Music at the Island’s Agricultural Fair


Many fairgoers still have warm memories of the Fiddle Contest at the old fairgrounds. On starry August nights patrons would head down to the back field bearing lawn chairs, blankets, and sleeping bags then settle in for a long, easygoing evening of traditional music. Families picnicked, children played then dozed, couples snuggled, and some listeners were so inspired by the music they got up and danced.

“If I had a nickel for everyone who asked whatever happened to the fiddle contest, I’d be a wealthy woman,” quipped Nancy Jephcote, one of several musicians working to revive acoustic, folk, and traditional music at the Fair.

Several years ago Tristan Israel, singer, songwriter, and Tisbury selectman, realized that, although a brand new stage on the Local Midway featured a variety of acts, Fair visitors and performers alike were missing the nostalgic country sound of acoustic instruments and voices blending in traditional harmony.

“The new stage is a great venue for amplified music because it’s near the busy midway,” Mr. Israel said “It’s a fun venue, but it doesn’t have the intimacy another location could provide.”

When Mr. Israel suggested to Fair organizers his idea of having a second stage available for quieter and more traditional acoustic performances, they were all for it. He gathered together a group of like-minded musicians —the late Maynard Silva, Ms. Jephcote, and Paul Thurlow among them — and set out to begin a new Fair tradition.

“It’s been a work in progress,” chuckled Ms. Jephcote as she and Mr. Israel recounted the evolution of the Acoustic Corner. Beginning in a shady corner beside the Ag Hall where they were barely visible, the musicians have moved out under the trees near the horse show ring. Aside from the occasional jaunty outburst of cheers and music from the pig-racing attraction, the location is peaceful enough to hear the subtle sounds of fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and voices. Now there are lights, a makeshift plywood stage, hay bales for sitting, a few picnic tables, and plenty of grass where families and friends can once again spread out their blankets and relax.

Mr. Israel, Ms. Jephcote, Mr. Thurlow, along with Brian Weiland, Bob Hammond and all the Flying Elbows crew will host the programs beginning early evenings Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and on Sunday afternoon. Ms. Jephcote’s young fiddle students will open the show at 5 pm on Thursday.

Look for some surprise guests too. Although the microphone is not officially “open,” musicians are welcome to drop by and join in with a tune or two.

“It’s a great venue to get away from the hustle-bustle of the Fair, just kick back and listen to some good music,” Mr. Israel said. “We really appreciate the support we’ve gotten from Eleanor Neubert and the Fair Committee who have worked with us in our efforts to bring acoustic music back to the Fair.”