The Fourth of July weekend was busy, but not as busy as is typical on Martha’s Vineyard. That seems to be the consensus from business leaders and Island first responders.
“Everybody’s sentiment is that it was busier than we expected it to be — not a typical Fourth, but better than we expected,” said Sarah York, manager of CB Stark Jewelers and president of the Vineyard Haven Business Association. York spoke with several Vineyard Haven businesses, including the Green Room, Rainy Day, and LeRoux, to get their assessments. “Friday was the day. We reached capacity multiple times. That was good. On a normal July Fourth, everyone is in Edgartown, and that didn’t happen this year. It’s not pre-COVID, but under the circumstances, we were pleased with what we got.”
Customers were respectful about wearing masks in the stores, York said. “We’re not seeing near enough compliance outside the stores.” She said the town has put up signs underneath parking signs on Main Street to remind people of the mask requirement. She added that a banner is being made to remind people to maintain social distance and wear face coverings. That banner should go up in a couple of weeks, she said.
Speaking anecdotally, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce executive director Nancy Gardella said there continue to be highs and lows during the summer season, but said Island businesses had a good Independence Day weekend. She said generally, vacation rentals and restaurants are doing well.
“My heart and mind go out to phase three businesses,” Gardella said. “I’m relieved that we’re moving into phase three in a way I hope is very safe.”
Similarly, Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd told The Times that retail on Circuit Avenue had a great weekend, helped in part by the Sunday street closures.
“Everyone has a very positive feeling about the street closure,” Todd said. “It’s allowing them to increase their sales and feel safer about the experience they’re allowing people to have.”
Todd added that the town is also going to increase signage and posters for mask and face coverings.
There was a crowded scene on Circuit Ave. Sunday morning. The central street in downtown Oak Bluffs was blocked off to cars starting at 10 am, as part of the M.V. Masquerade each Sunday.
Even before the street closed for the day, pedestrians filled the sidewalks and meandered into the road. By 10 am, a line for Back Door Donuts wrapped around the entirety of Post Office Square. Social distancing proved challenging, as large groups moved in every direction and crossed the street in front of one another.
The Cardboard Box, which offers breakfast during the Masquerade, was deterred from setting up tables by a car parked in front of their restaurant. An Oak Bluffs Police officer felt the hood of the car for warmth, wondering if it had been running recently, or if it was perhaps left overnight.
As The Cardboard Box staff set up around the car, one employee reminded an unmasked pedestrian that face coverings are required on Circuit Ave.
Sgt. Michael Marchand later told The Times that no cars had to be towed, and the department issued fewer than five tickets over the weekend.
The holiday crowd persisted through Sunday evening, with large groups of visitors filling the streets of downtown Oak Bluffs. At 8 pm, parking spots were scant, and fiercely sought-after by a parade of cars circling the adjacent side roads. A Times intern said she was yelled at by another driver, using excessive profanity directed at her and onlookers.
On Kennebec Avenue, the line to Back Door Donuts filled its back parking lot and stretched down the sidewalk. While those in line were wearing the necessary face coverings, individuals were closer than six feet.
Several pedestrians wore a mask around their neck, only pulling it up as they entered a business. Others wore a mask in part, covering only their mouths, and leaving their noses exposed. However, the majority of Circuit Ave, visitors did wear a mask in compliance with Masquerade protocol.
The Steamship Authority reported passenger numbers that fell shy of 2019. The “total passenger traffic Thursday to Sunday was 45,810 passengers, approximately 79 percent of what we saw over the same time frame in 2019,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll emailed.
The Vineyard route saw 35,174 passengers, or about 76 percent of 2019, he noted, while the Nantucket route saw 10,636 passengers, or about 95 percent of 2019. “On Sunday, [July 5,] we carried 13,247 passengers — the highest one-day total so far this year.”
At Martha’s Vineyard Airport, Geoff Freeman, assistant airport director, told The Times that overall air traffic to the Island was down just 13 percent for the month of June, compared with the previous year. On the holiday weekend, fog and windy conditions had an impact on air travel.
“Overall, air travel to the Vineyard seems to have rebounded,” Freeman said. “We have signage at every entrance to the building; people seem to be abiding by that very well. Airlines are requiring people to have face masks, anyone that is coming in who doesn’t have a mask can be given one courtesy of the FAA and FEMA. Cleaning the terminal is an ongoing, hourly process. I was a witness to Delta’s cleaning, which they take very seriously with the fogging and cleaning of the interior of aircraft. Once an aircraft is deplaned on arrival, the airline crew goes on and cleans the entire interior. Going in, fogging with electrostatic cleaning, cleaning all touch surfaces. Passengers have been conscious about all the guidelines and requirements for Massachusetts.”
On Saturday, a Times employee watched as passengers got on and off the Vineyard Transit Authority buses. Most were wearing masks, and those who weren’t were asked to put one on before boarding the bus.
On Main Street in Edgartown, it was a tossup whether or not people were wearing masks. Some large groups were sitting on benches without masks, and long lines stretched down the sidewalks. While some would wear their masks around their neck and put them on when walking by another group, others would keep them around their neck or carry them in their hand.
Members of the Corona Stompers were so concerned about the lack of mask-wearing they pulled the plug on their tables, which were going to be located near the Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs terminals of the SSA over the weekend.
In Oak Bluffs, near Jim’s Package Store, one woman shouted “Oak Bluffs is a mask zone,” as people without face coverings passed by.
Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake said most people are complying with the mask-wearing mandate. If police see a large group of people not wearing masks, Blake said, they will advise the people to wear their masks, or provide them with masks if they don’t have any.
“We are doing everything we can to promote a good situation in town and a safe environment. If a mandatory mask-wearing policy is implemented, we will work something out with the board of health,” Blake said.
West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone said his department was very busy over the weekend. Saturday night, West Tisbury Police responded to six different fireworks complaints between approximately 9 and 11 pm. Police were dispatched 38 times over the weekend, including to four neighbor disputes.
Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren characterized the weekend as “pretty quiet” with no fireworks complaints, a handful of noise complaints, and a small amount of vandalism at the basketball court behind the Chilmark Community Center. Temporary fencing around the court was torn down, and a tennis racket and lacrosse stick were also damaged, he wrote in an email.
Edgartown Police Lt. Chris Dolby said there was one OUI arrest and one domestic arrest, but otherwise the department had a quiet weekend. On July 4, Edgartown Police had 58 calls for service compared with 79 calls for service on July 4, 2019. A significant amount of calls this weekend were 911 hang-ups, while others were for noise and fireworks complaints.
In Tisbury, Police Chief Mark Saloio said things went smoothly over the weekend. “Mask wearing is, for the majority, compliant,” he said. “Anyone we have encountered thus far has responded to verbal requests to wear masks.”
Chilmark beach superintendent Martina Mastromonaco described the weekend as “uneventful.” Menemsha Beach saw the most people, she said, filling “to capacity,” and on July 2, Lucy Vincent was closed for an hour because there was no more room on the sand to maintain 12-foot separations between beachgoers. The weather played a role in diminishing beach numbers, she said, with Friday being cool, “on-and-off clouds” Saturday, and rain for about a half-hour Sunday. And no incidents arose for those who came to Chilmark’s beaches, cloudy or not. “No jellyfish, no sharks, no problems,” she said.
Reporters Brian Dowd, Rich Saltzberg, Lucas Thors, and interns Shelby Regan and Kyra Steck contributed to this story.