Edgartown trolley with bunting for July 4th parade

How To Spend An Epic All-American Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard

How would you spend the Fourth of July in Martha’s Vineyard? The 4th of July weekend in the USA is synonymous with warm weather, delicious barbecue, and of course, spectacular fireworks. The Edgartown Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks is full blown Americana on display. Lots of home spun parade floats and people in patriotic colors waving flags. Along with all the patriotic fervour set to music, there’s also a reminder that freedom was unavailable to many Americans for many Fourth of Julys. In commemoration of this fact, there is an annual reading of the Frederick Douglass speech What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July? in both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. What are the different ways you can spend a memorable Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard?

NB Thanks to Covid, many of the Fourth of July Events on Martha’s Vineyard are cancelled in 2020. The Speech on the Beach will be a virtual event sponsored by Renaissance House in Oak Bluffs.

Martha’s Vineyard on Independence Day

Every year, Martha’s Vineyard transforms into a patriotic display of American pride. The main events take placed down-island in the town of Edgartown, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.

Edgartown Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks

Celebrate Independence Day with live music, colorful parade floats, and mesmerizing fireworks at the annual Edgartown 4th of July Celebration. Sponsored by the town of Edgartown, this patriotic festival starts in the afternoon and has plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

Edgartown trolley with bunting for July 4th parade
A trolley in the Fourth of July Parade in Edgartown

The parade, which has around 1,000 participants, marches through the town and features marching bands, vintage cars, and moving floats. The night ends with a bang at the Edgartown Harbor with a sparkling fireworks show off the water. Fireworks start at around 9pm.

Tip! Bring a picnic and enjoy the fireworks from Fuller Street Beach.
fireworks over Edgartown Harbor
Our favourite way to watch fireworks over Edgartown harbor is on a pontoon on the water.

Edgartown July 4th Barbecue

You can’t have a 4th of July celebration without a good, old fashioned barbecue! At the Edgartown July 4th Barbecue, you can enjoy a variety of delicious classic American favorites like hamburgers and hot dogs straight off the grill.

Starting from 5 pm, head to the Dr. Daniel Fisher House for a mouthwatering meal you won’t forget sponsored by the MV Preservation Trust.

American flags on a white picket fence
American flags adorn a white picket fence

Run The Chop Challenge

The Run The Chop Challenge has been a Martha’s Vineyard tradition for 20 years. This five-mile race takes place early in the morning on July 4th and takes you through some of the most iconic streets in Vineyard Haven.

Not only will you get the chance to participate in a local Martha’s Vineyard tradition, but you can also feel great knowing that all proceeds benefit the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard and the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girl’s Club.

Vineyard Haven Band Concert

The Vineyard Haven Band has been entertaining visitors and residents of Martha’s Vineyard since 1868. They put on free concerts every Sunday during the summer, although their most famous performance takes place on the 4th of July at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.

After the parade ends, make your way to the church for an evening of classic American tunes that will have you dancing the night away!

Annual Kids Parade at the Tabernacle Oak Bluffs

You won’t want to miss the colorful 4th of July Kids parade at the Tabernacle. Grab your bike, bring your best red, white and blue outfit, and make your way through the streets of Oak Bluffs.

Girl with American flag in her hair
Remember to wear red, white and blue of some sort for Fourth of July on the Vineyard

Even if you aren’t participating in the parade, you can still admire the waving flags and patriotic band music from the sidelines. The parade starts at 10 am sharp and ends with an ice cream social at the Oak Bluff’s campground.

Speech on the Beach Oak Bluffs

For the past 20 years, visitors flock to the shores of Inkwell Beach to listen to the annual 4th of July reading of What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July? The crashing waves and peaceful surroundings make the perfect backdrop for one of the most influential speeches in American history. The speech on the beach Oak Bluffs has been sponsored by Renaissance House, a writers retreat in Oak Bluffs.

This anti-slavery speech was originally given by Frederick Douglass in 1852 to the Rochester Anti-Slavery and Sewing Society in New York. However, it’s now considered to be one of the best messages of political freedom, human rights, and equality. The entire speech is broken down into different sections and read by various members of the Oak Bluffs community.

patriotic parade with American flags in Edgartown on July Fourth
The American revolutionaries wanted freedom, but not for everyone.

Frederick Douglass, himself, spoke at the Federated Church in Edgartown in November 1857. It was a dangerous visit because the country was bubbling over about the issue of slavery. For example, earlier that same year, in March 1857, the infamous Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court had essentially said no Negro was or ever could be an American citizen. The Federated Church has a plaque on the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail to commemorate this visit by Douglass.

In mark that visit by Frederick Douglass, his speech What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July? is also read on the Fourth of July weekend at the Federated Church in Edgartown.

You can find the full speech here where it was recommended as essential reading for all American students. 

Island Community Chorus

Listen to a handful of your favorite classic tunes from American history at the Island Community chorus concert for the 4th of July. Head to the Tabernacle at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association in Oak Bluffs, where you’ll be treated to an array of patriotic songs like the Star-Spangled Banner and Hymn to Freedom.

The choir was formed in 1996 and currently has over 100 members. They perform at different venues around Martha’s Vineyard throughout the year.

flowers and flags in patriotic July Fourth setting
A patriotic floral bouquet in honor of the Fourth of July

Practical Information For Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard

With multiple events like parades, concerts, and fireworks, Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most festive places to celebrate the Fourth of July.

It is also a very popular weekend for visitors to the island. Make sure you book your ferry reservations to get onto the island early if you are bringing a car onto the island. Book your rental car early if you are renting on the island.

NB If you are going to Edgartown for the parade with a car, arrive early because parking will be limited. Your best bet will be to park near Starbuck Neck, the Edgartown School or Plantingfield Way and walk into the historic downtown.

You will also need to book accommodation early. The summer high season starts with the July 4th weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and goes through August. Even budget Vineyard accommodation has a premium placed upon it.


Fourth of July fireworks on Edgartown harbor with the words: An All-American fourth of July Martha’s Vineyard
How to spend an incredible Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard full of parades, music and Americana | Fourth of July Travel | Fourth of July Travel Ideas | Fourth of July Ideas | Fourth of July Inspiration | 4th of July | Massachusetts Travel Destinations | Martha’s Vineyard | Edgartown | Backpack | Family Travel | Travel with Kids | Vacation | Budget | Wanderlust | Off the Beaten Path #travel #vacation #backpacking #budgettravel #offthebeatenpath #bucketlist #wanderlust #Massachusetts #USA

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