Bean counters and skillet toss
After manning the Martha's Vineyard Commission's booth at the Fair, executive director Mark London can add the title "bean counter" to his job description.
The commission's display asked fair-goers to respond to questions and illustrations about the Island's growth and development displayed on poster-boards by dropping a dried bean into a mason jar labeled with the letter corresponding to their choice. Mr. London said the bean count provided a way to quantify responses in a visual way, so that survey participants could get a feel for how public opinion was running.
He realized, however, that a flaw in the system required vigilance on his part to prevent voter bean fraud. Mr. London said he happened to notice and managed to stop one youngster just in time, who had grabbed a whole handful of beans and was getting ready to drop all of them into one of the jars.
The skillet throw attracted many spectators, as always, who filled up the grandstands and lined the fence to watch. Actor Ted Danson stood among them, waiting to cheer on his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, who competed among 39 contestants in the age 46 to 64 category.
"Where else but Martha's Vineyard would you see this many people excited about watching women throwing skillets?" remarked one of the men in the audience.
Contestant Norma Unsworth of Concord had stopped by The Times last Friday to check on her subscription, and mentioned she planned to compete in the skillet throw for the first time. Although she has attended the fair for years, Ms. Unsworth said she'd only recently decided to give the contest a try.
She made a good showing her first time out, placing third among 11 contestants in the 65 and older age category. Her best throw of two measured 25 feet, 10 inches. Ms. Unsworth's contest resulted in a skillet toss-up between Nancy Cabot and Fran Loftus, who tied for first place with identical distances of 27 feet, 7 inches.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Flinging a skillet like the best of them, Ms. Unsworth's style and form appeared practiced. Although a novice, she did not exhibit the dreaded fly ball toss, when the skillet goes straight up into the air and lands only a few feet away from the contestant.
In discussion among spectators, no one could quite decide what to call that particular phenomenon. Although "fly ball" is accurate in terms of trajectory, everyone agreed somehow it just doesn't quite fit the sport's association with cooking and food.
Perhaps that type of toss should be called a "pancake," since anything the skillet might hit on its landing would be flatter than one. Maybe by next year's fair, skillet throw aficionados can come up with their own unique terminology.