Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Amazing Event - Illumination Night on Martha's Vineyard

So many pictures to share....  Here's the story.  About 15 years ago, my husband, our young son, and I vacationed on Martha's Vineyard.  It was our first trip there, and we had picked the town and date at random, not realizing we were putting ourselves there when an amazing spectacular event called Illumination Night would be taking place.  We were awed and delighted, and always said that someday we'd be back.  It took us a while, but finally, this August we spent our summer vacation on Cape Cod, with an excursion back to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard for a couple of days, timed to coincide with the event. 
Like I said, the event is called Illumination Night.  Let me explain. 

The town of Oak Bluffs includes a community of colorful little gingerbread cottages called The Campground.  It began as a Methodist campground where an annual gathering "meeting" was held, and eventually the annual gathering of tents began being replaced with the pretty cottages, all close together and arranged in a circular fashion around a central Tabernacle with additional little paths in between like spokes of a wheel.  I'm not going to go into the whole history of the event, but basically, the Illumination tradition started many years ago.  Nowadays, it begins with a fun sing-along event in the Tabernacle. Here's a couple of images of the Tabernacle, the evening of the event. 

And here's what the gingerbread houses look like before they are decorated for Illumination Night. Their doors, windows, and porches are all so pretty and cared for with love.   I'm a big fan of the colorful and inviting porches. 
My nickname for the house below is the Swiss Cheese House.  Maybe you can figure out why by looking at the photo. 

Anyhow, back to Illumination Night... at about 9pm, the whole Tabernacle and campground goes dark, and then, starting with the Tabernacle, paper lanterns (that have been hung earlier in the day on all the cottages) are lit throughout the community.  It is an exquisite event, worth the visit to Oak Bluffs.  The sing-along is fun, upbeat, cheerful.  The whole event is happy, and there's a lovely spirit of community and warmth and friendship.  Here's some people hanging their decorations, earlier in the day.

The photos in this post include pics taken in the day before and the day of Illumination, while the lanterns and other decorations were being hung throughout the Campground, and when possible, in the evening during the Illumination event.  This is not an event where "less is more".  The practice here is to go totally overboard with the decorations, with each house outdoing the one next to it.  Many of the houses set up lemonade stands and such  on their front lawns, and everyone is very friendly.

Here's a few photos of the houses at night.  It was a big crowd, so taking pictures, especially at night without a tripod, was a real challenge.  But I hope at least you can get an idea of just how lovely this event is! 
 I loved this display of colorful jars lit up on the steps of a cottage at night. 
 And I just kinda like this pic below!

As an art educator, I want to add that after the first time I attended this event, I used the extensive photographs I had taken in school in the following year.  My photos of the gingerbread trim became design motivation for designs for various lessons at several grade levels.

All right, I think I've officially posted WAY too many photos.  And somehow I haven't even posted pictures of the Wizard of Oz house (complete with flying monkeys by the stairs, and a tin man, scarecrow, and lion in the garden, and so on), or the Alice in Wonderland house (with a Cheshire Cat on the roof, and a tea party and croquet game on the lawn, along with Alice), or the Eiffel Tower house (with a glittery light-up tower on the roof), or Villa Armadilla (complete with handmade armadillo lanterns), or  so many others.  I hope you've enjoyed this little excursion to Martha's Vineyard! 

We will conclude with a little taste of the sing-along!


  1. Phyl, This is absolutely amazing! Every photo made me smile. You are right, it is an art teacher's delight!

  2. Love this! So glad I learned about Illumination Night from you!

  3. Wow! That is a whole lot of eye it!!!!

  4. Wow!!! I go to the Cape often and never heard of this!!! Definitely will have to check this out. Thanks for sharing!