On a pristine summer day, the Edgartown Fourth of July Parade kept up Vineyard tradition with a string of Islander-centered floats that were greeted by enthusiastic spectators. The parade and fireworks were back after a two-year hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic.
With chairs and towels lining Main Street hours beforehand, Edgartown emanated a breezy vibe, as sandy-toed, sundrenched visitors and Islanders alike enveloped the town with red, white, and blue.
Led by Sheriff Bob Ogden, the parade commenced with military veterans — including parade organizer Joe Sollitto, O.B. select board member Jason Balboni, and Wanda Williams, former clerk of Edgartown — and local law enforcement officials. They were followed by the Vineyard Haven Band, atop one of Donaroma’s trucks.
Town elected officials, in varying convertibles, made their way through the route; from waving Edgartown select board chair Margaret Serpa to candy-throwing Oak Bluffs vice chair Gail Barmkian and select board member Emma Green-Beach. Marching along were Fall River’s Colonial Navy of Massachusetts, and Natick’s Sutherland Pipe Band, intermittently pausing for a bagpipe serenade.
Children filled the floats of Nip n’ Tuck Farm and Pond View Farm, followed by an ox-led wagon which read on the back, “Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard. God Bless America.”
A banner of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard held by Islander Susanna Sturgis preceded M.V. Peace Council signs: “War is still not the answer.”
On North Water Street, a capella group Vineyard Sound sang to the waiting crowd, and was met with cheers and applause.
Sollitto, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, former clerk of courts, and parade grand marshal, said he can’t help but think of Colonel Ted Morgan on Independence Day, who Sollitto said “epitomized what the Fourth of July is.” Morgan was chief organizer of the parade before the reins were handed to Sollitto. Having served in the Marine Corps as a medic, Morgan was “an amazing man, an excellent politician, and a good friend,” said Sollitto.
“We’re very fortunate for the freedoms we have,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t think that we do, but we do.”
Sollitto said the parade consists of more than 1,000 participants, a mere percentage of total spectatorship, which is estimated to be around 25,000.
Cheers filled the air as the Island’s all-women firefighter lineup sprinted down the street with an antique pumper; MV Sharks Baseball team and its mascot gave high-fives to the crowd, and special prize float winner, the nonprofit Friends of Sengekontacket, made a statement with its creation in two — a giant great white shark covered in beer cans and liquor bottles, named “Nipsy 2.0.” With signs reading “Take a bite out of litter,” and “Carry in, carry home,” the float emphasized the importance of keeping our Island clean.
While the parade is a classic for year-round and summer Islanders, it’s especially welcoming to new spectators and families. One family, originally from Argentina, now living in upstate New York, carried antiwar peace signs in the parade. When asked about their experience on-Island, father Chris Torlasco said, “It said, Grab a sign, so we joined.” He added that his family, including his wife and two kids also carrying signs, were not expecting a parade at all, but were happy to bump into it on their holiday.
Similarly, U.S. “Southerners” Robert and Liza Small came to the Island to visit friends. Unfamiliar with the Island and staying in Tisbury, the Smalls “weathered the traffic” and picked out their viewing spot on Main Street in advance. “We knew if we were here we had to watch [the parade],” said Robert Small, adding that the “Jaws” Amity-like atmosphere is “just picturesque.”
New addition to the M.V. Hospital cardiology department Kristie Hudson, originally hailing from Washington State said, “I heard the parade is a must-see, and you have to come and wear red, white, and blue.” Hudson told The Times, after finally coming out to see it, she loved everybody’s enthusiasm, and was happy she could “be a part of the energy.”
Oak Bluffs residents and old-time friends Cheryl Burns and Ginny Coutinho told The Times that every year there has been a parade, they have come together. Dressed in American flag scarves and accessories, Burns said, “We always come and dress up in flag wear. It has been since the mid to early ’90s.” Coutinho, 78 years young, added, “It’s a tradition, we always come, but this is the least decorative we’ve been.”
Milo, a wirehaired terrier–Lab mix, sat patiently in the hour preceding the parade. Milo’s dad, U.S. Air Force veteran and current Connecticut resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Times that even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade doesn’t live up to the annual Edgartown event. “I just love this parade,” he said, adding that he and his wife always secure a rental in town, enabling them to never miss it.
The Arone family, Boston-based and Vineyard frequenters, were all smiles as the 15-member group watched the parade in their matching Rolling Stone T shirts. Patriarch John Sr., father of three and grandfather of seven, said his family has been coming to the Vineyard for years, and is grateful for the return of the parade.
News intern Natalie Aymond contributed to this story.