What’s new, noteworthy at this year’s Fair?

Everybody is smiling about what's new at the fair this year. — File photo by Gail Damen

“Hog Wild for the Fair” is the 2013 theme, and from the tried and true to the unusual and new this 152nd Agricultural Fair offers plenty of attractions to delight all ages. The old favorites — those events, foods, rides, and exhibits we count on enjoying every year —are wonderful. But it’s always fun to see what’s new on the midways and Fairgrounds, in the rings and Ag Hall. This year along with those well-loved standards, there are a number of new features to fascinate Fairgoers.

Keep an eye out for Buddy the Clown. This funny, friendly guy will stroll the Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. Fair staff who met Buddy at the Massachusetts Agricultural Fair Association Convention in Fitchburg last year immediately knew he would appeal to Vineyard Fairgoers. Among other specialties, multi-talented Buddy will balance on his unicycle and create balloon animals for young admirers.

Put together a team of friends, family, or co-workers and compete in a traditional old-fashioned Tug-O-War at 3:30 pm Saturday in the Show Ring. Team members must be at least 18 years old, and each team must have six to eight members (includes one captain). Each team pulls at least twice against every other team. Compete for a ribbon and have some fun! Organizer Eve Heyman said the new event will be run according to rules of the Tug-o-War International Federation (available on youtube at TWIF). Register or get info at 508-693-9549 or eveanddave@comcast.net or leave a message on the Fair’s Facebook page.

Sack Races is another fun old-fashioned event put together by Fair staffer Nancy-Alyce Abbott. Contestants aged 6 though 10 will gather in front of the Ag Hall at 2 pm Saturday for a hopping good time. Racers will climb into red and white striped sacks and hop along to the finish line. No ribbons but lots of giggles. All hoppers will receive a pencil with farm animal motif. No pre-registration required.

The Corn Husking Competition, a popular first in 2012, has eliminated the teen category. Contestants ages 6 to 12 will shuck five ears of corn instead of six. Ribbons are awarded. For more down-home fun, the Vegetable Car Races are at 12 noon on Thursday and Saturday behind the Ag Hall with souped up veggies careening down a wooden ramp.

Younger children will be delighted that the Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council plans to offer Pony Rides on Saturday afternoon 12 noon until 2 pm in the Show Ring. The free rides are sure to become an instant Fair favorite!

Want something a little faster than a pony? Larry Cushing of Cushing Amusements, which has faithfully brought the carnival here for decades, is promising a brand new fast moving ride for those seeking thrills and chills. “The Zipper is the one ride all the teenage kids ask for wherever we go,” Mr. Cushing wrote. “You can tell when the Zipper is running by listening to the screaming patrons because of the spinning and herky-jerky motions.”

Gravitron fans will welcome that terrifying, gravity-defying spin back after a few years’ absence. The Bungee, another new ride, is suitable for younger riders, Mr. Cushing said. On a calmer note, the carnival will feature a totally rebuilt and refurbished Tea Cup ride for the little ones.

The Ag Hall will be filled with fresh vegetables, lush flowers, artwork, handicrafts, baked goods, and more as exhibitors compete for blue ribbons and special awards. Hall Manager Kathy Lobb said a number of exhibitors are entering for the first time this year, but plenty of “regulars” will be showing too.

Look for some unusual special exhibits: a handmade kayak, a gate crafted with locust branches from Vineyard woods, a very unusual depiction of The Statue of Liberty done by school children, and the intriguing History of Island Dairy Farming by a local family. The Seward family will be back with another fascinating exhibit of historic memorabilia. Don’t miss the M.V. Bonsai Club’s magical array of miniature trees and vote for your favorite!

The once old-fashioned Fair has taken several leaps into modern technology. A vibrant Facebook page (Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair) created and maintained by Eve Heyman keeps Fair fans involved with up-to-the-minute announcements, photos, and other fun Fair news and tidbits. Ms. Heyman wants to receive 2000 “Likes” before the Fair is over this year. The M.V. Agricultural Society website (mvas.vineyard.net) offers some Fair info and the program book online.

And this summer for the very first time, you can follow the Fair on both Twitter and Instagram, thanks to young, tech-savvy volunteers Emma and Charlotte Hall.

Chicks and ducks and geese in the Animal Barn will be looking from their cages with envy at the elaborate Chicken House designed by a local architect on display there. Just the thing for fancy fowl!

Like the barn, the Fiber Tent with its fluffy, friendly animals is a low-key oasis of tradition. Organizer Glenn Jackson promises more exhibitors this year. Along with popular chopstick knitting and spinning contests are fiber arts demos including weaving, spinning, felting, dying, a sock loom, and sheep shearing.

Representatives from the State Treasurer’s Office will be on hand outside the Hall. They will help current or former Massachusetts residents research often overlooked Unclaimed Property and request payment.

Fair food connoisseurs will be sorry to see the departure of Max Moreis’s custom cupcakes, Ben deForest’s gourmet kabobs, and Mary Jean Connelly’s pastries. But don’t despair, popular chef Josh Aronie will be on hand turning out tacos for hungry Fairgoers, adding to the many old favorite lunch and dinner delicacies on the Local Midway.

Though bidding farewell to Soul Sister’s clothing and accessories, tired Fairgoers and exhibitors will welcome a relaxing Chair Massage offered here for the first time by Antone Dias of Eclipse Massage.

And those who missed Nancy Shai and her temporary henna tattoo and face painting booth will be glad to know she is back after a one-year absence with plenty of exotic body art to enhance your festive Fair look.

The entertainment schedule is packed with a number of familiar popular acts including The Daytrippers, Entrain, Kelly Peters, Johnny Hoy, and lots of other local talent, with several shows for youngsters too. New on the Fair Stage this year is Island Country with Rick O’Gorman and friends with shows on Friday, 5 pm, and Sunday, 3 pm. Merrily Fenner’s mostly female rock group, Serendipity, will wow the crowd at 5:30 pm Saturday with their captivating “doo wop” sounds. Come earlier at 4 pm to hear The Stragglers, a group of well-loved local musical pals who have played folk and country tunes together for years.

A mellow music option is offered by Nancy Jephcote, Tristan Israel, Paul Thurlow and others at the intimate Acoustic Corner by the bleachers Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.