Tivoli Day – post-season fun and relaxation

Outdoor dining, sales, and live music are three major draws of Tivoli Day, this Saturday, Sept. 17. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

For the 34th year in a row, Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs will host a laid back summer’s end street party. An established Island tradition, Tivoli Day is a chance to enjoy a post-season gathering, take advantage of end-of-season sales, check out local bands in a family friendly setting, engage in children’s activities, and dine outdoors on food from some of Oak Bluffs’ most popular restaurants.

Dennis daRosa, president of the Tivoli Day sponsoring organization, the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), says, “Tivoli Day was always meant to be an event that brings not only the visitors but the year-rounders out at the end of summer to say hello to friends they haven’t seen during the busy season, and to take a breather at the end of summer.

“It’s a relaxing day. Without the summer traffic, it’s not too crowded, and people have more time to maybe spend the day shopping, eating, and dancing. There’s a sense of freedom. Kids can run around without worrying about traffic. It’s just a nice day for locals and a boost for local businesses.”

This year, for the first time, Tivoli Day will honor a long-time resident who has exhibited, through tireless work and dedication, an enduring love for the town. It’s a first-ever honor: the day will be dedicated to Renee Balter, who was one of the founders of the OBA.

Ms. Balter has officially retired from the organization, which she served from 1991 until this year. She was the organization’s first president and most recently served as vice president.

“She’s just been a terrific force in the community,” Mr. daRosa says, “not only with the OBA, but with the town and other nonprofits. She’s a truly selfless person who loves Oak Bluffs and should be recognized.”

Jena’s Ring Challenge

There will be two other new additions to the Tivoli Day festivities this year. The landmark Flying Horses carousel will be the scene of a benefit ring-catching challenge. Competitors in four age groups will see who can grab the most rings during a ride. All entrants will receive a commemorative brass ring. The ticket sales will support the Jena Pothier Flying Horses Scholarship Fund. Ms. Pothier, who worked summers at the Flying Horses as a young girl, died in a car accident in June 2009.

Horses, Wheelmen, and more

An earthbound horse — of the mini-variety — will be the other new Tivoli Day attraction. Lori Clements of Vineyard Miniature Horse Rescue will bring one of the mini-horses to the celebration, for petting and possibly pony rides. Among other kid-friendly activities, the popular rock climbing wall will be back this year.

Once again, members of the Wheelmen organization will be on hand. They will display a number of the peculiar looking “penny farthings” cycles, so named because of the disproportionate size of the wheels, which corresponds to the different sizes of the old British coins.

The Tivoli Day festivities start at 11 am and continue until 6 pm. About 70 shops, vendors, and nonprofits will be set up on the street, and Circuit Avenue restaurants Sharky’s, Deons, Seasons, and Sai Mai Thai Cuisine will feature outdoor dining.

Musicians will set up at two locations — at the edge of Post Office Square and at the top of Circuit Avenue near the Union Chapel. Participating bands include Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, the Rick Bausman Band, Ballywho, and Syndicate. Johnny Showtime will also host karaoke in front of Seasons.

Tivoli Day is one of several community-building initiatives sponsored by the OBA. The business organization launched the Harbor Festival during their inaugural year, began the Summer Solstice celebration six years ago, and expanded the annual December Oak Bluffs tree lighting celebration. The organization is also responsible for installing and maintaining the Oak Bluffs information booth at the bottom of Circuit Avenue, and they produce and distribute an Island map, creating revenue that helps to fund the annual Oak Bluffs fireworks.

Renee Balter

Ms. Balter was instrumental in all of these undertakings and talks enthusiastically about the work of the OBA. She stresses that the organization represents the interests of the entire community, not just local businesses. “The OBA is not a chamber of commerce or a strictly business organization,” Ms. Balter says. “We were very careful to craft a mission statement to bring together people in the community with the business community. I wanted people to understand how the two factions could operate in a mutually beneficial way.”

Ms. Balter and her husband Bruce have owned and operated Titticut Follies, a small guesthouse on Pequot Avenue, since 1981.

She calls the guesthouse “fun.” “That is so much fun. It’s almost like having an extended family. We’re now housing a third generation of returning guests,” she says.

Ms. Balter is also an artist whose striking depictions of Oak Bluffs scenes have been featured in Cousen Rose Gallery, Dragonfly Gallery, and the Red Mannequin boutique. Her work has been on display at the Carousel branch of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank all summer and will move to the Uncas Avenue branch at the end of September. She says she looks forward to devoting more time to her family and her artistic pursuits.

“I’ve been involved for 20 years, and I have put my artwork on the shelf for a long time,” she says. “We’re building a new house. I’m going to have a bona fide studio, and I have to justify its existence.”

Still, she insists that she will be active with the OBA and will continue serving on both Cottage City Historic District Commission and the Oak Bluffs Community Development Committee.

“I’ll always help out with the OBA,” she says. “It’s just time for other people to step forward and participate a little bit more. I have a habit of volunteering way over my head. I just need to refocus and spend time with my family and my artwork, things that I’ve neglected over the years.”

Gwyn McAllister, a regular contributor to The Times, lives in Oak Bluffs.