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The Island enjoys a storm for the record books.

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Maybe eight inches, maybe 10. Maybe 12 to 18. Maybe some rain. Maybe not. Definitely some wind. By mid-day Monday, Jan. 26, forecasts for the winter’s first big storm on Martha’s Vineyard ranged from “serious” to “blizzard.” By the time the first flakes fell at mid-day,  forecasters had dialed up their snow predictions, wind gust speeds, and warnings for the Island went from winter storm to blizzard.

After lingering for close to 40 hours, Juno finally sailed off to Downeast Maine, having dumped over two feet of snow on the Vineyard; the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted estimates of 27 inches in Oak Bluffs as of 3 am on Wednesday.



State and town offices and many businesses will remain closed Wednesday.

Updated 9:45 am Wednesday, January 28

The blizzard that struck Monday was expected to wane late Tuesday night and begin to pull out to sea Wednesday morning allowing the cleanup to begin. With so much snow left to move, many of Tuesday’s cancellations were extended through Wednesday.

Governor Charlie Baker announced the travel ban would be lifted at midnight. He directed only emergency state employees to return to work Wednesday as the Commonwealth recovers from the full force of the blizzard. The state of emergency order remains in effect.

“The snow will likely continue into the evening, leaving a massive amount of work ahead for Boston and many communities across the Commonwealth,” Governor Baker said.  “While the travel ban will no longer be in effect at midnight tonight, I urge the people of Massachusetts to stay off the roads unless they must travel. It is critical we all work together and use good judgment tonight and throughout tomorrow as road crews work to clean up from this historic blizzard. For those of you that must return to work tomorrow, please be patient and allow plenty of time for your morning commute as we expect the MBTA to experience significant delays.”

On Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown, Tisbury and Oak Bluffs announced all town offices would remain closed Wednesday.

The Dukes County Courthouse will be closed Wednesday, including District Court, Superior Court, and Probate Court.

A parking ban in Tisbury remains in effect through Wednesday at 6 pm.

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools James Weiss announced that school is cancelled Wednesday.

The Steamship Authority has cancelled the scheduled 6 am trip from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole.

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Not need to seek shelter at Island Alpaca farm in Oak Bluffs. Why does this alpaca appear to be smiling?

As the wind howled outside, the Tisbury School gymnasium was eerily dark and empty early Tuesday morning, and only a few of the 30 cots looked like they had been slept in last night. In the school cafeteria, the volunteers outnumbered the evacuees. Only two people sought shelter last night, according to volunteer Brian Kennedy of Oak Bluffs. “We have 11 volunteers from the Island and four Red Cross staff on hand,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We fed eight off-Island utility crews earlier in the morning. The crews were notified that conditions were too dangerous to go out, and went back to their hotel until further instructions.”

Mr. Kennedy said the volunteers had just completed a call with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and were told all of Nantucket had lost power and it would be days before power is restored: “We’ve been very lucky that the power has stayed on for the most part. We’re in a lot better shape than Nantucket, that’s for sure.”

Mr. Kennedy said the shelter will remain open until further notice.

On Monday, emergency management directors in the six Island towns finalized plans to provide emergency shelter Monday at the Tisbury School.

Island emergency management directors met Monday to plan for the approaching storm.
Island emergency management directors met Monday to plan for the approaching storm.

The Tisbury School at 40 West William Street was used to service all Island residents who needed shelter. Emergency officials decided it would be best to consolidate staff and services in one shelter, rather than open a shelter in each Island town, as they have done in the past.

The Tisbury School opened at 6 pm, Monday night, and was ready to handle a limited number of house pets. Emergency management directors had a plan to open a second shelter if needed.

Emergency officials advised those in need of shelter who cannot travel to call 9-1-1, or their local police department.

Red Cross officials stressed that anyone coming to the shelter should bring medications, and any emergency medical equipment, such as oxygen cylinders. They also encouraged people to bring a change of clothing, any special foods they will need, toiletries, pillows, and blankets.

