Authors Posts by Pat Waring

Pat Waring

Pat Waring

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Great weather and 30,224 visitors — what more can you say?

The Ferris Wheel under blue skies at the 153rd Ag Fair. — Michael cummo

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].

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.

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George Hartman, a dedicated engine buff, enjoys showing off the museum's intriguing collection. — Michael Cummo

With the noise and glitter of the carnival, the color and chaos of the Hall, exciting competitions, demos, delectable food and upbeat music, Fairgoers may not realize there is a fascinating feature at the far end of the grounds.

Occupying half of the second animal barn, the Martha’s Vineyard Antique Power Museum is packed with rarely seen engines, tools, vehicles, and equipment that give a glimpse into an earlier and different way of life.

Here visitors can dip into history, see a vintage steam or gasoline engine at work, and learn little-known lore about power and agriculture.

“We’ll have the engines running during the Fair,” promises George Hartman of West Tisbury, who oversees the collection along with other antique engine enthusiasts.

Mr. Hartman is at home around old farm equipment.
Mr. Hartman is at home around old farm equipment.

The museum evolved from the Annual Martha’s Vineyard Antique Power Show, begun here more than 25 years ago by the late Bill Honey, Tom Thomas, Mr. Hartman, and others. At first a weekend event, it is now held during the Saturday Living Local Festival in early fall. The organizers had long wished for permanent quarters to store and display the vintage machines. With the raising of a second animal barn in 2008, the Agricultural Society made the space available.

The museum was officially established here about four years ago. It is opened to the public only twice a year, at the Fair and the Living Local Festival. Serious antique engine buffs may visit by appointment.

A dedicated engine enthusiast since receiving his first miniature steam engine when he was a young boy, Mr. Hartman keeps a careful eye on the collection year-round. Mr. Thomas is on hand for special events as is often Phil St. Jean, a Rhode Island engine specialist.

Mr. Hartman proudly pointed out features of the collection, arranged neatly in the dim wooden barn with high windows.

Mr. Honey’s presence is still strong, thanks to a display of several of his small and medium-sized engines. Mr. Hartman even salvaged Mr. Honey’s crane, still used here for hoisting heavy engines.

Mr. Hartman contributed a steam engine that he sometimes demonstrates, to the delight of onlookers. His intriguing collection of miniature airplane and boat engines fills a small glass display case.

Dale McClure has three tractors on display. Spanning the years, they show how the machines developed over time. Two early automobiles, one from the 1890s and another from the early 1900s, illustrate the shift from steam to gasoline in those early days of horseless transportation.

Well-used old farm tools, most from Island farms, hang on the walls — scythes, ice tongs, saws, oxen yokes. There is forge complete with tools that Mr. Hartman hopes an Island blacksmith will one day demonstrate.  A dilapidated horse treadmill was once used to power a saw rig.

And who knew that sewing machines and washers were once powered by gasoline, and that a clothes iron might be heated by building a charcoal fire inside? There’s a drill press, children’s mechanical toys from the United States and abroad, and a corner filled by works in progress that keep Mr. Hartman happily tinkering.

Follow the whirring, clanking, purring, and sputtering, along with the tantalizing aromas of oil and gasoline, to discover these and many other fascinating contraptions. The museum is open throughout the Fair.

For more information, call George Hartman, 508-693-6039, or find Martha’s Vineyard Antique Power Museum on Facebook.

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The popular Gravitron ride will be back this year. — Ralph Stewart

“Very little has changed,” longtime Fair manager Eleanor Neubert said about this year’s highlights. “We’re keeping it the old-fashioned traditional country fair.”

But although much is pleasantly familiar, this 153rd Ag Fair offers some appealing new features too.

Racing pigs are popular at the fair, but how about racing lemurs?

Lemurs top the list for new and unusual attractions. Although the ever-popular Robinson’s Racing Pigs have sprinted away, these furry, long-tailed, big-eyed creatures are sure to win the hearts of Fairgoers.

Along with viewing six races daily, visitors may learn about the exotic Madagascar natives through Winners Circle Lemur Encounter educational exhibits. When not on tour, the lemurs live safely in Iowa at a private animal sanctuary.

Fair organizers believe that this is the first time lemurs have ever set foot on Martha’s Vineyard.

"Mr. Smoothie" and his wife Paula, shown outside the Grange during their early years at the Fair.
“Mr. Smoothie” Michael Youngman with his daughters, Candice and Castle, shown outside the Grange during his booth’s early years at the Fair.

Thousands of Vineyard Fair patrons have enjoyed refreshing and delicious fruit drinks blended by Michael Youngman at his Dancing Smoothies booth, served with a smile and classic rock ‘n’ roll tunes. After more than 30 years Mr. Youngman has decided to take a well-deserved rest from the fair circuit. But thanks to Mac Cook of Chilmark, “Mr. Smoothie” will go on!

This winter Mr. Youngman and his wife, Paula, contacted Mr. Cook, asking if he would be interested in taking over the popular booth. They became friends after decades at the Fair together, Mr. Cook at Bill Smith’s Martha’s Vineyard Clambakes booth, where he’s worked since 1977.

Mr. Cook and his brother, Roger, visited the Youngmans in Vermont to learn recipes and routines. Mr. Cook built a new booth, but the style is identical to the old one, with Beatles music, tie dye, and stuffed animals. He pledges the product will be exactly the same. Smoothie lovers can be assured that their favorite icy pineapple, banana, peach, strawberry treat awaits them.

“We’ll do it the same way we do the booth with Bill Smith gone,” Mr. Cook said. “We do it to honor him and in the spirit he did it for many years. We want it to be similar with Michael’s booth.”

Daredevil fans of scary rides will be thrilled to see that LMC Amusements has brought back the popular Gravitron after a several years’ absence. If that isn’t spine-tingling enough, the Zipper, new last year, will be back for more heart-stopping chills.

Chocoholics rejoice! Newest on the local midway is Enchanted Chocolates of Oak Bluffs, offering fudge, almond butter crunch, and even chocolate-covered frozen bananas. April Knight of Aunt Simone’s Caramel Apple Cake has added devilish chocolate cake to her menu.

