A real slice of Island life

Mark Baumhofer and Joan Chaput at the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard table. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mark Baumhofer (left) and Joan Chaput at the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard table. Proceeds from the sale of the decorated whale will benefit the group. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - August 24, 2006

If tourists don't get a true picture of Island life, it's because they didn't look hard enough at the Fair. How can they miss the rat as big as a house, a queen-sized quilt in progress, a life jacket that would fit Godzilla, or vials of fat with labels such as "cheeseburger" and "French fries?"

The 145th annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair last week had all the bells and whistles. Once again the Fair also provided space for Island organizations to reach a large audience.

We grow them big

The County of Dukes County Rodent Control officer T.J. Hegarty must like to attract attention. The huge inflated rat outside the county's tent dwarfed the smiling people who posed for pictures in front of it. The real purpose for drawing all the attention is for the county to distribute valuable information. Mr. Hegarty worked the crowd like a carnival barker and demonstrated a rattrap that never failed to get a gasp from his audience. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Tourist, the Island does have a pest problem. Thankfully we have Mr. Hegarty on our side.

Judy Frasier Pierce at the Vineyard House table. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Judy Frasier Pierce at the Vineyard House table. Some lucky person holds the winning raffle ticket for the Jeep.

Chances on the hand-made quilt sold very well this year, according to Glenna Barkan of the Oak Bluffs Senior Center. The money raised from the quilt raffle will go to seniors who need help paying their bills this winter, such as fuel bills or medical expenses. The quilt was designed and is being made by other seniors. The star and nine patch combination is called "Vineyard Charm" and the winning raffle ticket will be chosen on Oct. 31 at the center. The real story for our visitors is, that just like in communities all over the country, some Island seniors also have trouble making ends meet.

Lifesavers

The Fair isn't the best place to begin or try to stay on a diet. But a stop at the Women's Health Network booth is guaranteed to make you think twice about that second cheeseburger. On display for all to see are vials of fat, carefully measured out and labeled, representing, for example, the amount of fat in one of those delicious West Tisbury Firemen burgers. "We want women to take good care of themselves," said Katherine Welch, the network director. The booth gave out information on the Island's cervical and breast cancer screening programs. The network, part of Vineyard Nursing Association, drew people in with vials of fat, and sent them away with information that can save lives.

Lifesaving is certainly a priority at Sail MV. To attract attention, a huge life vest was propped up at their table. People bought raffle tickets for a Sunfish sailboat, got information on water safety, and also learned more about the Sail MV programs. Hope and Brock Callen were manning the table on Sunday and were happy to talk about the many free programs offered by the group.

Glenna Barkan shows off the lovely quilt she is working on to benefit Island seniors. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Glenna Barkan shows off the lovely quilt she is working on to benefit Island seniors. More than 600 raffle tickets were sold at the fair.

You often hear Martha's Vineyard referred to as a magical place. It may surprise those who see the Island through rose-colored glasses that there is a need for a place for people in the early stages of recovery from substance abuse. The Vineyard House had a visible presence at the Fair. Their white banner stretched across a section of split rail fence, announcing their name and their purpose. A Jeep, called the perfect Island car, was raffled off on Saturday. The Vineyard House table got some high-powered attention when President Bill Clinton stopped by on Saturday and made a donation.

Magical

The magical Island has real people living on it who sometimes need help with something simple, like rousting a mouse, or life-changing, like fighting an addiction. Year-round residents know they can turn to each other for help. The information tables at the Fair let the tourists see just what makes the Island magical. Our secret is out.