May 082013

by Robin Harper

Most local residents of Martha’s Vineyard will laugh when they hear the island referred to as “the playground for the rich and famous”. While there is some truth to that statement, the label really only refers to a tiny percentage of the island’s identity. The bigger piece of the proverbial pie is the community of people who live, work, play and learn here year-round. So while we take a certain pride and get a collective thrill playing host to visiting US Presidents, celebrities, musicians, iconic news journalists and more from the nation’s elite, you’d be surprised by the island’s events that REALLY get us excited:

dairy-queen-opens1. Opening Day of Dairy Queen
Nope, I’m not joking. You must remember, Martha’s Vineyard is devoid of chain restaurants. No McDonalds, no Burger King, no KFC. This is the one and only chain we got. Imagine growing up here – you’re subject to all of those countless TV commercials for deliciously bad for you fast food just like any regular mainland kid – the catch being you need a car reservation and a 45 minute ferry ride to get that Happy Meal…Harsh. So it’s not such a stretch to envision the mass hysteria among the ankle biters that day in April when the DQ returns from winter hibernation to offer all of its soft-serve, Blizzardy goodness. I’ll let this picture (courtesy of the MV Times) finish the story.

2. Local Traffic Politics
roundaboutLook kids! Big Ben! (If you don’t get this reference, then I’m officially old). The newly installed Roundabout at the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and Barnes Roads was a hotly debated topic among local residents for a decade. (You’d think somebody was trying to build a DUNT DUNT DUUUHHH WALMART.) Proponents of the Roundabout prevailed and the main phase of construction was completed at the end of April 2013. So far I’ve only heard good feedback from my fellow drivers, although the true test of course will be on July 4th with cars and trucks and mopeds (oh my!) attempting to peacefully co-circumvent this thing. Having lived here for over 25 years I’ve seen it go from a “blinking light free-for-all” to a “kill me now I’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes” 4-way stop. Could the Roundabout be the answer to at least one of the island’s traffic flow problems? Who knows? But it’ll be exciting to find out.

3. Off-Island Stock-Up Trips
ferryDid I mention we don’t have a Walmart? One thing I can tell you proof-positive that Islanders get really excited about is heading off the Rock towards Falmouth, Hyannis, Boston (anywhere really) in search of discount deals and fast food meals. For some of us, these trips only happen once or twice a year – if you see us on the ferry car deck you’ll recognize us immediately – we’re the ones with a plastic bag mountain of clothes, toys, groceries and 20 cases of soda sticking out our car’s windows and through the sun roof.

To accentuate my point about how we live for these trips, my 7 year old daughter was asked in a school survey what her favorite thing in the world to do was. She answered “go off-island”. You see there’s “the island” and the rest of the world is that magical place called “off-island”. What? You didn’t know that?

Okay, this one isn’t just for locals, we all love it. But how could I leave it out?

4. Illumination/Ag Fair/Fireworks Week

illuminationWhile some may say Labor Day Weekend is the official end of the season, most Islanders will tell you the true end to summer is the 3rd week in August. It begins on Wednesday with the Grand Illumination Night, where visitors flock to the “gingerbread houses” (otherwise known as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association), to witness the simultaneous lighting of hundreds of Chinese paper lanterns strung along every porch and gable.

Thursday night kicks off the 4 day run of the Agricultural Society Fair in West Tisbury, an island institution for over 150 years that guarantees something for everybody with carnival rides, games, live music, competitions, food and more. In the center of it all you’ll find the Ag Hall which houses exhibits from almost every type of art form, from award winning vegetables to photography to homemade quilts. And I guarantee you don’t want to miss the women’s skillet throw.fireworks1

Friday night offers the penultimate event of the week with the Oak Bluffs Fireworks display in Ocean Park. Grab a picnic blanket, let your kids run around with glow sticks and march around the Gazebo to the music of the Vineyard Haven Town Band while you wait for 9pm to bring one of the most spectacular fireworks shows ever.

5. Tourists Go Home
We like you guys…really. You add fun and color and hustle n bustle that’s refreshing after a long winter. Not to mention very nicely boosting our heavily seasonal economy. But we LOOOOOVE getting our parking spaces back. No offense.

  One Response to “A Letter to Island Visitors: What Gets Locals Really Excited”

  1. Super article! Great imagery with your words. Great job, Robin! Loved the part about your daughter’s favorite thing on the school survey…LOL!

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