If bringing a pet, also bring pet food, bowls, medical records including rabies certification, leashes, collars and ID tags.

Emergency officials were more concerned with the probability of high winds and frigid temperatures, than the amount of snow expected.

“There will be drifting snow, and with the extended period of snow it’s going to be tough to keep up with it,” Edgartown emergency management director Peter Shemeth said Monday. “My concern is more with the velocity of the wind, wires coming down, and extended power outages.”

Emergency officials sent at least one message through the Code Red emergency notification system, which automatically dials home phone numbers. They caution people not to be alarmed by the recorded message, but to pay attention to the latest emergency information. Some residents reported receiving multiple messages

The Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal was shuttered Tuesday.

Updated 11 am, Wednesday

The Steamship Authority is back to operating normally

The Steamship Authority advised customers to check the boatline website steamshipauthority.com, for further announcements regarding ferry service.

Individual trip cancellations may be viewed on the Steamship Authority’s Current Conditions Page at: http://www.steamshipauthority.com/ssa/opschoice.cfm

Menemsha was not a blizzard of activity Tuesday. Photo by Rich Saltzberg.

Updated 12:05 pm, Wednesday

Schools cancelled Wednesday

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools James Weiss announced that school is cancelled Wednesday.

Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, Edgartown, Chilmark offices will remain closed Wednesday

Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Chilmark and Tisbury town offices will remain closed through Wednesday. Aquinnah and West Tisbury may open. Call first.

Edgartown District Court closed Wednesday

County offices will be closed Wednesday

Vineyard Transit Authority

Routes 1 and 13 are running normally, other routes are on a sunday schedule.

Tisbury Vision Planning workshop cancelled

The joint meeting of the Tisbury planning board and selectmen at 7 pm, Wednesday at the Tisbury Senior Center to provide an update on the town’s vision-planning process has been cancelled.

ACE MV classes cancelled Wednesday

Chilmark Library closed

The Chilmark Library will remain closed on Wednesday. The Chowder and a Movie program scheduled for noon and the Library Board of Trustees scheduled for 3 pm are cancelled.

Vineyard Haven Library closed

Due to the extended parking ban in Tisbury the Vineyard Haven Public Library will be closed for the day on Wednesday and all library programs cancelled.

Tisbury parking ban remains

Tisbury’s parking ban will remain in effect through 6 pm, Wednesday.

Stop and Shop weathers storm

The Stop and Shop In Vineyard Haven and Edgartown remained open Tuesday.

SSA cancels 6 am, Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole boat 

All others boats are on a trip by trip basis.

Vineyard Medical Care walk-in will remain closed Wednesday

Tisbury shelter opened

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross will operate a shelter at the Tisbury School gym until 10 am, Wednesday.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital open for essential services only

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital will provide only essential and emergency services through Tuesday. Patients with appointments are asked to contact their provider directly regarding services on Wednesday. In the event of an emergency, please dial 911.

The Hospital’s main number is 508-693-0410.

Power outages

Residents are advised to report down power lines, Call NSTAR at 800-592-2000. Call NSTAR at 800-592-2000 to report a power outage.

Be cautious with vents

Clear home heating vents to protect against potential carbon monoxide hazards.

East Chop Drive closed

East Chop Drive will be closed from 4 pm, Monday until 6 pm, Wednesday between Brewster and Munroe Avenue due to concerns of erosion.

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Updated Wednesday January 28

This past Saturday marked the the 29th annual Big Chili Contest, better known as Chilifest, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. For almost three decades the popular 21-plus festival, hosted by MVY Radio, has spiced up the winter with a good time while bringing in thousands for the Red Stocking Fund, which provides food, clothing, and toys to Island children during the holiday season. This year approximately 1,700 people made their way to the event and sampled chili from 17 vendors that came as far as Worcester to compete.

