West Tisbury parade will honor, introduce The Fair

The Ferris wheel has announced the Fair for decades, whether at the Grange or the new Ag Hall — the start and the finish of the parade coming up on Tuesday. — File photo by Lynn Christoffers

Fair anticipation gets a head start Tuesday August 16 with a colorful parade through the heart of West Tisbury. The first-ever Fair Parade will celebrate the popular summer event’s 150th anniversary with floats, animals, music, and more.

“I’m excited about it,” Fair manager Eleanor Neubert said with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye. “I think we’re all excited about it. It’s a first, and I think it will be fun.”

Despite overseeing the annual Fair for 27 years, Ms. Neubert has not lost her enthusiasm and delight about every part of it, from the traditional features to the newest highlights.

“We thought it would be a wonderful way to get some advance excitement about the 150th Fair,” said Nancy-Alyce Abbott, a member of the Fair Committee who is in charge of the parade. “We’ve been working for two years to make this 150th Fair something special and different.”

Committee members viewed parades at off-Island fairs and thought a parade would be a wonderful addition to this milestone Vineyard event, she said. Tuesday was picked because opening day, Thursday August 18, is too busy with judging and activities, Ms. Abbott said, and Wednesday is a flurry of incoming entries and last-minute preparations.

Stepping off at 5 pm from the historic Grange, home to the Fair for many decades, the festive procession will turn left at the First Congregational Church. Floats and marchers — both two- and four-footed — will proceed along Music Street and Panhandle Road to the Fairgrounds at the new Ag Hall. Participants will pause before a reviewing stand to be greeted and acknowledged by the Fair Committee and other dignitaries.

Like the 150th Fair itself, the parade’s theme will be “Timeless Traditions.” The emphasis will be on Island agriculture, the event’s main focus especially in its earliest days. Whiting’s, Flat Point, and Native Earth are among the local farms placing floats in the parade. The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society itself will launch a float as will Lobb and Whiting Tree Farm, the Farm Institute, the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, and the West Tisbury Library.

Veteran farmer and retired Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society president Elisha Smith will ride in style, his presence honoring his years of work on the farm and with the society, as well as the solid and significant tradition of local agriculture.

Ms. Neubert said the entire Fair Committee is saddened by the recent deaths of longtime Fair stalwarts Ozzie Fischer, another former Ag Society president, and Jane Newhall, both of whom were scheduled to ride in the Parade to highlight their lifelong dedication and participation. “But we are all grateful that Elisha is still with us and will be part of this important celebration,” she said.

Count on seeing West Tisbury Fire Department volunteers atop a shiny truck and Dr. Dave Tuminaro in his veterinarian-mobile. Veterans will join in along with Island selectmen and the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department color guard; there will be vintage vehicles, and even an antique Calliope with its nostalgic sound. The Vineyard Haven Town Band will march and serenade viewers along the route, recalling long-ago times when they played daily throughout the Fair.

Planners worked closely with the West Tisbury Police Department to ensure that the parade participants and viewers will be safe while minimizing inconvenience to motorists. After dismissing State Road parading as too disruptive to traffic, the group settled on the Music Street/Panhandle Road route.

“It is an historic part of town and it fits very nicely with the theme of the Fair, ‘Timeless Traditions,'” said Ms. Abbott.

Fair Parade, Tuesday, August 16, begins at 5 pm, the Grange, State Road, West Tisbury. For more information call the Agricultural Hall, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 12 noon, 508-693-9549.