Chilmark: Future of the Bite

Pastural morning scene at Keith Farm from Middle Road. —Valerie Sonnenthal

I loved hearing that Jo-Ann Eccher “saw [her] first sea robin on the floor of Menemsha Pond as [she] was paddleboarding this week.” I hope everyone enjoyed their July Fourth. I’m visiting my family abroad, who prefer not to visit our country at the moment, so I want to share an email I received after writing about the Bite not opening this season. I heard from Jim (James) Marrow who wrote, with Emily Rose: “I have been a summertime Chilmark visitor/resident for more than 50 years, initially thanks to my uncle Edward Chalif and his wife Margaret, who built what was for many years the first house on the left as one enters the road down to Abel’s Hill Beach on Chilmark Pond. Uncle Eddie was very well known on the Vineyard, among other reasons for introducing birding to the Island, as he and his wife were both well-known and well-traveled bird watchers (Eddie was the author of “The Field Guide to Mexican Birds,” illustrated by his good friend Roger Tory Peterson). Two of Uncle Eddie’s proteges, Gus Daniels and later Vern Laux, wrote birding columns for the Vineyard Gazette (Gus also married one of Uncle Eddie’s daughters, and fathered a few of my cousins, although that marriage didn’t last), and Eddie was also involved in the early history of such Vineyard institutions as the Chilmark Community Center and Felix Neck.

“Starting in 1954 and continuing for about a decade, I spent from one to three weeks of each summer at Uncle Eddie’s house on Abel’s Hill, which included meeting members of many of his neighbors (the Coes, Upsons, Mike and Gloria Levitas, Anatole Broyard, and many others). Beginning in the 1970s, I started renting homes at various places in Chilmark (mostly through the late David Flanders), usually for the month of July (as a professor, I have always had summers free), and for three or four years during the late 1980s and early 1990s, we regularly rented the home of Paul and Ruby Iantosca on Wooten Basset Road. Thereafter we lived in Cambridge, England, for five years, so had a break in our regular summertime visits to Chilmark. But in 2009 we finally purchased the house formerly owned by Portia Hart Clark on Osprey Lane (between the houses owned by our neighbors Sam Feldman, who seems to know almost everyone on the Island, and Steve and Liz Lewenberg), so enjoy spending all of June and most long weekends in the fall on Osprey Lane. The great irony is that for the purposes of our research (my wife is a historian, I am an art historian), my wife and I spend all of July and most of August in Europe, so are never on-Island during the most popular months here, and we therefore rent our house out during those months.

“I learned to drive in Chilmark, enjoyed my first kiss here, and had my first fried clam here (well before the Bite existed), which helps to explain my ongoing love of Chilmark and the Island and my concern that the Bite survive in its present form or something very much like it. I will be eager to learn if you can get any better information about the immediate and more distant prospects for the Bite.”

Once we know anything about the future of the Bite, we’ll keep you posted.

Alicia Woodburn has four-inch pots, $5 each, of organic homegrown seedlings, including tomato varieties Roma, heirloom, Black Krim, beefsteak and Super Bush, plus pepper seedlings, celery, eggplant, purple basil, hyssop, alyssum, and hollyhock for sale or trade in Menemsha. Call or text Alicia at 540-809-3748.

Sig Van Raan reports Sunday morning softball opened with ceremonial festivities celebrating the life of Bill Edison, held between games. Remarks and poems were read by longtime family friend Dana Nunes, Bill’s daughter Miranda Edison, and Sig Van Raan, celebrating Bill as the Boy of Summer. The ceremony ended with Jim Feiner playing “Amazing Grace” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his trombone. Miranda hosted the event, offering an enticing spread of bagels and lox with champagne and orange juice. A great turnout of former players and notable guests watched the current roster play two good, low-scoring games. All ages are welcome to play on Sundays; show up between 7:45 and 8 am.

Register any morning to August 17 in the CCC office for the 2018 season.You can now sign up for the August 11 Chilmark Road Race online at

Chilmark Library’s Wednesdays at 5 pm continues on July 11 with Dr. Raymond Rocco Monto speaking about his book “The Fountain: A Doctor’s Prescription to Make 60 the New 30.” The Kids Summer Reading Kickoff is on Saturday, July 7, from 10:30 am to noon at the Ag Hall with Rob Myers and the Pinkletinks performing at this free family event. Jim Thomas and the M.V. Spirituals Choir present “Songs from the Field,” a selection of songs sung by African slaves in the U.S. between 1619 and 1865, along with the stories behind them, at the Chilmark Library on Saturday July 7 at 2 pm. The Chilmark Library now has a weekly knitting group on Tuesdays from 3 to 4:30 pm; bring your own supplies and projects. Artist Caitlin Bingham’s painting exhibit runs through July 13. Enjoy a musical story hour with Rizwan on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 am. For info or questions, call 508-645-3360 or email For those newly arrived, be sure to sign up for the newsletter to keep up with the goings-on, or check the Facebook page. Also, summer hours include Mondays from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Pam Goff shares that “Seongmoon Ahn is preaching in Chilmark. He was here for two years, and has just been ordained. He’ll bring his family, including a new baby, to see his old congregation” on Sunday, July 8, at 9 am. Vineyard Sound every Tuesday at 7 pm through August 25; enjoy this a capella group at the Chilmark Community Church. Suggested donation is adults $15, kids $5. It’s at 9 Menemsha Crossroads, Chilmark.

This week TapTheYard presents Caleb Teicher and Company at 7 pm on Thursday, July 5, and Friday, July 6. Saturday, July 7, the BANG Group returns for “A Mouth Full of Shoes” at the PAC at 7 pm. I saw this piece in NYC, and loved it. It includes music by Island composer Dean Rosenthal, and The Yard’s Alison Manning is one of the exceptional performers. Check out dance classes and yoga at The Yard. To see what else is going on, get tickets, or learn about kids dance camp, go to or call 508-645-9662.

Have a great week.