The 150th Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair was a blast

Ralph Stewart

Everyone’s saying it: the Fair was a bull’s-eye this year, maybe the best ever. And why not? Attendance was up, the weather was great, and special attractions spiced up this year’s edition of the Island’s biggest annual event.

“We all agreed that it was one of the best fairs, if not the best,” Fair manager Eleanor Neubert said on Tuesday, with a faint whiff of grease and spun sugar still wafting around the fairgrounds. “It started with the parade.”

As if there isn’t enough pre-Fair excitement every summer, this year organizers served up a mouth-watering appetizer two nights before the fair opened last Thursday. To the tunes of the Vineyard Haven Band, a loosely organized procession of marchers, tractors, horse-drawn wagons, fire engines, and antique autos — along with plenty of happy drivers and riders — toddled out of the old fairgrounds on State Road, turned left onto Music Street, and sashayed along to the spacious new venue on Panhandle Road. It had just the right tone, with a bit of history and plenty of anticipation.

Some 40 hours later, the gates opened to the 150th annual Fair. By Sunday evening 30,159 had passed through the two gates, 1,100 more than last year. That adds up to a gross take of about $200,000.

“It’s the one fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society,” Ms. Neubert said. The money goes to scholarships, grants, one-time assistance to farmers in need. And, of course, there are bills to pay, for utilities and maintenance and improvements on the buildings and grounds.

“Because we had been planning for two years, we had more things going on,” Ms. Neubert said. “Because it was the 150th, booth holders were encouraged to do something special if they wanted.” Many of them contributed gift certificates to goody envelopes that were given to the 150th person who entered each gate, every morning and afternoon.

“People I’ve talked to have thanked us for getting the Wallendas, and for having so much music on the stage,” Ms. Neubert said. “They loved having Entrain, and it was wonderful to see the Stragglers come out of retirement.

“Everybody just put more into it this year,” Ms. Neubert said. “People put more into their exhibits in the hall. And Heather and Vinnie Maciel went all out for the Woodsman’s events — a young West Tisbury girl sang the national anthem and they had a huge American flag hanging way up in the air.”

Thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers, the Fair came off without a wrinkle this year. Well almost. “We ran out of Fair posters, but I just ordered some more and they’ll be available in a couple of weeks,” Ms. Neubert said.

“The Obama girls came with a group of friends their age on Saturday, and it went very smoothly,” Ms. Neubert said. “They stayed for four hours, and people left them alone.

“And we had beautiful weather, because of Ozzie and Jane Newhall, who were taking care of us from up above.”

Now it’s back to normal for the Ag Hall and the MVAS — a normal that includes hosting weddings, memorials, potlucks, fairs and markets, and, not least, community celebrations throughout the year.