All’s Fair

Tried and true, along with the brand-new, at the 2018 Ag Fair.

Standing two stories high, the sabretooth slide is the newest addition to the Ag Fair’s amusements. Courtesy Peter Cushing.

Cows in the barn, cotton candy, and carnival rides are classic fair attractions, but there’s always room for something new. Around the fairgrounds, educational experiences are expanding, from the new waste-management system (see story on page 12) to the fiber tent and the barn. Kim Darcy of the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center will organize free events for kids at the end of the show ring near the barn, with three-legged races, egg and spoon races, sack races, corn husking, and more.

Inside the barn, there’s a new display where the animals have more room to move around, as they would in a traditional farmyard. The chickens will be free to wander there, and in other good news for poultry, state inspectors are testing for diseases at their home farms, rather than gathering all the potentially infected flocks together. Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn set this change in motion by contacting Congressman Bill Keating. Keating’s representative got in touch with the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, who made this common-sense change to their regulations and procedures earlier this year.

Melanie Brundage of Douglas will run the fair’s ox pull and demonstration for the first time. Brundage is a longtime ox-pull participant who lived on the Vineyard in the 1980s. On Thursday morning, she’s introducing a new demonstration of the tasks that working cattle used to do, and continue to do on small farms. Farmers and their cattle will be hauling, going through obstacle courses, and possibly plowing. Brundage is hoping to offer some hands-on experiences with the cattle, and will encourage questions.

In what might be considered a throwback to forgotten fair traditions, there’s a new Strongman Contest on Saturday, with divisions for high school boys, high school girls, men’s and women’s opens, and a masters class for ages 45 and up. Events will include a log press, yolk squat, deadlift, kettlebell toss, dumbbell single-arm press, and a medley of sandbag carry, farmer’s carry, and keg carry. Each event will be altered depending on the number of contestants and their skill levels. Jeff Scheller and Scott Savoie will host the event. Scheller is a personal trainer on the Island, and works closely with MVRHS sports programs. Savoie is a strength and conditioning coach at Vineyard Complementary Medicine, and a part-time strongman.

Cushing Amusements has made the fair fun for 25 years in a row, and will continue to provide entertainment and excitement for the whole family. A new inflatable slide called Sabretooth will be a main feature of this year’s fair. The giant inflatable tiger stands almost two stories high, and is great fun for kids. Larry Cushing, owner of Cushing Amusements, said every year they try to bring a new ride or game to the fair. Cushing said there may also be a new Sizzler ride, replacing the old Scrambler, but did not say for certain.

The fair has a new website with online entry forms, volunteer signup, and more. In the hall, there’s also a new special award in honor of Rosalie Powell for “the most inspired, well-executed hooked piece.”

Outside, the stage has moved to a new location behind the booths, with a shade tent for the audience. There are also shade tents over the bleachers by the show rings. On the stage, new-to-the-fair performers include nationally acclaimed indie-soul band Dwight & Nicole, who will headline Thursday night. The Era of Good Feelings, whose members are all local high school students, will play on Thursday morning. Singer-songwriter Neil Howl takes the stage on Friday morning, and Electric Pie plays on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, new acts include the Convertibles, a band whose repertoire includes jazz standards and classic rock. Many other musicians are returning to the stage for another fair.

Finally, if you would like to make your musical debut at the fair, the old Acoustic Corner will be an open Musicians’ Corner this year, an open-mic venue available to all when the Pulling Ring isn’t in use for other events.

After all of that, if you’ve worked up an appetite, be sure to explore the booth area, where several new food options are available, including a booth by Lucky Hank’s restaurant, a fresh local tomato sandwich booth, gourmet popsicles, and more.