About $27,000 was generated for The Red Stocking Fund of Martha’s Vineyard, according to Greg Orcutt, general manager of MVY Radio. In an email, Mr. Orcutt said, “This is an event that is supported by the P.A. Club, local and regional businesses, and individuals who give time and money to support the Red Stocking Fund of Martha’s Vineyard. The Chili Contest also offers an economic lift in January, with people from as far away as Connecticut and Maine coming to the Island and spending dollars with the SSA, local retailers, hotels, and restaurants.”

Hundreds of off-Island visitors descended on the Vineyard for the event, despite the wet conditions. The local taxi company Stagecoach Taxi reported that guests were being dropped off at the contest as early as 9:30 am. The early-morning boats were packed with visitors from Boston, Falmouth, and beyond. The rain didn’t stop the party; the line was almost at the door at noon — with still four more hours to enjoy the festivities.

From left: Mauricio Gomez, Colette Kurelja, and Stephanie Gomez enjoy sampling chili. – Photo by Angelina Godbout
From left: Mauricio Gomez, Colette Kurelja, and Stephanie Gomez enjoy sampling chili. – Photo by Angelina Godbout

Island restaurants and layman chili chefs prepared countless batches of their favorite recipes for a chance to win in one of several professional and amateur categories while contest attendees made the rounds tasting. Chili competitors included The Ritz (Oak Bluffs), The Black Dog (Vineyard Haven), Quicks Hole Tavern (Woods Hole), and Quahog Republic (Falmouth), among many others.

The costume clad attendees, in Mexican ponchos, sombreros, and festive masks, danced to the music of the Mariachi Mexico Lindo Band, Taunton-based cover band the Baja Brothers, and local favorite Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish.

The competition categories included “Is It Really Chili?,” “Farthest Traveled,” “Best Presentation,” “Steve Jordan Memorial Hottest Chili” (Mr. Jordan retired from the contest to judge after winning the category 18 straight years), “Best Professional,” and “Best Amateur” chili. MVY also awarded a first-time Spirit Award, which went to attendee “Mo Cheeks,” who donned several different costumes throughout the day, including denim cutoff shorts and a woman’s orange bathing suit.

The crowd gathered under a tent at the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs. – Photo by Angelina Godbout
The crowd gathered under a tent at the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs. – Photo by Angelina Godbout

The winners:

Best professional chili, third place: The Ritz.

Best professional chili, second place: The Black Dog.

Best professional chili, first place: Quahog Republic of Falmouth (by a “slim margin”).

Farthest traveled chili: Adam Sanders for his amateur chili from Worcester.

Best veggie chili: Quicks Hole Tavern of Woods Hole.

Best Presentation: Jim Pringle and Alan Northcott for their amateur chili, which used local Hopps Farm hops and ale in their recipe.

Is that really chili?:  New Moon Magick Enchanted Chocolates won for their chili chocolate.

Hottest chili: The Lookout Tavern.

Best amateur chili, third place: Edgartown Fire Department.

Best amateur chili, second place: Bob Costello and his official chili.

Best amateur chili, first place: Bill Donovan and Brian Lucier of Wild Willy’s Ass Kickin’ Chili.

Jenny Johnson of  NESN’s Dining Playbook also announced her personal favorites, which were awarded with cash prizes.

Third place, $200: The Lookout Tavern

Second place, $300: Bill Donovan and Brian Lucier of Wild Willy’s Ass Kickin’ Chili.

Third place, $500: Quahog Republic of Falmouth.

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Mr. Collins will oversee the department and the search to replace retiring police chief Tony Bettencourt.

Soon to retire Edgartown Police Chief Antone Bettencourt advised selectmen Wednesday morning to appoint Jack Collins as acting police chief while they begin a search for his replacement. – Photo by Michael Cummo

In a special Wednesday morning meeting, Edgartown selectmen voted to appoint labor counsel Jack Collins acting police chief, effective on a date to be determined later. Mr. Collins will take over the reins from police chief Antone (Tony) Bettencourt, who last week announced his plan to retire in May.