The Tisbury School eighth grade is raising funds with the sale of watermelon, penny candy, and raffle tickets for tempting prizes.

New in 2013 and reviving an old-fashioned Fair tradition, the Tug-o-War will be held Sunday, Aug. 24, at 10:30 am. Last year, courageous Fair staff faced off against a hefty Morning Glory Farm team. Organizers are looking for more teams to join in, adding to the good times.

Melinda DeFeo has assumed responsibility for the Fiber Tent, organized for many years by Glenn Jackson. Though Mr. Jackson will be missed, Ms. DeFeo is sure to keep the tent lively and educational.

There are some new looks. The Livestock Barn boasts a reshingled roof thanks to Roy Riley. A new wooden fence surrounds the Show Ring, completed by Watercourse Construction. Barn Manager Bob Hungerford oversaw the project. Ms. Neubert noted that the original fence, generously donated by the late Anne and Tony Fisher, had to be replaced after 20 years.

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Omar Rayyan displays this year's Ag Fair poster. — Photo by Michael Cummo

AG FAIR 2014.aThe story of this year’s Fair poster begins with good neighbors, an artist, and a horseman; a painting set aside and forgotten; and a kind gift at a time of loss.

But really, it starts with a horse, and Bruce Marshard who saved him from slaughter at a Saskatchewan meat packing plant in 2000.

Mr. Marshard, captivated by draft horses since seeing a team at work as a teenager, named his new horse Sonny Boy. It was the nickname of his late father who died in an accident when Bruce was only two weeks old.

Mr. Marshard, who was living on Cape Cod, came to his first Vineyard Ag Fair in 1998 with his earlier horse, Major, at the urging of the late Fred Fisher Jr., whom he had met at the Barnstable Fair.

In 2001 Mr. Marshard brought the tall, handsome, Percheron Sonny Boy to the Fair. From the outset, the big black horse won many hearts.

“Eleanor Neubert told me later, ‘Your horse was the biggest draw at the Fair,’” Mr. Marshard recalled this month.

Mr. Marshard acquired a second horse, Max, after Major had gone to live elsewhere. A custom woodworker, Mr. Marshard then as now also worked extensively with his horses, plowing snow, logging, clearing land for clients who did not want mechanical equipment on their property. With a contract to provide 32 cords of wood for the Penikese Island School each year, he needed two horses and Max, a Percheron from Upper Peninsula Michigan, was a good match for Sonny Boy.

At the Fair in 2002, the horses had a significant part in changing Mr. Marshard’s life dramatically, when one of them plucked the straw hat off the head of a barn visitor. Mr. Marshard went to talk to the hat owner, perhaps to apologize for his rude horse, and met his future wife.

The following April, Bruce and Laura Marshard were married on Lambert’s Cove Beach, with Sonny Boy and Max playing important roles. The bride, wearing a traditional white wedding gown, rode Sonny Boy onto the beach where friends gathered, while Mr. Marshard rode Max. They dismounted for the ceremony. Sonny Boy placed his nose on their clasped hands.

“Blessing us,” said Ms. Marshard. “It was pretty fun.”

The newlyweds climbed on Sonny Boy’s back. Riding off the beach together, they felt the big horse buck – “because he felt so good,” they recalled.

Two Fairs later Ms. Marshard was seven months pregnant with their son, Jack, now nine. The judge urged her not to compete in the Local Draft Horse Show. She did anyway, and all was well.

“They’re really part of our lives,” said Ms. Marshard. “We feel really blessed. They’re like having children, big, comfy cozy children that give you so much joy.”

Hard work, family bonds

Sonny Boy appeared on birth announcements too. For Jack’s, he stands in front of the stroller, as if to whisk the baby off on a ride. When Charlotte was born in 2010, the card showed Jack holding his baby sister while Sonny Boy nuzzles them.

The children’s arrival gave the horses a new role, docilely participating in the lead line class, little ones perched on their tall backs.

Through years of hard work in the woods, happy outings, competing in horse shows, and being admired by Fairgoers, Sonny Boy settled comfortably into the family. The bond between man and horse was strong.

Max and Sonny Boy
Max and Sonny Boy

Jeremy Mayhew’s film “Sonny and Max” (Oceanscape Arts, 2010/11) shows Mr. Marshard and the horses at work, later Sonny affectionately rubbing Mr. Marshard’s shoulder with his big head, nuzzling, contentedly accepting a carrot.

Both 25 this year, both Max and Sonny Boy were older than most draft horses. Steady work, pasture time, and good care (Mr. Marshard even shoes his own horses regularly) always kept them strong and healthy. There are frequent swims, at Lambert’s Cove and at Jim Norton’s beach on the Lagoon, where the Marshards and their horses swim in return for supplying manure to the Norton farm.

“Fifty-four bushels of manure is our beach pass,” said Mr. Marshard with a grin.

Contented, productive, loved, and healthy, Sonny Boy thrived right up until the sudden end of his life on March 8.

“He was full of it!” Mr. Marshard remembered about that day, as they returned home from plowing. “He wanted to canter pulling the snow plow.”

“Doing what he loved,” Ms. Marshard said.

An artist’s heartfelt gift

After Sonny’s sudden passing, a close friend told the grieving Marshards that she wanted to hold a memorial for him. Mr. Marshard said he thought only a half-dozen people would come.

“But 33 people showed up, with a dozen kids,” Mr. Marshard said. “Every single person had a story.”

In the crowd was Omar Rayyan with his wife, Sheila. The couple, who also own a horse, had been neighbors with the Marshards in West Tisbury some 10 years earlier. Mr. Marshard plowed their driveway with Sonny Boy and Max.

Learning that Mr. Rayyan was an artist, Mr. Marshard encouraged him to create a Fair poster with images of his two horses. But Mr. Rayyan was not interested, believing his artistic style would not suit a poster.

Eventually Mr. Rayyan painted a portrait of Sonny Boy, standing in a sunny pasture, a plump goose nearby. Not entirely pleased with his creation, Mr. Rayyan put it aside, thinking he might work on it more another time. The painting was forgotten

“Because of Sonny Boy’s unfortunate passing I thought it most appropriate to dig out that painting and give it to Bruce,” said Mr. Rayyan.

