Tivoli Day celebrates its 40th birthday

Ezia "Z" Leach reacts to a glitter tattoo she applied to Abby Geary of Oak Bluffs on a past Tivoli Day. — Stacey Rupolo

It’s that time of year again, and Tivoli Day is just around the corner. This year is its 40th anniversary, which warrants a little history lesson.

Named for a former recreational center in Oak Bluffs, which was named for a town in Italy, the word “Tivoli” is one that is generally associated with festivals, fairgrounds, and fun. Tivoli Day originally began as a bike race through Oak Bluffs, which once drew huge crowds and more than 250 racers, including Olympic-class riders, according to Dennis daRosa, chairman of Tivoli Day and president of the Oak Bluffs Association. At one point, Michael Wild, a well-known Island preservationist, and Ed Coogan, who was a teacher at the time, had the idea to create a street festival to coincide with the race.

The bike race is no longer, but the street festival remains, complete with “1,000 feet of 10-foot booths,” Mr. daRosa says. It’s been the biggest outdoor festival of the shoulder season for many years, with around 5,000 people coming through to share the fun. There will be outdoor dining, retail sales, face painting, and raffles.

To celebrate the 40th year, the festival will have more music than usual. In any direction on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, sounds like Johnny Hoy & the Bluefish, Dave Willis & Piano Man Griffin, and many more will be in earshot. The festival will also be open an hour later than in past years, from 10 am until 6 pm on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The festival is being dedicated this year to the founders of the Tivoli Day street fair, Michael Wild and Ed Coogan, who created the fest as a way for Oak Bluffs to make a comeback in the off-season. Now that the off-season has become more of a shoulder season, the festival is shared by Islanders and visitors alike. “Ed and Mike were always thinking up ways to celebrate the Island’s innocence and tolerance,” Liza Coogan, Mr. Coogan’s wife, said. “That Dennis and Tony DaRosa and Bill Stafursky keep it alive is testament to their generosity and pride in the town of Oak Bluffs.”