Just An Ordinary Summer On Nantucket
In three installments
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, September 19, 2014
A panoramic view of Nantucket harbor taken from the Whaling Museum roof
The countdown to the end of summer starts on the July 4th and comes to an official end at Labor Day… but in reality it lingers deep into September, when we have some of the finest weather with un-crowded beaches, streets and restaurants.
Here’s a sampling of my “ho-hum” summer
This year the fourth started with a bang. The traditional Fireworks display was usurped by a full-fledged hurricane – Arthur! (The only one that reached our Island so far this year.) We had no damage other than a few downed branches and some temporary lowland flooding due to storm surge.
Nantucket’s summer folks are a hardy bunch. In place of the traditional firework’s party, we were invited to a laptop dinner to savor the storm in our hostess’ beachfront house. Sixty guests turned up to snuggle down while the wind was howling outside. When we finally dared to leave, the wind was still blasting at 60 mph as we waded through 6” of water to reach our cars.
Hurricane Arthur gave us a soaking and a few boats washed ashore on the sandy beach... but no major damage - Photos courtesy of The Inquirer & Mirror - Jim Powers photographer
FUNDRAISERS ON NANTUCKET
Summer life on Nantucket is frenzied… The social calendar is mind-boggling. Over 100 official fundraisers are gnawing at your heels to relieve you of your surplus money. You have to weasel your way through all the invitations not to end up in the poorhouse!
I went to the annual Art & Artisan Show for a fun starter. Fifty local and invited artisans from the New England area and beyond were housed under a tent. Potters, jewelers, weavers, quilters, carvers, beachcombers who build handcrafted furniture all exhit at the show. The show was sponsored by Small Friends on Nantucket, a non-profit facility that provides day care and early education for infants from 3 month through five years old. It is an unsung benefit for Nantucket’s working parents, who otherwise could not go out and earn a living.
Karin Sheppherd weaves traditional rag rugs out of discarded blue jeans and Nantucket red pants - Island Weaves on Nantucket
Birdbaths carved out of granite make beautiful attractions in a garden by sculptor Andrew Mintz
The three Bratd sisters - all were pupils of my wife, Erica Wilson, when they were little girls. Erica used to call them the Bratlings - Today they are all involved with Small Friends
Ginny Brown is a designer and quilter and used a Kaffe Fassett textile (on the right) and quilted it
Hope Murphy works in fused glass and created these colorful door and drawer knobs to freshen up any cabinet
THE LIVELIEST FUNDRAISER OF THE SEASON
The Nantucket Cottage Hospital has a lulu of an annual affair; the Boston Pops comes to town for one night, setting up a mammoth stage on Jetties Beach… The concert is a blend of patriotic music… every song that glorifies our flag and nation with a heavy dose of John Philip Sousa. After intermission, there is an abrupt change of pace…the music is replaced with a session of Abba replete with imported Swedish performers.
The band stand as seen from our center stage table
Super size screens brought the concert to the distant audience on the beach and in boats on the sea. Left: Nantucket High School student singing the Star Spangled Banner Right: David Gregory NBC news host was the MC for the evening
When darkness finally overtakes the breathtaking sunset, the orchestra ends with Tchaikovsky’s heroic 1812 Overture, followed by a twenty-minute display of spectacular fireworks. It is the social event of the summer. Virtually the whole town turns out for this Gala. Over 7,000 people crowd onto a small strip of beach; each paying $30 to squat on the sand with their picnic baskets and beach chairs… the hoi-polloi, pay anything from $15,000 to $100,000 for a table of ten… As an invited guest, I got to sit at a numbered table with tablecloths to eat tepid food served up by hundreds of adorable volunteers. The ‘beach-sitters’ bring their own picnic, frequently more elaborate and delicious than the catered food… Finally there is the flotilla of boats: many set out at sunset to enjoy the concert from the sea…. (For years Erica and I were a part of this floating audience). After the concert, the fleet, from dinghies, fishing boats to luxury yachts, grope their way home through shoals and jetties in pitch darkness to their moorings…. a hair-razing experience under the best of circumstances and terrifying when the fog rolls in.
Fireworks accompanied Tchaikovsky’s heroic 1812 Overture
After the last boom of the thunderous fireworks and the concert is barely over, the throngs of people start slowly exiting. The “circus crew” is already dismantling the stage and tents that housed kitchens – bars – dressing rooms and the fifty or so porta-potties…
Even as the orchestra was exiting, the work-crew started to disassemble the stage
On land, thousands of pedestrians trudge home with beach chairs on their backs, tugging little wagons with the remnants of their picnic fixings and small children on their hands or riding on dad’s shoulders. Those of us lucky enough to have obtained parking permits, gingerly pick our way through the masses of pedestrians… it is all very orderly, and miraculously, without incidents or accidents.
By morning all is gone and the beach is once again left in pristine condition for the summer tourists.
THE COQ AU VIN BAND
I still chase my favorite “Gypsies”, the Coq Au Vin band. There is not a gypsy amongst them… All are wholesome American kids playing romantic music. This August they did a series of intimate (and sold-out!) sunset concerts to a packed appreciative audience on the spectacular rooftop of the Nantucket Whaling Museum, where they debuted some new songs and introduced their fun T-shirts! These gigs were a far cry from the usually noisy, boisterous evenings at the Pazzo restaurant where their fans congregate until one in the morning dancing on tables with yours truly leading the cheering.
Ingrid and her friend Hebe introducing the band's new T shirts
The "fan club" touting our new purchase
Ingrid Feeney the lead singer sings in six exotic languages and has just completed her Masters in Anthropology. Every song has a history, which she interprets in a scholarly way to her appreciative audience.
The band cavorting on Caleb Cressman's farm while being filmed for a Music Video
Caleb's farm menagerie - goats, sheep and pigs
This was the band’s last week playing together… Ingrid went to Oregon to be with her boyfriend, who is getting a doctorate in Eco-sciences; Joanna Hay, the violinist, returned home to Louisville Kentucky to her daytime career of documentary film maker and her eagerly awaiting husband.
The Band’s popularity has spread beyond our Island; earlier this summer, a Hollywood team of cinema-photographers converged on Caleb Cressman’s farm to film a Music Video for release later this year. Caleb is the leader of the band. He is a very talented multi-faceted musician, who plays the violin and accordion and has written many of the band’s soulful melodious songs. In their final week together, the band recorded their first CD… After their final recording session, the entire band came to my house for a hilarious farewell dinner of chili and ice cream.
Hang in there - for two instalments to come!