He wrapped the artwork and brought it to the memorial where he presented it to Mr. Marshard.

“I never knew he’d done it,” said Mr. Marshard.

“It just took our breath away,” said Ms. Marshard. “We looked at each other. We were absolutely speechless.”

She said the painting was the perfect depiction of Sonny Boy, showing his angular build, his enormous feet and head, his dark coat lightened by the sun. “He’s an extraordinary artist,” she said. “He captured the actual demeanor of the horse, of the being.

“He had such heart, that horse. He was the alpha horse in our little herd. He was a very benevolent leader.

“He was a graceful and kind being. Sonny was a leader with a quiet, dignified demeanor.”

Mr. Marshard told Mr. Rayyan he would like to submit the work as a Fair poster; the artist agreed. Mr. Marshard took the painting to Tisbury Printer where Kevin Cain added lettering.

“It was fortuitous that the composition I went with accommodated the layout and print, with good fortune and luck,” Mr. Rayyan said. “So I guess it was meant to be.”

Announcing the piece as winner of the poster contest, Fair Manager Eleanor Neubert said the image of Sonny Boy inspired the 2014 theme, Sharing Fair Memories.

“Sonny Boy was a very special horse and a big part of the Fair for years,” said Ms. Neubert.

“He was a gentle giant,” added Fair staffer Karen Colaneri. “He was the sweetest horse. Kids loved him; they could pat him.”

This spring Mr. Marshard acquired a new horse, Duke, another Percheron, who came from New York state. He is tall, and black, and casual observers often do a double take, because of his superficial resemblance to Sonny Boy. But his owners know how different Sonny Boy was, inside and out.

This week the Marshards will pack up their children and German shepherd, Sophie, and drive to the Fair in their horse-drawn wagon as they always do. They will compete in the Local Draft Horse Show and Dog Show, and the horses will be available for visitors to meet.

“It’s hard for us, not to go with Sonny,” Ms. Marshard said. But the Fair is an important part of this family’s life and they would not miss it.

“A lot of people are saying this is Sonny’s Fair,” said Mr. Marshard, a hint of sadness in his smile.

And for the very, very many at the Fair who will see the striking poster, buy the tee-shirt, and share happy memories of the big, gentle, black horse, it will be just that.

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The transition from the Grange to the new Ag Hall continues today.

In 1994, dozens of volunteers turned out for an old-fashioned barn raising of the new Ag Hall. — File photo MV Times

This week’s Ag Fair marks the 20th anniversary of the once brand-new Panhandle Road fairgrounds in West Tisbury. Enough time has gone by that the “fair ladies” can chuckle as they remember the pitfalls and challenges of those earliest years.

Despite a rocky beginning with nature refusing to cooperate and everyone trying to function normally in the unfamiliar setting, the Fair always went on. With adjustments each year, eventually the new fairgrounds became the welcoming, smoothly operating, and well-loved home that it is today. But it took vision, determination, and patience.

The new Agricultural Hall was raised at a vibrant community work party in November 1994. But by August 1995, separate offices had not been created, so organizers and entry clerks worked all together preparing for the Fair.

“In 1995 it was a dust bowl, not a blade of grass on the property,” reminisced Fair manager Eleanor Neubert. “It was very dusty, the wind howled.”

Youngsters on trash and security detail wore bandanas over their noses and mouths. Dust blew across the street into a neighbor’s window, covering her computer.

The hall was barely ready to welcome exhibitors and visitors in time. Carpenters and electricians worked feverishly to finish up. Faced with the daunting 20-acre parcel, unlike the cozy four-acre Grange fairgrounds, staff struggled to create a workable arrangement.

“We were trying to figure things out,” Ms. Neubert said. “We missed the old fairgrounds terribly.”

That first year the LMC Amusements carnival occupied a narrow strip on one side. Music took place on the original stage, moved from the old fairgrounds, set up in back between the two rings.

“Everything felt very, very separated,” said Ms. Neubert. “I don’t think anybody was happy.”

In one bright spot, carnival owner Larry Cushing presented the Fair Ladies with a golf cart to get around the large fairgrounds. Today they have a fleet.

There was no animal barn until 1998. Livestock had temporary stalls and pens rented from the Barnstable Fair, trucked here by Danny Whiting.

Hall manager Kathy Lobb remembers the last-minute rush to get everything in place. Electricians were hastily finishing details on Tuesday, with exhibitors slated to arrive Wednesday.

“We worked well past midnight to get ready,” Ms. Lobb said. “I thought we would never get everything done.”

Although it was wonderful to have so much space after cramped quarters at the Grange, deciding where to put things was overwhelming. Ms. Lobb wanted the cavernous hall to appear full and welcoming, and she sought ways to show off exhibits to their best advantage, like hanging quilts from beams.

“This was all new and scary,” Ms. Lobb admitted

Every year, Ms. Lobb and her crew have made small changes. New categories were added. The front room accommodates larger exhibits and displays by the M.V. Bonsai Club and local authors.

“Now we actually need more space because we have so many entries,” Ms. Lobb said, laughing.

A crisis every year

1996 brought a new crisis. Tests showed the water supply unsafe to drink. Tom Seeman of Vineyard Bottled Waters was enlisted to provide gallons and gallons, “a wall of water jugs,” Ms. Neubert recalled. Free drinking water was available to all, a tradition that continued for years. Ms. Neubert confirmed that the water is now safe to drink.

“The Monsoon,” fills Ms. Neubert’s memory of  the 1997 Fair. “It was a torrential downpour, howling wind,” Ms. Neubert recalled. “Booths and tents were going over backwards.”

The rain collected in a huge puddle on Panhandle Road, “and someone had put a little rowboat in it as a joke.”

Weather was so bad that Thursday’s Fair was cancelled. M.V. Agricultural Society president Arnie Fischer Jr. and others went to West Tisbury selectmen with an emergency request to operate Sunday. The board agreed, with the condition that hours be shortened.

