Thursday, September 28, 2017

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard (MV) is an island off Massachusetts' coast. Since the ferry ride from New Bedford is only an hour, we've been going out to "the vineyard" (as the locals say) for more than 20 years. We always combine a trip to MV with visiting friends from New Jersey, Phil and Jane Dietterich. I was able to find this picture from our trip there in 1995. Looking at our daughters is a clear indication of how much time has passed!

Tom, Jane, Phil, Sarah and Alicia in front of East Chop Lighthouse

Martha's Vineyard is a very popular summer vacation spot, not only with presidents and their families, but with normal folk, too. It's lovely to visit during the off-season, too, but if you want to see their annual Grand Illumination, you must brave the crowds and go during August. The Dietterichs didn't have any other visitors and invited me to stay with them. Who would say "no" to that? I went out a day ahead of time which gave us plenty of time to chat and also see the area getting ready for their big celebration.

There was light rain the day I arrived, but we were still able to walk around Edgartown a bit.

seagull strikes a pose

The Dietterichs took me to their local library to see a photo display. The pictures were attached to each other by ring binders with one photo for every day of the year. It was an island tour without all the driving. What beautiful pictures! Here are a few samples:

lobster trap Christmas display

my favorite!

I didn't see anything this void of people!

Oak Bluffs is home to the Camp Meeting Association (CMA) and the Dietterichs.

The highlight of the trip, the Grand Illumination, is unique to the Camp Meeting Association, not island wide.

A bit of background:
The history of the Grand Illumination dates back to 1868, when Erastus Carpenter, the developer responsible for the construction of Cottage City, as Oak Bluffs used to be called, asked several cottage owners to hang Asian paper lanterns from the eaves of their porches in an effort to promote his development. As the event grew to include musical entertainment and fireworks, and the pious Camp Ground residents softened enough to approve and support the affair, so too did the size of the Illumination. The Oriental theme springs from a period of time in the 1880s after several prominent officials pushed to open up trade between Asia and the rest of the world. Suddenly, Americans began to embrace Asian clothing, teas and traditions.“If you wanted to be cutting edge, you did things with an Oriental flavor,” said CMA president. Thus, the idea to feature Oriental lanterns at the Illumination was conceived. (from The Vineyard Gazette, 8/17/09)

I am so glad that I was there early enough to walk around the CMA cottages in daylight. Once night fell and the lanterns were lit, the colors of the cottages were not nearly as visible.

CMA area is pedestrian only

Lanterns in so many shapes, colors and sizes!

I have stars like that from European Christmas markets!
I overheard the owners of the lanterns below speaking about them - these are quite old - from 1960! That's pretty good considering they're paper. They said that when a cottage is sold, the sale often includes the lanterns.

parasols and fans were also used in decorating

I particularly wanted to see "The Pink House". I've seen it many times over the years and it was a favorite of the girls when they were young.


Sarah and Alicia


tabernacle roped off until the evening festivities

It seems without a doubt that a visit to the Dietterichs would include music. (Phil was the minister of music in our NJ church years ago.) There was a free jazz concert in a church that was unfortunately very poorly attended. I was told that the pianist has only a thumb on his right hand. He wears a special glove, but is still able to use the top of his hand on some keys. Just by listening, you would never know he had any disability.

The evening festivities included more music: a singalong of silly camp/folk songs and a band concert. Before that, we were among those having a dinner picnic on the grounds around the Tabernacle.

One couple was chosen to light the first lantern and they came dressed in Victorian garb for the occasion. We just happened to see them decorating their cottage earlier. Later, they invited us onto their porch for refreshments! (only because I was with Phil who seems to know everybody)

afternoon decorating

same house all lit up

pink house by night


there seems to be no such thing as too many lanterns

I took plenty of pictures after the lanterns were lit, but none can match the quality of the ones Jane sent me. Thanks, Jane!

lots of people came out for the event


plenty of lantern peepers

selfie after a great day

We took a few more pictures before my departure. Phil took a picture with his tablet and somehow he got his own face onto the picture of Jane and me! What fun!

No more rain on my way back to New Bedford.

my ride coming into the ferry terminal to collect me (and the others) for the ride to New Bedford
bye bye Oak Bluffs

 Sights along the way:


colorful fishing boats
Thank you, Jane and Phil, for your hospitality and for sharing this special event with me. I had a great time!