Oak Bluffs gets lit for Illumination


Lit lanterns looked lively on Grand Illumination Night in Oak Bluffs Wednesday night.

The mid-August celebration was the 150th for the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association and the celebration was filled with music, cheers, colorful lights, and even a U.S. congressman.

Camp Association executive director CJ Rivard kicked off the celebration with a short speech about the importance of the community. 

“Tonight is all about family, friends, and community,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, was the night’s special guest speaker. In honor of the event’s 150th anniversary, Keating presented the association with an official state citation from Gov. Charlie Baker and a Congressional Record from the United States House of Representatives. 

“We can take this occasion tonight to make it an occasion for unity and togetherness,” Keating said. “As we light these lanterns tonight, we can think back to this quote from Martin Luther King Jr. who spent time in his life here in Oak Bluffs when he said, ‘Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that.’”

Speaking to The Times after his talk, Keating said he was excited to be at Illumination Night. Despite having owned a home on the Vineyard for 10 years, Keating said this was his first time at the event.

The Vineyard Haven Band came out for the occasion to play classic tunes spanning the decades like “Edelweiss” and “Yankee Doodle” while people toured the campground and looked at the many lanterns festooned along the gingerbread cottages.

At 8:45 pm, campground houses lit up in an array of colors to the cheers and applause of thousands of people. Burgers, fries, and chicken fingers were served at the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard and children and adults could be seen walking the grounds and relaxing on blankets around the Tabernacle.

Peter Jones sat on the porch of the house his family has owned since 1945. Hanging on the corner of his house was a German style lantern in the shape of a duck dating back to the 1940s.

Walter Frey has owned his cottage, known as “Small Frey,” for 50 years. Greeting friends and family on the way into the house are a set of Japanese style lanterns.

One of the oldest cottages in the campground belongs to Brenda and Fred Huss who inherited the 1867 cottage in 1995. One of the many traditions at the campground is the inheritance of lanterns. When a cottage is purchased — previous owners frequently leave their lanterns for the new owners to hang up on Illumination Night. In the Huss’ case, some of their lanterns, decorated with American flags, date back to the Civil War.