Selectmen, acting on the advice of Chief Bettencourt, will ask Mr. Collins, who was not present Wednesday morning, to help guide the search and make a recommendation on Chief Bettencourt’s replacement. Mr. Collins is a seasonal resident of Chilmark, where he is also a special police officer. He has served as special labor counsel for Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, and is the president of the Massachusetts Association of Chiefs of Police.

“My recommendation is that you hire Jack Collins to be acting police chief,” Mr. Bettencourt told the board at the Wednesday-morning meeting continued from the previous evening. “He’ll be able to make a more educated decision, because he’ll be working with the officers. He won’t be a threat to the officers; he’s not looking for a police chief’s job.”

Selectman Michael Donaroma said the appointment will help the board make a decision.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mr. Donaroma said. “He doesn’t want the chief’s job. I know it will definitely help me with the interview process, having someone like that looking over the process.”

The chief said he had discussed the matter with Mr. Collins, and he is agreeable to the appointment as acting chief.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Collins said he was looking forward to the assignment.

“I’m flattered and happy to have the opportunity to provide that service to the town,” Mr. Collins said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the people of the Edgartown police department, usually as a trainer. This will be different. I’m very happy the initiative came from the officers.”

The appointment will become effective when Chief Bettencourt leaves the department. While his retirement is effective May 2, he expects to finish his tenure as chief some time in March by taking accrued vacation time. He said he has not yet determined that date.

Chairman Art Smadbeck said he was surprised after reading Chief Bettencourt’s resignation letter.

“I truly understand that for you, it is the right time,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “Congratulations on your 32 years of dedicated service to the town; that’s more than most people give to their community.”

Selectman Margaret Serpa recused herself from Wednesday’s meeting because of a conflict of interest. Chief Bettencourt is her nephew.

Sixty-four years, and still going strong.

Jim an Roberta Morgan at their 25th wedding anniversary, in 1975. – Photo courtesy of the Morgans

In an occasional series, some great Island couples tell us how they’ve made marriages last. We salute the love, goodwill, stamina, and compromise required of couples who stay together for a long time.Jim and Roberta Morgan of Chilmark were were married on Sept. 29, 1950, at the Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven.

How did you meet? At the Vineyard Haven Bowling Alley.

Who proposed and how? Jim proposed to Roberta, April 1950.

The Morgans at their wedding, in September, 1950.
The Morgans at their wedding, in September, 1950.

Describe your Vineyard wedding [We were] married in the Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven and had a reception at Albert Allen’s home on Daggett Avenue in Vineyard Haven. Bert’s sisters, Eva, Marjorie, Dorothy, and Mrs. Allen, provided the refreshments. Then we left the Island for a honeymoon at Niagara Falls.

How many children? Did any of them stay here? Barbara and Jim. Both live on the Vineyard.

Do you both work? Roberta has the Harbor Craft shop at Menemsha. Jim is a retired commercial fisherman.

And at their 50th anniversary, in 2000.
And at their 50th anniversary, in 2000.

Briefly describe your years together — the good, the bad, and the wonderful … Sixty-four wonderful years together, two wonderful children, two wonderful grandchildren, two great daughters-in-law-to-be. Wonderful life.

Has the Vineyard been the best place to live your lives together? Absolutely, great place to raise kids, a great place for a commercial fisherman in the past.

If you had one piece of advice to a couple about to be married, what would it be? Talk everything out, hold no grudges, work hard together, respect each other.

Uncovering tricks of the trade in advance of the Big Chili Contest.

A closeup of Official Chili's big pot at a past Big Chili Contest. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Big Chili Contest is coming up this weekend, Jan. 24, at the Portuguese-American Club, and in light of the famous event, we wanted to prepare you with some chili history, rules, and recipes.

