Where to go and what to do on July 4

The annual Edgartown Fourth of July fireworks in 2015. —Larisa Stinga

The day before

Island festivities aren’t just for the Fourth next week. On Tuesday, July 3, the annual reading of the Frederick Douglass speech “What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?” begins at 12 pm and ends around 1:30 pm in the Meetinghouse of the Federated Church, at 45 South Summer St., Edgartown. (There will be another reading of this famous speech on July 4; see below.) This free community event is cosponsored by the Friends of the Edgartown Library and the Federated Church. The speech was originally given on July 5, 1852, to the Rochester Anti-Slavery and Sewing Society. Five years later, in December 1857, Douglass gave his speech “The Unity of Man” to an audience at the First Congregational Church (now known as Federated Church), and at the Edgartown Town Hall.

Also on July 3, the Island Community Chorus performs its annual July concert twice that evening at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, at 6 pm and 8 pm. The program will be a blend of Americana, folk tunes (from Kenya and Scotland), sea chanteys, and an audience favorite, “Down to the River to Pray” from the 2000 movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.” A suggested donation of $15 is requested at the door. Also, have some late-night laughs at the Comedy Club at the Barn, Bowl and Bistro. Starting at 9 pm, Dan Boulger from “Late Night with Craig Ferguson” and Dan Crohn from “Last Comic Standing” will split some sides.


The day of

Start July 4 with a 15-year-old Tisbury tradition at the Murdicks Fudge 5-Mile Run the Chop Challenge. Starting at 9 am at the Tisbury School on Spring Street, runners will head out along the Chop and then double back to the finish line, located on Spring Street. Although registration will be available from 7 am to 8:45 am on race day, registering ahead of time is highly recommended. The fee is $25 for the regular race. There is also a three-mile walking course option (also $25) for those who don’t want to run but still enjoy getting some exercise and fresh air. At 8:30 am, there will be a fun run for children 12 years and under that costs $5 per runner. This event benefits the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club. Awards will be given to overall winners and age-group winners.

Oak Bluffs also has a number of events that celebrate Independence Day, including the annual Kids Parade at the Tabernacle. Open to all ages, the parade begins at 10 am on West Clinton Avenue and is followed by an ice cream social.

Then, at 5 pm, the annual Edgartown Fourth of July parade will begin its route at the intersection of West Tisbury Road and Pinehurst Road. All roads on the parade route will be closed at 4:30 pm, including Pinehurst Road, Main Street, Pease’s Point Way, Fuller Street, and Thayer Street. Traffic delays will start as early as 3 pm, so make sure to get a jump on the crowd and find a good parking spot. The roads will be closed until 11 pm. Handicap parking is provided at the Yacht Club on lower Main Street. The deadline to enter the parade is July 3 at 12 pm.

After the parade, there will be a barbecue on the lawn of the Dr. Daniel Fisher House with hot dogs and burgers. Bring a picnic blanket and some refreshments, and get comfortable before the fireworks.

The annual Edgartown Fourth of July fireworks will start at dusk, and are paid for and organized by the town of Edgartown. See an awe-inspiring display that has been an Island tradition for decades. Some good places to see the show are Memorial Wharf, Fuller Street Beach, and the Edgartown Lighthouse.

There will also be the 12th annual dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass’ landmark speech “What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?” at historic Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs at 4 pm. Organized and funded by the Renaissance House Retreat for Writers and Artists, this event has volunteer readers recite different segments of the 10,000-word address.

There’s a special Community Sing this Fourth of July at the Tabernacle. Celebrating 100 years of Community Sings, this patriotic sing-along begins at 8 pm.