Outdoor entertainment on Martha’s Vineyard

Musical Mondays happen every week through the summer at Featherstone Center for the Arts. — File photo by Matthew Hood

On the Island, the fun doesn’t stop as soon as the sun goes down. The Vineyard may be famed for its beautiful beaches, but it is also renowned for its plethora of pleasing outdoor entertainment events. From music in Owen Park to outdoor films at the Tabernacle, people of all ages are guaranteed an enjoyable evening under a starry Vineyard sky.

One tradition that’s nearly as old and arguably as rich in history as the Island itself is the Vineyard Haven Band. It was created in 1868, nearly 150 years ago, by a group of Civil War veterans. A desire to play music overcame previous regional differences as both Confederate and Union soldiers played at their first gig, the West Tisbury Agricultural Association Fair. Less than 10 years after the band’s inception, President Ulysses S. Grant came to visit the Island and in preparation for his visit, the Oak Bluffs gazebo in Ocean Park was constructed to serve as a bandstand from which the Band could play. The Band still plays from the gazebo throughout the summer, and concerts at Ocean Park have become a favorite for many with younger children.

The Band is no longer composed of solely war veterans but rather a conglomerate of types — students of all ages, music teachers, local farmers, and even a NASA scientist presently participate in the Vineyard Haven Band. In addition to regular events in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, the Band will be at the center of the action at both Illumination Night in Oak Bluffs on Wednesday, Aug. 17 and later that week at the Oak Bluffs Fireworks on Friday, Aug. 19. Admission to the concerts is free, but donations are welcome. A full concert schedule and more information can be found on the Band’s website at vineyardhavenband.org or by phone at 508-645-3458.

The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs is an additional site with a series of free outdoor entertainment events for the whole family throughout the summer. The Community Sing series is one of these ongoing events. On Wednesday nights at 8 pm throughout July and August, participants can join others in a musical program that includes hymns, folk songs, spirituals, rounds, and patriotic tunes. If music is not your thing, the Tabernacle also hosts a Family Film series on select Sunday and Monday evenings throughout the summer. Kid-friendly films range from old favorites such as “Babe” and “Charlotte’s Web” to new pictures like “How To Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek 2.” A free-will offering is taken, but admission to these two events is free. More information can be found at mvcma.org.

Musical Mondays

Another beloved Vineyard summer series is Featherstone’s Musical Mondays, lauded as a favorite by both locals and visitors alike. On a raised wooden platform at Featherstone Center for the Arts, off of Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs, musicians put on weekly evening performances for enthusiastic audiences. Each week holds something different — one night may be filled with the sounds of country and folk, while the next week may showcase jazz musicians.

Admission to the outdoor performance is $7 for adults and $5 for those with an Our Island Club card. Each concert runs from 6:30 to 8 pm. For more information and a listing of summer 2011 performances, check out Featherstone’s website at featherstoneart.org/musical-mondays.

In a recent interview with The Times contributor Gwyn McAllister, Featherstone’s Musical Mondays founder, musician Kevin Keady, expressed what he loves so much about the outdoor entertainment concept. “Being outdoors allows for such a wide mixture of people who come and sit. It’s not just one demographic.”

Music in the Courtyard

Another venue for outdoor entertainment is Edgartown’s Vineyard Square Hotel’s courtyard that connects Eisenhauer Gallery, the hotel, and Chesca’s restaurant. Visual and musical art come together in the courtyard every other Thursday night from 6 to 8 pm. Whether because of the chance to peruse newly displayed art or the opportunity to dance around a beautiful courtyard, Gallery employee Emily Billings says that Thursday nights at Eisenhauer draw a “hugely diverse crowd” of not only art connoisseurs and potential buyers but also “children in their diapers all the way up to older folks.”

There are only three more occasions during the summer in which music will be presented in conjunction with the unveiling of artists’ new works at Eisenhauer Gallery. Farm Fresh, Water World, and Swimming in Colour are the titles of the openings that will showcase the works of various artists on July 14, July 28, and August 11 respectively. Each opening will showcase a different musician or musical group as well. For more information and a complete summer schedule, call 508-627-7003 or visit eisenhauergallery.com.

Sounds Like Summer

One final ongoing opportunity for outdoor entertainment this summer is the Sounds Like Summer concert series on the lawn outside Edgartown Library. On Tuesday nights throughout the end of August, well-known local bands will play music for audiences outside of the library. The performers will undoubtedly have concert-goers tapping their feet along to the music as they lounge in chairs and on blankets on the grass.

Contribute to the growing diversity of listeners by attending one of these ongoing events throughout the summer. With such a wide array of appealing opportunities, you’re sure not to be disappointed.

Times summer intern Maddy Berg, from Annapolis, Md., is a summer resident of Edgartown and starts her freshman year at Harvard University in the fall.