hay ride
John George provided hay rides powered by a pair of Norwegian Fjords. Photos by Susan Safford

Harvest Fest highlights country living

By Pat Waring - October 4, 2007

It was a day to savor Island country living and the pleasures of community. Saturday's annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Harvest Festival was the kind of gathering that busy Vineyarders dream about all summer - easy going, family style, and with familiar faces everywhere.

Festival-goers strolled the fairgrounds in West Tisbury, soaking up the warmth and sunshine, chatting with friends, and indulging in delicious home-grown food from the Morning Glory Farm kitchen. Many dogs of all sorts and sizes joined their owners for the outing, getting along with an impressive lack of incident.

The Antique Power Show filled the air with the sounds of engines whirring and clanking, sputtering and purring, and drew a steady stream of fascinated viewers all day. Even the less mechanically inclined were intrigued by the vintage machines ranging from a big shingle mill that whined through thick logs to create stacks of slim shingles, to diminutive steam engines and pint-sized antique sewing machines.

hay bale maze
The hay bale maze offered grand adventure.

George Hartman along with Bill Honey, both of West Tisbury, and Phil St. Jean from Coventry, R. I., organized and set up the show. Mr. St. Jean brought along his massive gas engine that once ran a Vermont sawmill. His wife, Coreen, enjoyed a leisurely day at a booth selling Antique Power Show mugs. Late in the afternoon, Mr. Hartman was presiding over display tables of miniature engines and diagrams, and describing the old-fashioned technology to visitors.

"We had a good turnout of exhibitors and we had a lot of people coming through, and I am thoroughly worn out," said Mr. Hartman with a smile. Satisfied but tired after a long day at the show, Mr. Hartman said that an evening of partying in the Ag Hall would revive him.

Across the way a row of vintage vehicles, some shiny, some worn with age and use, attested to the durability, creativity, and style of old-fashioned manufacturing. Some patrons wanted a look under the hoods; others enjoyed fantasizing about cranking up one of the engines and taking a spin.

Children clamored into a huge hay bale maze leaving parents to stand nearby chatting until the little ones emerged, dusty but triumphant, after the adventure. Beside the barn youngsters carved and colored countless pumpkins, destined to be showpieces in their homes as Halloween approaches. John George and his draft horse team kept busy all afternoon as children and their parents filled and refilled the hay wagon for rides around the fairgrounds area. And for more fun there were games on the grass set up by YMCA volunteers.

Ainsley Clancy takes Tiger Lily over a jump
Ainsley Clancy takes Tiger Lily over a jump.

Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark kept her spinning wheel turning, explaining the intricacies of her craft to passersby and sometimes allowing thrilled youngsters to take a turn. At a nearby table, Fair Manager Eleanor Neubert basked in the sun as she offered 2007 Fair posters for sale along with the new 2008 Agricultural Society calendar featuring posters from fairs gone by.

Melinda deFeo set up a Farm Institute display on the front veranda with yarn, tee-shirts, and hats for sale and plenty of information about activities. Nearby, the YMCA offered tee-shirts and hats as well.

The food was just right for the day - butternut squash or kale soup, corn bread, steaming ears of fresh sweet corn, all served with a smile by Morning Glory Farm chef Judy Klumick and her assistant Chloe Nelson. There was plenty of cider and, for those lucky enough to be there early, pumpkin pie for dessert.

The barn area was busy as the Martha's Vineyard Horse Council "Fall Fuzzy" show got underway early and continued all day. Horse-show fans and festival goers took sunny seats on the bleachers to cheer the young riders on as they performed feat after feat. Outside the ring, horses and riders strolled under the trees or practiced as they waited to appear.

As the sun went down and a bright harvest moon began to rise, the Ag Hall came to life. Doors opened, welcoming guests into the warm hall for a potluck supper, a lush spread of hearty country dishes, many of them prepared using locally grown food. Dancing to music by the Blue Strangers capped off a perfect day, all of it a reminder of why we live on the Island.