Fair food can be a dangerous grease trap if you’re not careful. We get pretty lucky with our Ag Fair fare, compared to most other fairs’ fare. Though the Ag Fair has its share of fried chicken and funnel cakes, the food stands this year were good at balancing the gooey classics with some interesting cuisine, and worth the year-long wait.
The Ag Fair, with all its philosophies of tradition and community support, doesn’t stop short at the food court. Many of the stands are run by local groups, such as the fan favorite West Tisbury Firefighter’s Burger Booth, whose firemen grill burgers while wives and daughters run the counter, and Touchdown Tempura, whose proceeds go to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s football team. Other locals made appearances from Island Children’s School, the airport Food Truck, which runs the popular Loco Taco stand, and a Raw Bar, which sold Oysters from Katama. It’s pretty funky for a county fair, but I guess that’s how they do it in West Tisbury.
Like a moth, I started after the brightest booth. The Floaters booth was at the end of a line of food offerings, with its string lights and hanging fruit. It’s been a popular site for fairgoers over the last few years, since friends Adam Petkus, Mike Shea, and Evan Hammond started it in college as a way to make a few extra bucks. That was back in 2009, when it was just a tent, becoming sturdier as years went on. As a carpenter, Adam made the current booth himself from recycled wood. His sister painted signs that cover the sides. “Being here brings me back to when I was 12 years old,” he says, recalling his early days at the Fair. Back then, he was just a trash collector, now he’s got his own booth.
Adam talks about improving every year, in terms of ingredients, too. They started with A&W root beer their first year, “the cheapest stuff,” he says. The next year, they added fresh fruit. This year, he’s more locally sourced, providing cold brew from Chilmark Coffee Co. and kegs of root beer from Maine. Every year, they donate the leftover fruit to Windermere. They also started a men’s softball team, which they named the Floaters as a tribute to the booth.
“It’s about being part of the community effort,” Adam said. He talks about trying to get more locally based stands at the Fair that provide some interesting options with funky style like the Floaters booth. They offer a popular espresso float, a scoop of ice cream drowned in espresso served with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and cinnamon. They’re probably most well-known for their free raffle, which anyone can enter when purchasing a float, to win free root beer floats for life.
Friday was rainy, so it was perfect for cruising the shops. No lines. The thing is, grease isn’t all bad. I’m from the south and I grew up on comfort food, so I was excited for the fried chicken. There’s one thing I needed to find that I know I can only get once a year, and that was the funnel cakes. On this one, it wasn’t a local who helped me out. The Huff family came from as far as Pennsylvania to sell kettle corn and funnel cakes, which they’ve provided at the Fair for the last four years.
The food culture at the Ag Fair keeps providing new and fun flavors, with returning classics improving their look and sourcing each year. I can’t wait until next year.