Though it began in adversity, the Sunday opening proved widely popular. Soon a request was filed with selectmen and approved to institute a four-day Fair.

The change allowed flexible scheduling, time for adding events and attractions, more leisurely visits for patrons, extra income for vendors. Sunday is now a busy but mellow Fair day, ending at 7 pm.

Exciting years, many changes

Reminiscing in the Ag Hall recently, Ms. Neubert and others recalled how the Fair and grounds have evolved.

Parking began on three sites, but lots soon were reduced to two. Bus service expanded, allowing fairgoers to use public transportation.

Amish builders raised the second barn in 2008, space for animals and antique engines. The Ag Society acquired additional acreage, accommodating livestock exhibitors.

All agree these have been exciting years, including visits by President Bill Clinton and family, a jubilant 150th anniversary celebration in 2011 with a parade and tightrope walkers. “Bountiful” was published, rich in photos and lore, chronicling the Ag Society and Fair. Many new events and attractions have been added.

The Women’s Skillet Toss, begun in 1998, was an instant hit, as was the exuberantly noisy Antique Tractor Pull. The Fiber Tent launched in 2001 has grown, filled with animals and hands-on education. Baby Central gives young parents a quiet oasis. In 2002 the Ag Fair sign was stolen, never to be found. A colorful new sign was erected in 2003.

The local midway expanded, more vendors than ever offering tempting Fair food and shopping. The stage moved front and center to the local midway, scheduling entertainment day and night, including acts for youngsters. The Acoustic Corner became a venue for quieter traditional tunes.

In a revolutionary change, entries were computerized in 2002; a Fair Facebook page began in 2011. The Fair Premium book now appears on the Ag Society website (

The spacious grounds permitted new bleachers and dozens of picnic tables to be added. Agricultural demonstrations such as sheep herding and goat milking are held; young gymnasts show their agility. Traditional fun for youngsters includes corn shucking, sack races, vegetable car races, and pony rides. The adult tug-o-war has been resuscitated.

“Everything evolved,”  Ms. Neubert said. “Nothing was cast in stone. And it still isn’t: we still make minor changes every year.”

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Rabbi Balfour Brickner and Marina Tempelsman (one of the four winners), at the 1999 ceremony for the Reading of the Poetry Winners. — Kristin Maloney

When Elisa Brickner died at age 17 in a 1973 horseback riding accident, it was a tragedy for all who knew and loved her.

But thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of her father, the late Rabbi Balfour Brickner, that heartbreaking loss became the impetus for a gift that even now, four decades later, continues to touch the lives of many. It is a moving example of a bereaved parent turning loss into an opportunity to bring joy and benefit to others.

Wishing to memorialize his young daughter in a way that would be meaningful and reflect something of who she was, Rabbi Brickner that same year established and funded the Elisa Brickner Poetry Corner at the Chilmark Public Library. The Rabbi and his family were longtime Menemsha summer residents. Because Elisa loved poetry, he sought to foster that same love in other youths and all who would visit the little library, both in summertime and year round.

Today, the Elisa Brickner Poetry Corner collection contains well more than 1000 volumes for both adults and children, thanks to the rabbi’s significant generosity. But that was only the beginning.

In 1993, Rabbi Brickner approached the library again, sending a letter with a new, far-reaching proposal.

“We feel it is time to expand the memorial in a new and challenging way,” he wrote. “We propose the establishment of an annual poetry contest to be known as the Elisa Brickner Annual Poetry Contest.”

One year later, in 1994, the contest for junior high and high school students was launched and immediately attracted hopeful young poets, dreaming of recognition for their creative work.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the well-loved competition, which is now underway, with entries accepted until August 11.

In addition to honoring the winners, the Elisa Brickner Fund, to which the rabbi added from time to time, enables the library to award them substantial cash prizes. Usually given to only the first and second place winners, this year a cash award will also be presented to the third prize winners in observance of the anniversary.

According to Kristin Maloney, the library’s program coordinator, from the very beginning the contest has drawn 35 to 50 entries each year from both year-round Islanders and summer residents. She said that many of the previous contest winners have gone on to be actively involved in writing endeavors, from poetry to novels and plays for both stage and screen.

This year’s judges are John Maloney, Donald Nitchie, and Laura Wainwright. Marlan Sigelman, summer library assistant who is also a poet, will join the usual three-judge panel for this 20th anniversary contest.

Judging takes place promptly after the deadline date and winners are invited to read their pieces at a library ceremony on Monday, August 18, at 5:30 pm.

“One of the special parts is the ceremony and the reading of the winners’ poems,” said Ms. Maloney.

For many years Rabbi Brickner would faithfully attend the ceremony, serving as emcee and announcing and congratulating the winning student writers. Since his death in 2005, his son Rabbi Barnet Brickner participates whenever possible.

Ms. Maloney said that previous winners and family members often attend the ceremony to meet the successful contestants and hear their poems. She added that earlier prize recipients have told library staff how meaningful it was to have their poems chosen, and both they and their families have fond memories of the occasion.

“The kids say how honored they were to be acknowledged and taken seriously,” Ms. Maloney said. “They say how important it was to them.

“Kids don’t really have an arena to be celebrated for writing poetry, unlike sports or performing arts. This ceremony spotlights their talent and who they are. They’re really appreciated.”

Winning poems have been displayed in a scrapbook since the beginning. As a special feature of this anniversary, the library will publish a book compiling all winners from 1994 through 2014. The volumes will be given to the contest winners, all local schools and libraries, and will be available to the public.

The contest

The Elisa Brickner Annual Poetry Contest invites entries from students in two age categories: Junior High School (entering grades 6 through 8), and Senior High School (entering grades 9 through 12).

Contestants may submit one original poem: any length, style, or subject, typed or printed on 8 1/2” by 11” paper. The writer’s name must not appear on the submission. A cover sheet with name, grade category, and contact information must be attached.

First prizewinners in each category will receive $200; second and third prizewinners will receive $100. Winning poems will be read at a ceremony on August 18 at 5:30 pm.

The deadline for submitting poems is August 11 at 5:30 pm. Entries may be mailed, faxed, or delivered in person.

