At almost any time of the year, there’s a festive atmosphere on Martha’s Vineyard. Festivals happen throughout the year (if you haven’t been to January’s Chili Contest or the Independent Film Festival in March you’re really missing some serious fun!), with the highest concentration in the number summer. Like the rest of New England, autumn on the Vineyard is not only rich in colorful foliage, but also in harvest and arts festivals. The full schedule can be found on the Calendar of Events, and here are a few iconic Vineyard festivals to tempt you!
Tastes and Treats
One of the biggest Island gatherings is the annual Agricultural Fair. The Ag Fair, to those in the know, runs for four days in mid-August in West Tisbury. There are carnival rides & games, shucking and fiddle contests, pig races & livestock shows, a woodsmen competition, and a lot more! Partnered with Grand Illumination, and the Oak Bluffs Fireworks, this is a nearly perfect week on the Vineyard!
The bounty of the Vineyard is celebrated at the Living Local Harvest Festival. A very family-friendly event, including demonstrations, pumpkin chucking with a real trebuchet, live music, and lots of delicious locally sourced foods! It’s the perfect place to learn to be a locavore.
The Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival happens annually, on the weekend following Columbus Day. Seminars, dinners, pairings and tastings abound in throughout this four-day festival!
Other food festivals to check out: Annual Chili Contest, Wild Local Food Challenge, the Annual Art of Chocolate at Featherstone Center for the Arts (Columbus Day Weekend), Martha’s Vineyard Wine Festival (early May), the Popcorn Festival at Native Earth Teaching Farm Farmers Market (twice weekly throughout the summer)
Books & Films
Every other summer, authors and readers descend on Chilmark and Edgartown to celebrate the written word at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival. In 2013, more than 30 nationally acclaimed authors spoke about writing, read from their works, and led discussions during the two-day event. Best of all, all events are free and open to the public.
If you prefer watching stories to reading them, the trio of annual film festivals on the Vineyard will keep you entertained. As the Island wakes from its winter slumber in March, head to Chilmark for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival: a weekend of independent films from around the world, amazing local food, music, and art. In August, the African American Film Festival spends four days showcasing works by independent African-American filmmakers. In September the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society presents the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival - a triumph of films drawn from the world’s most renowned festivals and shown in the beautiful setting of the Vineyard.
Arts and Performance
October is Fall for the Arts – a month-long celebration of the depth and diversity of all the Island’s arts & culture! A mainstay of arts & culture is the Vineyard Artisans Festivals. The juried shows feature some of the best creative work done by Island artists. Festivals begin on Memorial Day Weekend and run twice weekly throughout the summer. Special shows are held on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and a Holiday Festival in December.
Built on Stilts is a unique dance festival that celebrates the multi-faceted language of movement in an all-inclusive, egalitarian form. Participants hail from the Island and from major dance companies in New York, Boston, and elsewhere, with members of varying ages and dance styles. Two performances take place in mid-August. Don’t miss it!
Other Arts & Culture Festivals to check out: Shakespeare in the Park presented by the Vineyard Playhouse, Native American Artisans Festival in Aquinnah (late July), Weekly Antique Shows (Wednesdays), Art*Island Festival of Arts & Ideas (late October)
Only on the Vineyard…
Several festivals are unique to the Vineyard, including Sail Martha’s Vineyard regatta, Grand Illumination, the magical evening at the gingerbread cottages, , and the The Martha’s Vineyard Wind Festival pits kite-fliers in friendly competition with one another in categories like highest-flying and best wind sculpture.