Before we dive into the world of chili, fair warning: Chili is one of the most controversial recipes in American history. There have probably been wars about chili, friendships dissolved over the meaning of true chili, and marriages terminated on terms of what makes a real chili. And with that fair warning, there’s one true fact we can state: True chili has no beans. There, we said it. You can discuss all you want, but after careful research, we found this statement to be true, and plan to stick by it.

If you’re outraged and want to fight about it, you can take it up with the International Chili Society (ICS), a nonprofit organization that sanctions chili cook-offs with judging, and has an entire set of rules and regulations in place, one of which is shared below:

Traditional Red Chili is defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat or combination of meats,cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of beans and pasta which are strictly forbidden. No garnish is allowed.

In this history that’s difficult to pinpoint with accuracy, stories from the Texan cattle trails are heard often: how range cooks would plant herb gardens along the trails to use in future travels for cooking their chili. Slowly, chili moved into San Antonio, under the aegis of the “chili queens,” a group of dozens of Mexican women who cooked chili at home and sold it from small carts in the Military Plaza of San Antonio, each with her own blend of spices, trying to one-up the others. For 200 years they sold their chili, until the 1930s, when the health department shut down their operation.

Background of fresh red hot chili peppers, or cayenne chillis, a pungent strong flavoured spice used in cooking. — freefoodphotos.com
Background of fresh red hot chili peppers, or cayenne chillis, a pungent strong flavoured spice used in cooking. — freefoodphotos.com

Here, a basic recipe of chili from the ICS via the range cooks: Cut up as much meat as you think you will need (any kind will do, but beef is probably best) in pieces about the size of a pecan. Put it in a pot, along with some suet (enough so as the meat won’t stick to the sides of the pot), and cook it with about the same amount of wild onions, garlic, oregano, and chiles as you have got meat. Put in some salt. Stir it from time to time and cook it until the meat is as tender as you think it’s going to get.

Thanks to the magic of social media, a simple Facebook status turned into a chance to chat with Steve Jordan, local award-winning chili maker and creator of the hottest chili recipe in the past 20 years. Mr. Jordan has been even granted a lifetime achievement award, and is judging this year’s hottest chili category at the Big Chili Contest. Of course, I had to ask him his insider tips and secrets to great and spicy chili.

When I inquired about his recipe, he replied,

Ingredients include ground beef and chopped steak tips that are browned with onions and garlic, as well as chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and paprika. Chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, dark beer, and corn masa flour are added, letting it simmer until ready. You might be wondering why it’s the hottest, right? Well, I grow my own habanero, jalapeño, cayenne, and ghost peppers. Those are all processed, seeds and all, and then slowly cooked in oil. That mixture is added to the simmering chili — hottest chili ever!

Another local favorite is the delicious White Chicken Chili at Mocha Motts, made by Erica McCarron. Her recipe:

White Chicken Chili

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

4 tsp. cumin

1 Tbs. chili powder

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

4 cups shredded/cubed cooked chicken

2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chiles

4 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth

4 (15 oz.) cans cannellini beans

2 cups corn kernels

½ cup half-and-half

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shredded Monterey jack cheese and tortilla strips, for serving (optional)


Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and sauté until soft. Add the minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Cook one minute longer. Stir in cooked chicken and chopped green chiles.

Add 3 cans of chicken broth, and 2 cans of cannellini beans. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Add corn.

In a food processor or using an immersion blender, combine ½ cup half-and-half, remaining 1 can chicken broth, and remaining 2 cans of cannellini beans, and purée until smooth. Add to the soup and simmer 10 min. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper according to taste.

Serve with optional shredded cheese and tortilla strips.

Big Chili Contest tickets are available at Shirley’s True Value in Vineyard Haven and at Trader Fred’s in Edgartown for $35 each. The annual event is this Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm, and is hosted by MVY Radio, benefiting the Red Stocking Fund, and is a 21-plus event. Free bus transportation is provided from the Steamship Authority in Vineyard Haven to the Chili Contest, and will return you there at the end of the event. For more information, visit mvyradio.com.