For information, call 508-645-3360 or visit

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Scott, Hank Kiely, Peter — Photo by Meg Higgins

Mix together a crew of zombie-like monsters, a flock of sweet angels, some cheerful red-horned devils, a batch of good-hearted, hard-working Amish folk who just want to keep their community free from sin — or at least from electricity. Add a crazed doctor, spirited musicians, and a camp full of inspired performers and you get an evening of colorful fun. These were the ingredients for “Frankenstein’s Last Dance,” Camp Jabberwocky’s hilarious play presented July 18 and 19.

Juan singing
Juan singing.

Those lucky audience members who squeezed into the crowded studio for the show enjoyed an evening of heart-warming, rib-tickling wackiness as the campers went all out to entertain. It was hard to tell who was having a better time — the campers and counselors singing, dancing, mugging, and cavorting on stage or the guests who got into the spirit, cheering, applauding, and singing along.

Thanks to the keyboardist David Thompson’s friendship with a counselor, the Philadelphia band “Big Tusk” joined by camper Jason Lopes added professional glitz.

Helen Lamb, known as “Hellcat,” who died in 2011, began the camp for individuals with cerebral palsy and other disabilities in 1953. Beginning in an Oak Bluffs summer cottage, Jabberwocky now occupies a spacious Vineyard Haven campus donated by Grace Episcopal Church years ago.

The play is a high point in the camp’s busy first session that includes the Prom, field trips to beaches, baseball games, concerts, private gatherings, and the July Fourth Parade where Jabberwocky members are enthusiastic participants.

The studio was festive, strung with tiny lights, and packed with a standing-room-only crowd. The band started playing early, setting the upbeat mood.

Ben Winter and Myles
Ben Winter and Myles.

The story was complex and zany, characters and themes appearing and reappearing as though in a Technicolor dream. There was the talking horse who would amble through; a fellow in an Island shirt, shades, and shorts, bogeying and bopping from scene to scene. A counselor or two would bounce in and twirl or cartwheel across the stage.

Focus was on Dr. Frankenstein, the monster-making madman. But instead of Transylvania, this doc lives in Pennsylvania and that’s the problem.

For while Dr. Frankenstein and his monster band collect body parts and patchwork them into people, the upstanding Amish are troubled. It’s not the ghoulish process that bothers them, but the use of electricity — an Amish “no-no” — to revive the creatures. Meanwhile, angels try to maintain harmony; devils make mischief; monsters return to the crypt to collect more body parts.

Every camper was a star, shining bright. Especially memorable were the green-suited, top-hatted “Puttin’ on the Ritz” tap dancer, sweet voiced, smiling angels, the young man grinning ever wider as two counselors spun his wheelchair in the dance. Another camper exultantly flew through the air as four counselors lifted him from his wheelchair and aloft — jubilantly free at last! A vivacious, sparkly-eyed wheelchair-bound devil delivered a memorable address. Others danced, their walkers no encumbrance.

Even Camp director Johanna (“JoJo”) Romero de Slavy, RN, and assistant director Kristen (“Sully”) Sullivan St. Amour got in the act, bouncing around the stage in Amish and devil garb.

There were ballads, rap, rock tunes, solos and ensemble numbers. When the angels started singing “Sweet Caroline” with others backing them up, arm-waves and all, the building rocked.

“They sing just with no inhibitions!” said one thrilled audience member, having just experienced her first Jabberwocky play.

The grand finale.

Later there were make-your-own ice cream sundaes for all, performers and audience alike. The scene in the community hall was jubilant, exultant campers and counselors reliving their moments on stage.

Like any camp anywhere, proud parents and relatives were on hand to congratulate their sons and daughters, sharing ice cream and stories.

These campers may have disabilities, as friends and fans of Jabberwocky know. But they have no challenges when it comes to having fun and celebrating life, offering a valuable example to the rest of us.

The show was lovingly dedicated to Manny Furtado and Sean Wawrzaszek who died since last summer.

Mike Leon, a counselor from Boston who directed the show, said that this year’s approach was different from usual, and the emphasis more than ever was on spontaneity.

Unlike last year’s “Romeo and Juliet in Las Vegas” which writers/directors worked on for months, this play started with the campers. Mr. Leon and others asked campers who wanted to be Angels, Devils, Amish, Monsters, and found a perfect Dr. Frankenstein.

“We asked ‘what would you have the most fun doing?’” said Mr. Leon. “It felt like a pretty natural process.”

He said the story grew out of camp dynamics, friendships, and all aspects of Jabberwocky life.

“We let it naturally write itself. The only thing left for me to do was cut and paste.”

The campers immersed themselves in monster activities and classes, drawing their ideas of the Frankenstein monster. The art activity evolved into the backdrop at the rear of the stage, entirely created by campers.

Mr. Leon has volunteered at Jabberwocky for seven years. Like many other counselors he works a regular day job — advertising in his case — 11 months each year, but looks forward to his July at Jabberwocky.

“This is the center of every year,” he said.

The second-session Camp Jabberwocky play is Saturday, Aug. 9, 7:30 pm. For info, visit

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The Main Street, Vineyard Haven gallery is home to 10 diverse artists and artisans. — L.A. Brown

The Night Heron Gallery in Vineyard Haven feels like a mix between a boutique packed with unique gifts and a mini Artisans’ Festival. Both comparisons are very apt. Whether vacationer or full-time Islander, you’ll find this a treasure trove to seek that perfect present. The similarity to the popular Vineyard Artisans Festivals is no surprise, since many represented here have long shown their wares at that larger event.

Established in 2011, Night Heron is a collaborative endeavor among 10 very diverse artists and artisans. It is the Vineyard’s only artist owned and operated cooperative gallery, featuring jewelry, paintings, wearable art, ceramics, gift books, and much more.

According to Lisa Strachan, one of the original founders, this artists’ cooperative is far from being just a business venture. Along with owning, taking care of all business aspects, and operating the shop on a rotating schedule, members work well together, encouraging and supporting one another in their creative ventures, she said. They are good friends and congenial too, as was evident at the opening party on June 27. The small shop was packed with family, friends, art lovers, and vacationers drawn by the colorful displays and effervescent ambiance.

