Quiet Cuttyhunk lights up for annual pig roast

Email|Print| Text size + By Suzanne McDonald
Globe Staff / July 23, 2006

CUTTYHUNK -- The Elizabeth Islands stretch from Woods Hole to New Bedford, but only the last of the chain welcomes the public. Cuttyhunk Island 's few square miles seem forgotten, and that's how many people like it.

Activities here range from fishing and beach going to strolling the hilly streets and dirt tracks. Nearly half the island is open space . As islanders say: ``If you can't relax here, you can't relax."

There are no proper restaurants or bars, but food carts by the dinghy dock sell made-to-order egg-and-cheese sandwiches on Portuguese muffins. Soprano's serves pizza at front-yard picnic tables, while youngsters net for frogs in the nearby pond.

On Cuttyhunk, kids run free; modest shingled houses dot lush slopes; hand-decorated golf carts and beat-up pickups cruise the lanes; and passing boaters are welcomed with hellos and eye contact that spark conversation.

The islanders (about 40 year-round, several hundred in summer) say there is something going on here almost every night. But the big event will be Saturday's annual pig roast.

Judging by last year , it's easy to see why the roast is a highlight . New Bedford restaurateur Dale Bishop arrived by barge at noon to start roasting for the 6:30 p.m. dinner and dancing that benefit the local fire department, infirmary, and children's programs.

People streamed through the island's 8-by-10-foot Post Office, which houses 88 mailboxes, most with the keys left in them. Before former postmaster Emily Petrulli could guess the percentage of islanders who attend the pig roast, a customer interjected, ``99.7 percent." Petrulli, who grew up in Foxborough but moved to the island in 1997, added: ``The other percent show up after the pig, because not everyone is into that, but for the party and dancing. Only about 100 people come from off-island."

By 7 p.m. the pigs were picked clean, leaving plentiful barbecued chicken and sides. Adults lingered around picnic tables along the road and the beach, but children rushed the dock for limbo, hula-hoop games, and candy tosses that sent shrieks echoing across foggy Cuttyhunk Pond .

Among the off-islanders in attendance was Terri Lowell of Needham, who came to Cuttyhunk 11 years ago for her first teaching job.

``So how many kids did you have?" she was asked.

Sitting on her lap , Lowell's daughter Jennifer, age ``8 and three-quarters," answered, ``Two."

``In class, not your children," the question was clarified.

Looking over her daughter's palm-fringed hat, which she won in the limbo contest, Lowell said, ``First there were two; then we added two preschoolers, part time. But then a family of four moved over, so we had a second-grader, a kindergartener, a fourth-grader, and a sixth-grader."

Lowell and her family return to the island every summer. ``But this year, we're staying the whole season," she said.

By 9 p.m., DJ Steve Bishop switched gears and gave the entertainment a more grown-up feel. This is a dry island, but the BYOB crowd , with their rolling coolers of beer, was very much in evidence.

Sailboaters Dennis Macedo of Portsmouth, R.I., and Marilyn Metts of Swansea visit Cuttyhunk often each summer aboard a 30-foot Catalina. They're easy to spot in a dinghy full of adults , wearing pink-and- fuchsia paper pig masks and neon-pink T-shirts with ``Escape" embroidered in black.

Macedo, a jewelry manufacturer and importer, gave away masks and pink jewelry , each tagged with pink cartoon pigs and ``Cuttyhunk Pig Roast 2005."

``Heaven on earth, this island," Macedo said. ``I've been all over the Caribbean, where they have parties, but it's nothing like this. This is such a wonderful family kind of thing, I just want to give something back. So, for Fourth of July I have a float in the parade, and I give away flag pins."

It was a first pig roast and visit to Cuttyhunk for Susan Brophy of Newport, R.I.

``Barefoot kids running around, salty boat people, dolled-up local teenagers, golf carts parked nearby -- partying on a pier with a `Danger' sign that says it's unsafe. How can you go wrong?"

Contact Suzanne McDonald at smcdonald@globe.com .

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