top of page


Grand Illumination

Wednesday, August 14th, 2024

The crown jewel of the Campground season is Grand Illumination Night! Thousands of Island residents and visitors enjoy Grand Illumination each summer.

The evening starts in the Tabernacle, and seats fill well in advance. The program also includes a prayer, along with Community Sing and music by the Vineyard Haven Band, as well as the ceremonial lighting of the first lantern.

The event is supported with a free will offering. We are grateful for the generosity of everyone who visits, participates, and donates what they can to make this magical evening possible.


The first Illumination Night, on Saturday, August 14th, 1869, was sponsored by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company. The Seaside Gazette reported, “The illumination and fireworks at ‘Oak Bluffs’, on Saturday evening last, was a very fine affair. Chinese and Japanese lanterns were displayed in abundance, suspended from cottages and trees. There was a good variety in the pieces at the fireworks. The Foxboro Brass Band, brought here by the liberality of E.P. Carpenter, Esq., of Foxboro, discoursed fine music for the occasion. Several thousands of people of both sexes were out to see and hear.”
The initial festivity was called Governor’s Day in honor of Governor William Claflin who was on hand for the festivities. Over the ensuing years, the Seaside Gazette referred to the annual event as the “Illumination”, and the identification remains to this day. It is not known when the festivities moved exclusively to the camp meeting grounds, but it was well over 130 years ago. Today, cottage owners continue to decorate with paper lanterns, interspersed with large paper and fabric umbrellas of similar style on one magical evening in August. The MVCMA puts on a special musical program; and after dusk, all of the lanterns are lit at once! It is a much anticipated event, attended by thousands each year.
bottom of page