Aquinnah: Labor Day, playground, Aquinnah Land Initiative, and affordable housing

—MV Times

Labor Day has been a national holiday since 1894, when President Grover Cleveland signed the law that Congress passed, designating the first Monday in September a holiday for workers. Labor unions pressed and activists sacrificed to gain recognition of both the contributions and the mistreatment of workers. It’s ironic that this three-day weekend is one of extraordinary hard work by those who do service work on the Vineyard, not a holiday at all. That said, for the rest of us, it is a treat to have that extra day to finish getting ready for back-to-school, or just to sit and enjoy. I’m grateful to those long-ago folks who fought so hard for it.

Now, as summer draws to an end, I look back on the gatherings with friends and family, the fair, the fireworks, the concerts, the gatherings, the singings, the weddings, the crowds, the shops, the bustling restaurants, and, of course, the traffic, and feel rather stunned. It has been wonderful. It has been exhausting. It has been a lot! I am profoundly ready for a quieter time.

In May, I wrote about the fact that Aquinnah didn’t have a usable playground, and how last year, a group of kids had been assembled by our parks and recreation committee to share their ideas and dreams about what a playground could look like. A piece of land behind Town Hall had been designated for such a purpose, and the committee started work on raising the needed funds. So here we are, in late August, and I’m excited to tell you that the committee has raised an astonishing $225,000 toward its $264,000 goal, and that Aquinnah Playground construction begins on Oct. 16. The committee that has worked so hard now needs us to step up as best we can: They still seek $39,000 in donations to finish it off, and they are also looking for donated housing for the playground construction crew from mid-October through Nov. 1. Donations can be dropped off at the Town Hall, and donated housing offers can be emailed to We’re on the home stretch here, folks. Our kids can hardly wait. Let’s help make their dreams come true.

In June, I lamented the closing of the Aquinnah Shop restaurant on the Cliffs, and expressed the fervent wish of many in the community that the place remain in Wampanoag hands. Last week it was announced that the restaurant had been sold to an indigenous land group that would steward the property until a group of Aquinnah Wampanoag women, organized as the Aquinnah Land Initiative, could obtain their 50l(c)(3) status and purchase and manage the place. I can only imagine the hard work that went into making this part of the magic happen, and look forward to keeping you informed as the project moves forward.

And one last piece of progress to report: Last week, a groundbreaking ceremony took place for construction of four affordable housing units here in Aquinnah. It’s been a long time coming. I was proud of our town for making this possible, and also for having the wisdom and heart to name the street on which the housing will be built after Carl Widdiss. I never knew Carl Widdiss, but his quiet kindness and visionary wisdom are legendary around here. He envisioned this decades ago, and now his name will be enshrined there.

Speaking of people we’ve lost, but whose spirit and work benefit us all: Len Butler’s family ask you to hold the date of Sunday, Sept. 10, for a celebration of life in his honor. It will be at the Gay Head Lighthouse at 4 pm, with a small reception following at the Vanderhoop Homestead.

I remind you that the shops at the Cliffs remain open, the Outermost Inn serves its breakfast sandwiches and pastries for the last time on Friday, Sept. 1, from 9 until 11 am (but will be open for dinners right up through first week of October), and our hard-working folks at the library will still be offering up programs all year long. We aren’t done with the fun yet!

So, happy fall. Happy back-to-school. And happy birthday wishes to Todd Vanderhoop.

If you have any Aquinnah Town Column suggestions, email Kathie Olson,