Seventeen years ago hundreds of Islanders volunteered their time and skills to help raise West Tisbury’s Agricultural Hall. It was a massive outpouring of community spirit and support. This past Saturday, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society celebrated its 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball.
The barn was a classic, a huge, old post and beam building deconstructed in Woodsville, N.H., trucked down and reconstructed at the corner of State Road and the Panhandle in West Tisbury. It took many people to reassemble the parts.
People who knew what they were doing managed those who didn’t and worked. There was very little standing around. People with strength helped raise the bents, the frames of the post and beam structure, and people with saws cut planks, People with hammers shingled. Working with the chaotic precision of an ant colony, volunteers scrambled over the frame and the building rapidly came together.
Several Island businesses and many individuals provided and served food to fuel the effort. After three days, when the framing was done and the building was closed up but not yet tight, the roof had yet to be shingled and the floor was not down, the first Barn-Raisers Ball was held on the sandy dirt floor. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played.
This past Saturday evening, Nov. 13, the Agricultural Society sponsored the 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball, open to all friends and supporters of the Society. Once again, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played, beverages were provided, and the front hall was filled with cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, strudels, tarts, puddings, waffles, and ice cream brought by the attendees to share.
The place was packed with people of all ages and most found the beat of the Bluefish boogies too hard to ignore, dancing from the first notes to the last.
A visitor from Vermont said he’d never seen anything like this party. He marveled at the setting, the band, and the age spread of the partyers. It was suggested that he import the concept back up to Vermont if it was “that good.” He shook his head and said, “No this is unique.”