“Even our food is cooperative,” quipped one member, gesturing to the buffet of varied and mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres, each contributed by a different artist.

From first stepping in the door, the visitor is surrounded by colorful variety, indeed as tempting as that snack smorgasbord.

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff’s sweetly inspirational gift books, cards, journals, CDs, and other meditative keepsakes are antidotes for summer hustle-bustle. She collects poetry, affirmations, and snippets of wisdom in pretty bindings and wrappers. “Good Mother Welcome” is a soothing gift for that tired new mom; other books hold lovely reminders of life’s wonders for all.

Another style of thoughtful serenity is found in seascape paintings by Carolyn Warren — boats, ocean, beaches, grassy dunes in soothing coastal colors. Along with standard sized compositions, she displays a selection of miniatures, tiny Vineyard seaside scenes, charming and affordable.

Or choose an evocative photo by L.A. Brown with distressed white frame for special atmosphere. This inspired photographer shows scenes on the Vineyard and abroad of animals, barnyards, fields, and architectural details, all of which have a timeless, peaceful feeling. She sets them in frames she creates with molding from 18th and 19th century homes.

“I watch the light and capture what touches my heart,” she said.

There is wearable Vineyard glamour to be found, a just-right gift for a daughter, mother, sister, best girl friend. Some shoppers are so captivated that they treat themselves. And what better way to remember a vacation or reward yourself for getting through a hectic work week?

There is a large selection of Sylvie Farrington’s signature vintage Sylvie Bags and throw pillows too. Ms. Farrington constantly refines technique and designs, coming up with new features to make these bags even more irresistible. They appear in several styles and sizes, many adorned with bright zippers, Austrian crystal beads, and decorative buttons to accent the lush floral fabrics.

For pure glitter, visit the two jewelry makers, Diana Stewart and Kathleen Tackabury. Both work with silver and gemstones, combining them with dramatic results, though each creates with personal style. Small silver pieces are on display too, including earrings in delicate seashore shapes, molded from the real thing — perfect summer jewelry.

Far from being bitter competitors, the women report they are good friends and support one another’s work. They frequently show next to each other at fairs and shows, as they do here. Ms. Tackabury features an Island-inspired piece in her new horseshoe crab pendant, an exquisite little silver sea creature on a silver chain. A browser at the opening purchased one immediately upon trying it on.

“If I like it, why not?” she said, leaving the shop a happy vacationer.

All of Beldan Radcliffe’s creations are stylish and one of a kind. This season she is particularly enthusiastic about “upcycled” sweaters using all recycled materials. These eye-catching garments are multi-colored, multi-textured, multi-layered, boasting a variety of buttons, ruffles, and trims. She also shows scarves and other work, from lampshades to jewelry. This inventive Vineyard artisan employs her collage-maker’s touch in all her work, combining colors and patterns with flair.

Ceramic art is displayed here in three fascinating styles. Lisa Strachan shows the delicate white porcelain pieces such as vases, trays, and mirror frames for which she is well known. Now she offers an intriguing alternative, stoneware creations with the color and texture of Vineyard beach sand, and even occasionally combines this with a partial blue glaze, suggesting the ocean. On some stoneware she adds seashore embellishments — a shell, a tiny crab, sandpipers.

Ms. Strachan also benefits Hospice with the sale of heart-themed Island-shaped porcelain pieces — a Christmas tree ornament or sweet Vineyard souvenir.

Who wouldn’t recognize the imaginative Washington Ledesma’s heartwarming ceramics? His soulful, big-eyed animals, fish, birds, and reptiles with innocent, unwavering gazes and robust three-breasted goddesses bring a smile. This Uruguayan-born artist’s warm, intense colors are uplifting too. He shows trays, happy little animal statues, and Healing Stones, another cure for summer stress. Medium sized bowls in sunshiny colors will perk up your morning cereal.

Nicholas Thayer contributes majolica pottery inspired by Italian designs. The serving ware and smaller pieces boast crisp, vibrant colors and symmetrical motifs employing lemons, leaves, fish, flowers, even a friendly cow. He aims to use traditional Island borders “and flavor with a bit of the Island.”

Printmaking is another of Mr. Thayer’s loves. His striking monotypes show dark crows with distinctive personality. They are slightly brooding, thoughtful, gathered as though gossiping. Some are playful, some menacing: one swoops, one preens, another catches a dragonfly.

Prices vary widely and much of this art is affordable. Or just browse and appreciate the creative gifts of these talented Islanders.

Night Heron Gallery, Vineyard Haven: open daily, 10 am to 6 pm. For information, visit or call 508-696-9500.

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For 19 years, the well-liked and much admired minister was known for the energy and creativity he brought to Grace Church and for his participation in the Island community.

Artist Barney Zeitz polishes the window before it's dedication. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Along with the usual worshipers, the pews at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven were filled this Sunday with visitors on hand to honor the Rev. Donald Lyons, minister there from 1966 to 1985. Mr. Lyons was well-liked and much admired for the energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and creativity he brought to the church and his participation in the Island community.

Mr. Lyons and Mr. Zeitz
Mr. Lyons and Mr. Zeitz

To celebrate his vibrant ministry, a stained glass window created by artist Barney Zeitz was formally dedicated with a ceremony at the end of the service.

Lead by the choir and the Rev. Robert Hensley, the congregation proceeded into the Parish Hall where the window floated, shimmering, at the peak of the newly renovated outside wall.

“I didn’t know anything about this until this morning,” Mr. Lyons, now a stalwart choir member and lay reader, confided. Many knew of the upcoming dedication but kept it secret from the honoree.

After brief prayer and introductions, longtime parishioner Lee Fierro said she met Mr. Lyons when he visited her home. He promptly drafted her daughter Dinah into the children’s choir. Later, Ms. Fierro became an active member.

She recalled years of church activities with Mr. Lyons, his dynamic ministry, and memorable experiences working with him as an actor in Island Theatre Workshop productions.

“Don was the most generous person throughout the Island,” said Ms. Fierro. “He had a way with everybody, all ages.”