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Marc Hanover told the Dukes County commissioners there will be no rollback of recent rate hikes.

On January 14, County clerk Joseph Sollitto (foreground) administered the oath of office to county commissioners (left to right) John Alley, Christine Todd, Leon Brathwaite, David Holway, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood. Commissioners Leonard Jason, Jr., and Tristan Israel are hidden from view. – Photo by Steve Myrick

Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority member Marc Hanover defended the authority’s business operations and capital improvement plans at a meeting of the Dukes County commission, his appointing authority, last week. Mr. Hanover, an Oak Bluffs businessman, also soundly rejected a call for the boatline to roll back or suspend rate hikes that took effect on Jan. 1.

Mr. Hanover offered an annual report and responded to questions from members of the audience who presented signatures gathered on an online petition signed by more than 3,000 people, calling for repeal of recent price increases.

Referring to a Letter to the Editor published in The Times on Dec. 3, signed by Oak Bluffs businessman and former selectman Todd Rebello, Mr. Hanover said, “Statements were made that net operating income disappears, plugs holes, and there are millions in surpluses. These statements are irresponsible, ridiculous. It angers me that somebody can go out and make false statements like this; it’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Hanover dismissed some of the SSA critics as uninformed. “The petition, I would have signed it myself, if I wasn’t aware of the reality of the situation,” Mr. Hanover said. “A lot of people have signed it. A lot of people that have signed it have no idea what the Steamship Authority is. I disagree with them.”

County commissioner Tristan Israel, a Tisbury selectman, asked Mr. Hanover to consider the effect of capital projects on ticket prices.

“The Steamship Authority makes a value judgement to build a $38 million boat, and on the heels of that, they make a value judgement to build a $60 million terminal in Woods Hole,” he said. “Our rates have been going up and up over the past decade. The petition is showing people’s frustration.”

Marie Laursen of Tisbury told Mr. Hanover ratepayers need a break from increased costs.

“The point of the petition is to address the rate increases,” Ms. Laursen said. “Is there any possibility that those rate increases could be put on hold temporarily, until $100 million worth of projects in the pipeline get discussed, and how that affects our rates in the future?”

“We need a break. We travel much more often than summer visitors. We’re going back and forth a lot more,” she said.

Mr. Hanover pointed to poor Island attendance at SSA public meetings. He said he is disappointed that few people attend the two SSA monthly business meetings held each year on Martha’s Vineyard. County commissioners agreed to facilitate an informational meeting on the Island, at a time and place yet to be determined.

Other business

The first county commission meeting of the new year began with a swearing-in ceremony. County clerk Joseph Sollitto gave the oath of office to county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, to begin a new six-year term. Then he swore in re-elected county commissioners Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark, Leon Brathwaite and John Alley of West Tisbury, Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Israel of Tisbury, and David Holway of Edgartown. Also sworn in was newly elected commissioner Gretchen Tucker Underwood of Oak Bluffs.

Commissioners elected Mr. Brathwaite chairman, and Ms. Todd vice-chairman.
Mr. Sollitto also thanked retiring Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk Carol Grant for her public service. “I want to compliment, and let the commissioners know, she’s the best parking clerk I’ve worked with in my 34 years,” Mr. Sollitto said. Mr. Sollitto is the hearing officer for disputed tickets.

The commission offered its gratitude. “We’re going to miss you, and I want to thank you on behalf of the commissioners for the work you’ve done over the years,” Mr. Brathwaite said.

Ms. Grant said there will be no interruption in services, as senior financial clerk Donna Michalski assumes the duties of parking clerk.

“Thank you for your support,” Ms. Grant said. “Donna will pick up where I’m leaving off. It should be a nice smooth transition.”