Island scenes

Peter Simon’s Vineyard calendar 2023 is a true gift from the heart.

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As always with Peter Simon’s Vineyard Calendar, you want time to fly by so you can turn the page to see what magnificent image awaits you. 

Peter, who lived with his wife Ronni at their home in Chilmark for more than 30 years until his passing in November 2018, remains with us thanks to Ronni’s ongoing efforts to keep his annual photo calendar alive. “I think it’s the best one ever. I’ve said that before, and people have been saying that since the beginning — and it’s been 36 years — but I’ve gotten such great feedback with this one,” Ronni says about the 2023 edtion.

“Every image is fantastic. They’re Peter’s photos, so I can brag about them,” she says. And it’s true, each one is a gem. They reflect the Island’s beauty throughout the seasons, whether of towns, bodies of water, or scenic shots of up-Island or down. “Every photo pops. It flows really nicely, and the captions go with the images, even though I don’t always plan it that way. Sometimes it’s just happenstance.” 

The captions are Ronni’s words, but she thinks it’s interesting, because she never helped Peter with the calendar, other than him occasionally asking her if she liked a photo. Ronni shares that she wasn’t involved in a crucial way. “The first year I did the captions, somebody asked, ‘Did you write this? It sounds just like Peter’s.’ Yet it was unintentional,” she says. You will also find inspirational quotes to complement the photographs from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Harry Belafonte, Amanda Gorman, and Martin Luther King Jr. 

For Vineyard lovers, Simon also always inserted little tidbits of history in their corresponding dates. Some of the information relates to more widely known Island facts, such as when the towns were founded; the Great Fire in Vineyard Haven on August 11, 1883; and Jan. 18, 1884, when the City of Columbus was shipwrecked off Gay Head/Aquinnah. But there are also lesser-known facts, like that Feb. 2 is not only Groundhog Day, but when the Wampanoag gained tribal recognition in 1987. Or that the Chilmark grammar school had its first graduation on June 24, 1904. How about that the first telephone cable connecting the Vineyard to Nantucket occurred on Sept. 11, 1916? And you can’t help but smile that Peter added their wedding anniversary as well, July 9, 1977. Ronni says amusingly, “He put that in the calendar, and I didn’t even realize it until 10 years later.”

Peter was a busy professional who covered an eclectic range of subjects, just some of which included 1960s free love and protests; the greatest names in rock ’n’ roll, reggae, and pop music; the action of Major League Baseball players; stunning portraits of everyday people; iconic shots of celebrated personalities of the time. And he took countless photos of his beloved Island, many of which he included in his published books. Ronni can’t remember when the lightbulb went off about creating a calendar, but says that it was a natural progression of his work. 

Ronni follows Peter’s lead in the process of putting it together. For Peter, there always had to be an animal shot, one with people in it, and something to represent every town. She develops the calendar with Charlie Utz of CreativeWorks, who worked with Peter a lot. “For every calendar, there are as many rejects as the photos that end up in it,” Ronni says. “Then we go through the rejects, and sometimes they are great.” She puts them in order, writes the captions, and adds the quotes. The first year she put in quotes from one of the many books Peter published. The second year, she took the quotes from lyrics on his numerous CDs. Ronni explains, “The third year I thought, What am I going to do? That was the first year of COVID, and I didn’t even know if I was going to produce it. I googled inspirational quotes and read through hundreds of them, thinking I needed inspiration, and figured everyone else did too.” This year the inspirational quotes didn’t strike her, so she just started looking up fun, interesting, thought-provoking passages.

Fortunately for everyone who loves the calendar, the annual gift will keep coming in the near future. Ronni says, “This is the fourth calendar that I’ve done, and I made the declaration that as long as I keep finding fabulous photos, I’ll do it. So far, they are all ones that have never been in the calendar before.” At a certain point, she is thinking about creating a calendar of covers, because they are usually the best shot, and you only get to see them when you buy the item. This way you get a month of the best shots. Ronni says, “I have three more years of calendars made from the covers. I guess it’s going to go on for a while.”

“I’m so grateful for Peter’s loyal fan base, that’s why I do it,” she says. “It was never in my mind to do a calendar, but Peter had always said, ‘You should keep this going.’ So I’m glad I am, because it’s a great memory of him and a legacy that he started that people are very enthusiastic about. I feel like every time I sell a calendar, Peter’s smiling.”

The Vineyard Calendar 2023, $24.95, is available at locations around the Island and online at bit.ly/VineyardCalendar23.