The fair after dark

Ag Fair
The colors of the whirling Salt and Pepper Shaker are a familiar sight at the Ag Fair. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Eleni Collins - August 23, 2007

Although night has fallen, there is no shortage of light at the Ag Fair in West Tisbury, from the neon yellow Octopus ride that spins and hurls fair-goers, to the pink and yellow flashing lights illuminating the fried dough and caramel apple booths.

Fair nights begin when musicians take the stage, the animals go to rest after having their dinner, and live music fills the air around the fresh fruit smoothie and chocolate bread pudding booths.

As the day turned to night this past Saturday, Li'l Anne and Hot Cayenne performed at the fair for their second year in a row for a crowd of late-evening diners and jumping children. The group plays Zydeco style music, "sort of a two-step," says band member Anne Stork.

Teyro McGe and Andrew Starke
Cushing Amusements employees Teyro McGe, left, and Andrew Starke watched as families waited to get on the Aladdin ride.

"We're a pretty interactive band," she says. "We play for people to dance. That's why we're there."

At the other end line of local booths from the live music, the Vineyard Bottled Waters booth was buzzing. In the past, the company has given out free Poland Spring waters. This year, they showcased Keurig machines, one-cup coffee-brewers, which were certainly crowd-pleasers throughout the night. "We're always busy with the water, but this was a whole other thing," owner Tom Seeman said.

With over 40 individual Green Mountain coffee flavors to choose from, from Caramel Vanilla Cream and Fair Trade Gingerbread to PBS's custom flavor and a blend that benefits the National Wildlife Federation, those who needed to perk up at the fair could do so.

Ag Fair
A time-exposed picture of a ride.

"We did sell a lot of coffee, but really getting the machine out, giving people the chance to use it, that was the real success," said Vineyard Bottled Waters employee Chuck Noonan. "People walked by and said, 'wow, what is this', or 'this is that thing!'"

While the show and pulling rings are empty, the rides and games lure people through the barn to the other side. A fair night's not complete until one throws his/her hardest fastball at the stacked dice, or answers the carnival employee's call to "step right up" and vault a frog onto a lily pad for a larger-than-life-sized stuffed Bart Simpson.

It's a wonderful fair," says Anne of the Li'l Anne band. "What I appreciate about it is it's clearly a fair for the locals, for the farmers. What I notice over the years is that M.V. becomes more tourist-y. And this doesn't have a tourist-y feel at all."