Mr. Hensley dedicated the window and walls to God, seeking blessings for those involved with the project. A reception followed with refreshments and hugs, handshakes, and congratulations for Mr. Lyons.

The round 51-inch diameter fused and bonded stained glass window features an image of a green Jerusalem cross on a clear background with lighter green details. When critical and long-deferred reconstruction of the parish house wall was being planned with participation by Mr. Hensley and then-junior warden Lena Prisco, designs by architect Carole Hunter featured a round window as a centerpiece. As Mr. Hensley sought financial contributions from parishioners to pay for a stained glass window, Joan Merry offered to fund the window as a way to honor her husband’s ministry, and she made the final choice of design and color.

“He’s the best minister I’ve ever had,” said Lorraine Clark, an active member since 1960. “He was the best because he was the most active, he had an extremely active church with everything you could think of.”

Ms. Clark’s four children grew up in the church. She taught Sunday School among other responsibilities.

“Jack of all trades, he really was,” said Anne Palches who had known Donald Lyons as minister and as a fellow actor with Island Theatre Workshop. “He did everything for everyone.”

“He was aware of everything going on with everybody,” said her husband, Peter Palches. “He seemed to me to be an ideal priest. “ Mr. Lyons officiated at the couple’s 1983 wedding.

Jamie Harris, a stately Wise Man in the elaborate Epiphany pageants of those years who also acted with Mr. Lyons in the uproarious “I’m Not Rappaport,” offered congratulations.

Church member Sandra Whitworth said her daughter, Posie Haeger, who attended Sunday School and Grace Pre-School years ago, saw the window and was struck by its tasteful beauty.

Diana Waring, whom Mr. Lyons had baptized in the waters of Lambert’s Cove when she was 10 months old, was on hand with her baby daughter, Hazel.

David Grey, who years ago had sung in a church musical production staged by Mr. Lyons, still attends and is a choir member.

After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, Mr. Lyons attended the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. Ordained to the priesthood in 1955, he was assigned as Canon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston.

“I was in charge of drunks and Evening Prayer,” he said.

“The drunks” were the homeless, addicts, others down on their luck. They wanted money, he recalled, but received meal vouchers.

In 1959 he became Archdeacon of New Hampshire. Along with establishing churches in Kingston and Salem, he chaired the New Hampshire Traffic Safety Commission.

His assignment to Grace Church came after Massachusetts Bishop Anson Stokes sought his opinion about placing another clergyman at the Vineyard parish whose minister, the Rev. Henry Bird, had resigned.

“Send me!” said Mr. Lyons. “I don’t know anything about Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve never been there, but I want to be someone’s minister.”

Mr. Lyons and his family, including five children, moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1966.

Working with youngsters was his high priority. He developed a vital children’s choir with some three dozen members.He was renowned for his original children’s musical plays on Biblical themes.

He began “Monday School,” with religious education and outings, so popular that children from other faiths came. Advised that he could entice teens to youth group if he got Dennis DaRosa — then a popular high school athlete — to join, he did so and it worked.

Instituting a sports-themed Father-Son Dinner, he brought Red Sox players here, including Al “Sparky” Lyle and Bill “Spaceman” Lee. The church sponsored a sexuality course for junior high students.

When Tisbury Selectmen refused to allow a rock and roll group to play in town, Mr. Lyons established a Grace Church Coffee House. Luminaries appearing included William Styron, Jules Feiffer, Art Buchwald, and singer Kate Taylor. A dance drew nearly 250 teens.

Mr. Lyons was universally known for making home visits to parishioners, being aware of their needs, and helping however he could. He encouraged lonely people to come to church, comforted the sick, bereaved, and troubled, urged addicts to seek recovery, counseled about family problems, arranged rides for youngsters.

Services were spirited, music exceptional with talented choir and organists. Worship could be colorful like the Palm Sunday when a donkey lead the procession through the church, Rogation Day at Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm where crops were blessed, dance as part of services, the congregation marching with a band to Owen Park for a baptism. There was Sunday evening “Rock and Roll Worship” and educational Passover Seders.

Fellowship activities like potluck suppers and weekend-long Parish Life Missions fostered closeness and camaraderie.

Mr. Lyons opened the church to community groups including Alcoholics Anonymous, Education for Childbirth, Red Stocking, a food coop, dance and theatre classes.

Grace Church had earlier donated Greenwood Avenue land to Camp Jabberwocky. Mr. Lyons welcomed the campers with disabilities to services and special events.

Especially meaningful to Mr. Lyons was his establishment of a partnership with the Melanesian Brothers, a band of monks dwelling on islands in the southwest Pacific. After taking no vacation for years, Mr. Lyons finally enjoyed a journey around the globe, a visit to the brothers his primary destination.

Mr. Lyons served Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, first as chairman of the Youth Center Committee, later heading the Committee on Alcoholism.

Concerned because Trinity Episcopal Chapel in Oak Bluffs was predominantly white, he enlisted Sen. Edward Brooke to draw African Americans. The Martha’s Vineyard NAACP recognized him for contributions to civil and human rights.

After leaving Grace Church, Mr. Lyons joined the MV Times staff as an ad salesman, then proofreader and copy editor, and finally as a lively sports writer. Mr. Lyons was as popular at the Times as he was at Grace Church; staff often sought his guidance when writing about religion. Although no longer a full-time minister, he has frequently been asked to officiate at weddings and funerals.

Few here knew about favorite earlier roles: serving as a baker in China for the U.S. Marines, in which he enlisted days before turning 18; or as a Bowdoin undergrad, directing the Meddiebempsters, a double-quartet of young singers so exemplary they were invited to tour European Army Bases.

A crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony.
A crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony.

Modestly accepting compliments, Mr. Zeitz watched with satisfaction as noonday sun sparkled through his creation. He used a fused and bonded glass technique, affixing handmade stained glass pieces to a clear backing. Painting the backing glass with colored metal oxide, he added cobalt blue to the green glass to emphasize the central crosses. He said the exceptionally high quality epoxy he used acted as a lens, creating the appearance of moving light.

