The Working Waterfront

Islands celebrate the Fourth with picnics

Traditions remain vital on both Cranberry islands

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2021-09-29
Last Modified 2021-09-29

Both Little and Great Cranberry Islands will be celebrating the 4th of July this year with community picnics. On the big island the picnic starts at high noon. Everyone is invited to bring their own lunch and utensils to the ball field. The Ladies Aid will provide lemonade, iced tea, water, and grills for cooking.

Live music by the Squeezebox Stompers begins at 1 p.m. Preceding the picnic there will be a parade. Decorated vehicles of all kinds are to meet at the gas pump. There will be prizes for the most patriotic, the best overall, and the best youth entry.

Folks on Great Cranberry have great energy for community celebrations. I’ve always admired that about our neighboring community.

My favorite way to attend the picnic is to volunteer for grill duty.

Over on Islesford, people are signing up to help out with their tried and true version of the Fourth of July picnic, which is organized by the Islesford Neighborhood House as a fund raising event. I don’t have access to the records, but I believe the first Fourth of July picnic in the Islesford Town Field was in 1976, as a part of our country’s bicentennial celebration.

My parents were on the island at the time and I recall seeing their photographs of the parade down Main Street. There has been some form of the picnic every year since, discounting last year.

The menu is a choice of two hot dogs, or 1/2 of a barbecued chicken, or a veggie burger, or a steamed lobster. Sides include potato chips, cole slaw, lemonade, and homemade desserts. People are encouraged to bring yard games, hula hoops, lawn chairs, and blankets. The festivities run from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

As an introvert I find such large social gatherings a little overwhelming, so my favorite way to attend the picnic is to volunteer for grill duty. Cooking chickens, hot dogs, or veggie burgers for a few hours is a pretty easy way to do some community service and visit with a more manageable number of friends as they make their way over to the fringes of the crowd.

One of my favorite memories is of cooking for the Fourth of July picnic during a downpour. The weather had changed abruptly before the picnic, and people were rushing to get all the tables and chairs set up inside as the skies grew darker. Cindy Thomas’s mother, Shirley Gay, stepped onto the stage and proceeded to play the piano beautifully for almost an hour as people did their best to pivot the plans.

The Neighborhood House did not own a tent, but several of the men fixed tarp awnings above the windows of the Ladies Parlor. I was cooking with my late brother-in-law, Hugh Smallwood, and the tarps were leaking in spots. With water dripping off our faces while we turned the chickens, we belted out the words to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” and laughed hysterically.

Not to be outdone by our neighbors, Islesford will also have a parade this year. The 5th Annual Golf Cart and Bike Parade begins at the Neighborhood House at 4 p.m. The route will go up past the school and around the circle, back up Mosswood Road, around by the fire station, and down Sand Beach Road to the town field.

On July 4, I will pay my money and attend the picnic with Bruce, our sons, their wives, and our three grandchildren. I’ll still do my part with some baking and some precooking of chickens, but I won’t be grilling.

You’ll find me planted smack dab in the middle of the crowd enjoying the afterglow of the parade. With two golf carts at our disposal, and three grandchildren under the age of five, we have some serious decorating to do. This could very well be their first parade, and a wonderful chance to add to the family folklore.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island). She can be reached at