After months of planning, weeks of hands-on preparations, and four bright, busy days jam-packed with rides, animals, food, competitions, friends, and just plain fun, the 153rd annual Agricultural Fair is history.
“It was perfect Fair weather,” declared longtime Fair manager Eleanor Neubert Monday, taking a moment from chores to survey the grounds where clean-up was underway and vendors and carnival workers were still packing up rides and wares.
With total attendance of 30,224 for the four days, the annual event drew slightly fewer than last year’s 30,360 paying customers. But Ms. Neubert had no complaints.
“I was pleasantly surprised the attendance was as high as it was,” she said, adding that because of the lateness of the Fair and early Labor Day, many vacationing families with school children and college students had left the Island.
This 153rd Fair was the 20th since the Agricultural Society moved to this Panhandle Road location from the historic Grange fairgrounds. Having reflected earlier this month about the challenges of acclimating to the new fairgrounds, Ms. Neubert noted that everything ran smoothly this year. Unlike the early fairs here, Mother Nature cooperated, and no major problems arose.
Fairgoers strolled the grounds, meeting friends at every turn and taking time to chat after the busy summer. A bumper crop of Island babies was on hand, showed off by proud new parents as they enjoyed their very first Fair.
Produce, handicrafts, and ribbons
The Ag Hall was filled to bursting with color and creativity, from fresh-picked produce and flowers to art, needlework, baked goods warm from the oven, and handicrafts that exhibitors had labored over.
Hall Manager Kathy Lobb cited more vegetable and fruit entries than in 2013 as a sign of a good growing year. Other trends in the adult division included a large array of scarves, more art and photography entries, more collages, and a variety of paper crafts. Felting was popular too, in clothing and other items [partial Fair results are available at mvtimes.com].
Ms. Lobb said that junior entries, even the popular art and baking, were down from other years, likely due to fact that many families had left the Island before the late Fair.
There were more special awards than ever. The unique honors signified by light blue ribbons are given by families or friends usually in memory of a loved one who had a connection to and fondness for the Fair.
In the front room the M.V. Bonsai Club’s miniature trees shared space with the M.V. Museum’s display about Nancy Luce and her chickens. Doug and David Seward combined photos, tributes, and model boats honoring Menemsha fisherman Jimmy Morgan in his 90th year. Barney Zeitz’s majestic sculptured osprey soared over a table where Island writers signed books.
A simple but moving exhibit by JoAnn Murphy, Dukes County Veterans Services Officer, called attention to and honored Prisoners of War and those troops Missing in Action.
Fun, food, and excitement
The Gravitron, Zipper, and Sizzler kept thrill-seekers happy in the carnival area while there were rides for the younger and less adventurous too. Ms. Neubert noted the carnival layout was attractive and spacious and added the Cushing company was pleased with the success of the discount bracelet allowing wearers to ride for one price on Friday evening.
No one left the local midway hungry, choosing among burgers, pulled pork, ribs, tacos, subs, and tempura. Some picked dessert — strawberry shortcake, hot fudge sundae, decadent cake, chocolate bananas, smoothies, or fried dough. There was fun and fashionable shopping, chair massage, Marjorie Goldman’s face painting, temporary tattoos, and Seniel Seward adorned hair with feathers and color.
Vendors described overall business as “steady,” “solid,” “respectable,” and were happy that Oak Bluffs fireworks did not overly diminish Friday evening’s crowds.
The Fair Committee’s coveted “Best Booth” awards went to Floaters, where Adam Petkus and crew cheerfully serve root beer and ice cream treats and yummy variations. Marsha Winsryg won the non-food blue ribbon for her African Artists Community Development Project booth, handicrafts benefitting Zambian orphans and disabled children.
The racing lemurs from Iowa were an instant hit, especially among the youngsters surrounding their miniature race-track each day. There was ample opportunity to view the furry, long-tailed creatures in their 40-foot climate controlled trailer. The lemurs rested, frolicked, and snacked in a meticulously clean environment. They appeared as curious to see the visitors as the visitors were to see them.
The Fair poster, tee-shirts, and accessories bearing Omar Rayyan’s painting of Sonny Boy, the popular draft horse that died in March, were sold out late Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Sonny’s owners, Bruce and Laura Marshard, introduced Sonny’s partner, Max, and their new Percheron, Duke, to Fairgoers.
The animal barn was filled with friendly creatures, under the watchful eye of Bob Hungerford. Special attractions were piglets from Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm, and a litter of baby bunnies born at the Fair. Towering draft horses filled one area, and there were dairy calves from Mermaid Farm.
Plenty to cheer for
Competitions from the Woodsmen’s Contest and Dog Show to Oyster Shucking kept Fairgoers cheering. The Draft Horse Pull saw a record set in the heavyweight category, Chuck and Bill from Fairhaven pulling a whopping 10,000 pounds.
The more mellow Island Draft Horse Show tested animals and handlers as horses went through complicated paces. Seventy-five strong women hurled skillets. Maggie Riseborough won with an impressive 59-foot, 7-inch toss.
Antique Tractor Pull drivers dragged ever-larger loads as motors whined and viewers roared. George Hartman reported large crowds watching vintage engines run at the Antique Power Museum.
The Fiber Tent, where longtime organizer Glenn Jackson is transferring leadership to Melinda DeFeo, was bustling, with spinning, knitting, dyeing, and furry animals. Outside were sheep herding, goat milking, and goat milk soap making demonstrations.
Fun and free competitions for youngsters, including corn husking, sack racing, and Karen Ogden’s veggie car races, attracted many entrants.
The Tug-o-War pitted a tough and determined CrossFit team against last year’s winners from Morning Glory Farm who lost despite valiant pulling. According to Ms. Neubert, next year’s Tug will be held Saturday evening to make it convenient for more teams.
The 17th Annual Women’s Skillet Throw was a clean sweep for Maggie Riseborough. Her winning throw of 59′ 7” in the Lot 1 Division, ages 18-29, was also the longest throw of the day.
In the championship round, competing against winners in the other three lots, Maggie emerged as the overall champion with a 57′ 7” throw.
Winners in the other lots were: Lot 2, ages 30-45, Karena Hammarlund, 50′ 2”. Lot 3, ages 46-64, Deb Shaw, 41′ 11”. Lot 4, ages 65 and older, Harriet Kantrowitz, 33′ 5”.
Seventy-five women competed in the contest.
Music filled the stage throughout the day with the emphasis on local bands. Fairgoers could take a break, have a meal, enjoy popular groups like The Stragglers, Serendipity, Ben Higgins Band, Barbara Hoy and the Boomerangs, and many others. Nancy Jephcote and the Flying Elbows kept the music going in the Acoustic Corner.
Among the hits with the younger crowd were Buddy the Clown and his new wife, Harmony. The jolly pair chugged around the grounds in a green Clownmobile, spouting bubbles and handing out balloon animals. On stage, Toe Jam, Puppetoke, and Kelly Peters Dance Show appealed to all ages.
The Pet Show drew a crowd of excited youngsters, proudly displaying mostly puppies and kittens. Each one was duly admired and received a ribbon.