individual involvement in NAACP committees. Ms. Perry-Henry then finished with an eloquent plea. Following up on the theme of continuing the work of Dr. King and others, she said, “There must be a commitment to act beyond the holiday. Rather than celebrate, you should imitate Dr. King. Rather than a day off – it should be a day on.”

Gwyn McAllister is a frequent contributor to The Times.