It was a day of celebration too for contractor Michael Carroll, who witnessed the successful completion of the nearly six-month project. Despite being delayed by harsh weather, Mr. Carroll said the job had been fun and church members “wonderful to work with.” He was especially glad he could reuse the original wall’s exterior siding as trim and wainscoting.

“I like jobs like this where I feel I can contribute to the community,” he said.

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John Holladay "Up Island" 48x70 acrylic on canvas — Photo courtesy of Louisa Gould G

Vineyard Haven is decked out for the season. From window boxes overflowing with blossoms and enticing window designs, to “Now Open” signs, there’s no mistaking the good news that summer is here.

Gallery owner Louisa Gould dived into the spirit with her upbeat and colorful “Summertime” exhibit opening last Saturday, June 28. Four artists, each with a very personal style, offer their unique interpretations of summer. Michael Haydn’s guitar tunes  set a festive mood, and light refreshments were served.

"Best Friends" 12x16 by Kate Huntington
“Best Friends” 12×16 by Kate Huntington

For Kate Huntington, summertime is beach time — and none would disagree. The Providence artist presents beach scenes marked by energy, color, and spontaneity. She captures the seashore sights so precisely that one can experience other sense perceptions too…the smell of salt air (and even Coppertone), sounds of surf, children’s giggles, the delicious sensation of cold water after hot sun.

Striped beach umbrellas in red, white, blue, seem to shout, “Hooray, it’s summer!” while shading flocks of active beachgoers. This quintessential Oak Bluffs seashore scene is complete with chairs, coolers, blankets, and two determined bathers.

“Best Friends” in bright bathing suits sit together in the sand, sharing pail and shovel. Lifeguards on their tall wooden perch watch over a cavorting crowd at South Beach. A young girl sits in cool shallows, digging. A little boy scuffs along water’s edge, yellow bucket in hand. When swimmers brave the surf we feel it sting our skin, hear it roar.

And what would the beach be without a dog or two.  “Black and Yellow,” a matched pair on red leashes, gaze out to sea, predictably soggy and sandy.

John Holladay — the only full-time Vineyarder among the four artists — works in a small corner of his home in a quiet Vineyard Haven neighborhood, but he paints the wide-open spaces. His most striking canvas is a view of the Keith Farm in Chilmark, a spectacular sight familiar to anyone who drives up Island on Middle Road.

The antique, lichen-covered stonewall is in the foreground. Across the gently rolling green meadow we see a quiet pond, the barn with its bright red door, a distant farmhouse, the ocean far beyond. The sky is light blue, clear; grasses grow high along the wall. All suggest the quiet heat of midsummer in Chilmark.

There are other up-Island farm scenes and for a true, iconic image of summer, Mr. Holladay paints the cliffs at Lucy Vincent Beach, sculpted by erosion.

Mr. Holladay, who has been a celebrated sports cartoon artist and a teacher, is a dedicated landscape painter these days, something Vineyard art lovers can celebrate.

Maya Farber "lillies" 18x24acrylic on canvas
Maya Farber “lillies” 18x24acrylic on canvas

Maya Farber’s paintings portray a trio of subjects: barnscapes seen in three seasons, three still lifes, and three floral portraits.

Born in Romania, Ms. Farber resides in Manhattan and upstate New York. She has a distinguished resume of studies and exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Yet she knows her simple, homey subjects intimately — the barn, fresh eggs, fruit, garden flowers — and portrays them with modest grace.

Her still lifes offer summer with a quiet, rural feel. Here, three empty glass containers — Coke bottle, Ball jar, Mason jar — sit on a table beside a painted bowl heaped with eggs, each shell a different shade.

There is the serene feeling of coming indoors on a summer day, the dim room cool, while outside it is hot and sunny. Sculpted fruit — a green pear, plump plum, clustered grapes evoke the same country kitchen feeling.

There are brilliant blue hydrangeas; loose bouquets of lilies in china vases, so real looking their perfume seems to scent the air.

Ms. Farber enjoys still life painting and wrote that the women’s movement allowed her to explore self-expression using this “female” imagery to her “great personal satisfaction.”

Ms. Farber paints a stolid white barn with twin silos seen across the seasons, snow-covered, under a blue summer sky, with cows in autumn. The scenes have a familiar, intimate feeling: little wonder, for the Farbers raise beef cattle here.

Peter Batchelder "Up Island View" 30 x24Oil on Canvas
Peter Batchelder “Up Island View” 30 x24Oil on Canvas

For Peter Batchelder, a prolific New Hampshire artist who once wrote art reviews and operated a gallery on the Vineyard, New England’s coastal and rural landscapes provide inspiration and raw material for his paintings.

“I take creative license with locations,” he explained. “I don’t always want the pieces to be literal.”

He paints a building’s actual shape, but alters surroundings, adding grasses, removing trees for an ocean view. He may pluck a structure from its own environment, show it in a new setting, simplify the design’s elements.

Mr. Batchelder creates scenes so familiar we feel we must have driven by them recently. Or, we wonder, was it a dream or a childhood memory? But whether or not they look like Chilmark, Cape Cod, or the New England woods is not the most important. These canvases are visually arresting, breath-taking, their spare compositions of buildings, trees, fields depicted with lush, over-the-top, super-saturated colors that are far from spare.

Embodying the Summertime theme, Mr. Batchelder’s scenes are dramatically enhanced and defined by the intense light of high summer. He believes a sense of place is “as much about color and light” as it is the location. In love with color, he may pick the color he wants to use before choosing the scene.

A field of tall grass is washed in the thick yellow gold of twilight; a peaked roofed house on a hillside is bleached by white-hot noonday sun; a big barn glows bright red. Contrast is intense: deep purple shadows, vibrant turquoise sky.

Should a visitor crave more summertime views there is plenty to see in the gallery, highlighted by Ms. Gould’s photographs of sailboats in many waters, dynamic ships under sail by painter Frauke Klatt, and works by other maritime and coastal artists. This show continues through July 16. “Colorburst,” featuring five artists, begins July 17.

Louisa Gould Gallery is located at 54 Main Street in Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-693-7373 or visit