New on Saturday: Pulling for them at the fair


Saturday: History was made Saturday at the fair. Jane Bollin of Sandwich set a new record for the tractor pull in the over-6,000-pounds category, pulling 14,550 pounds 61 inches, nudging out her competition, Melanie Flanders of Menemsha, who had already broken the record with her 45-inch pull.

“It’s so exciting!” Bollin told the Times, catching her breath after her victory. Skip Bailey, who had more tractors than riders, personally invited Bollin and Flanders to the fair to ride his tractors in the competition. Bollin, who has been coming to the fair for 11 years, said she’s won many times before, but on a much smaller tractor. Pointing to Skip’s tractors, she said, “Those are beasts.”

On an antique John Deer Model A tractor, Vineyard Havener Shane Metters used a bucking method — one that made it look like he rode a mechanical bull — to shimmy about 12,000 pounds of cement slabs forward far enough to take the blue ribbon in the 4,000-pound tractor class. Metters went on to take a second-place ribbon in the 5,000-pound tractor class.

“Some people like to go to the beach,” he said. “I like to bounce around on a tractor. I’m a gearhead and a wrench monkey.”

The smell of smoky barbecue and buttered corn filled the air by the food trucks, where “Buffalo Bill” White can always be found grilling up racks of ribs. White, who lives in Vermont, has been coming to the Ag Fair for 28 years.

“It’s like a reunion,” he said, wincing from the heavy smoke off the grill. White travels to fairs all over the East Coast with his concession stand. “This one is special, though. It’s the Island.”

Over by the games and rides, Emily Lawyer, 10, of West Tisbury was spending her afternoon teaching kids how to play the high striker game. Emily’s grandma owns Cushing Amusements, she said, so she’s a fair vet who knows the ins and outs of carnival games.

“It’s fun to teach the kids,” Emily said. “I get to help, and that’s a good part of life. It brings people joy.”

As Maya Haley Carter, 5, from Cape Town, South Africa, struggled to lift the mallet, bringing it down too gently, Emily threw the dinger up the slot and made the bell ding. Maya walked alway happy, with a prize.


Friday: Despite the heat, crowds of people turned out for day two of the Ag Fair. The dining area was packed with people sitting at picnic tables enjoying some of the fair’s many culinary options — Jamaican food from Chef Deon, ice cream from Popcycle, and smoothies from Blissed Out, to name a few.

Amanda Price and her daughters Rebekah and Sarah were in line waiting for the Ferris wheel. This is the second Ag Fair that Price and her daughters have been to, and it hasn’t disappointed. Rebekah and Sarah both said the jumbo slide was “probably” their favorite, but both were very much looking forward to riding the Ferris wheel with their mother.

Price said her favorite part of the fair is watching her daughters on the rides. “I love watching them have fun,” she said.

Another popular ride for the younger crowd was a spinning car ride. Doug Kant was waiting for his granddaughter and her friend as they spun around in the cars. Kant said this was his family’s favorite part of the summer.

This year Kant got lucky on the ring toss game. “It’s been five years running,” he said of trying to secure a ring on one of the bottles. For his victory, Kant won a giant stuffed unicorn. The only downside, Kant said, was going to be bringing it back on the plane home: “We’re going to have to buy another seat going back to California.”

It wasn’t just kids and their parents enjoying the festivities. Peg Thornton used to live in Vineyard Haven, and has been coming to the fair for a long time. Now Thornton lives in Boston, but makes sure she always has time each summer to come to the fair.

“I love the arts and crafts piece the most. Especially for the kids,” Thornton said.

Thornton said she used to enter items into the fair — she came in third place one year for her homegrown tomatoes.

If you like rides, Friday night is the time to go. Bracelets go on sale at 5 pm for $30 and give unlimited rides between 6 and 10 pm.

Thursday: As the clock neared 10 am on opening day of the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair, ticket takers prepared for the onslaught of frenetic fairgoers that was soon to come.

At 9:45 am, children peered over the white picket fence in front of the Ag Hall to catch a glimpse of the swirling colors of the merry-go-round.

By 9:50 am, empty fields with signs reading “Fair parking $10” began to fill with excited visitors.

As the entrances on either side of the fair opened, families were pulled in different directions by a multitude of enticing scents, sounds, and sights. “I want to see the animals, Mommy,” said a young boy wearing overalls as he persistently tugged on his mother’s hand. “Not yet, Jordan, we are going to get snacks first, doesn’t that sound good?”

The bleating of sheep in the barn could be heard all the way from the West Tisbury Firefighters Burger Booth. The roosters battled with the sheep to see who could be louder and draw more attention.

Competing popsicle stands prompted passing fairgoers to freeze in their tracks — a welcome cool-down on a blaring hot August day. From tempura to tacos, from health food to belch food, satisfaction could be found at every corner.

A refreshing breeze blew through the fairgrounds as oxen pulled logs and stoneboats alongside their teamsters shouting “gee” and “haw” to direct the powerful animals.

Chip and Dale, two Brown Swiss oxen, ambled lazily around the pen as they flicked at flies with their tails. Another pair of oxen named Bruin and Gris grunted in annoyance with the intense sun. Their owner, Melanie Brundage, told spectators that the cows get lethargic when they are hot and tired (don’t we all).

As the gentle giants raised barn frames and pulled plows to impress the masses, Robinson’s famous Racing Pigs were hot to trot. At 11:30 am, the races were underway. “Boots and Saddles” played over the speakers, and just like that, four little piggies ran all the way home in order to secure the first-place prize of one whole Oreo cookie.

Brittany Spareribs won the first race in an impressive display of speed and control, but Lindsay Slowham gave the crowd a good show as well.