The art in the hall, the pigs in the barn, and the woodsmen’s contest are perennial favorites at the fair, but there’s always something new to discover, too. This year brings a new Ferris wheel, mounted archery, an expansion of last year’s “Greening the Fair” efforts, new music, and many new food booths.
The new Italian Ferris wheel stands right at the main entrance, in front of the hall. It’s taller and brighter than the old one, and only the third of its kind in this country. “It’s quite a light show when you watch the ride,” says Larry Cushing of Cushing Amusements. Four people can ride in each of the 16 gondolas, a much larger capacity than the old wheel, along with bigger views from the top.
In the show ring, you’ll be able to watch mounted archery on Friday and Saturday at noon and at 2 pm. The Amity Island Horse Archers got started about two years ago, after Annie Parsons approached Misty Meadows about doing classes there. Although it’s a relatively new club, they’ve enjoyed success in off-Island competitions. “Anybody can do it, any horse can do it,” Parsons says. “The community is really inclusive and friendly and helpful. It’s all people enjoying themselves, no matter what level you’re at.”
The Agricultural Society’s merchandise booth has expanded. In addition to T shirts and fair posters, they’re selling reusable cups, water bottles, and environmentally friendly tote bags. More filling stations for water bottles have been added, and a new award will recognize the greenest booth. Environmental education efforts continue with the Buzzards Bay Coalition returning for a second year, and there’s a new educational booth from New England Water Environment Association. You’ll find them near Nipsy, the Sengekontacket shark, a 6-foot-tall wire and papier-mâché construction decorated with trash from the beach.
You’ll want a shark-size appetite to enjoy all the new foods at this year’s fair — many of them quite healthy — but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of deep-fried food, too. Frankie’s Flatbreads are delicious and nutrient-dense gluten-free flatbreads that explore the immense range of Chef Kyleen Keenan’s plant-based palate. Nearby, the Drink Shack is offering a range of iced teas, coffee, and more. The Edgartown restaurant Rockfish will have a booth for the first time, and John McCormick will be baking potatoes in a pizza oven and serving them with a variety of toppings. Sunshine and Coconuts will dish up açaí bowls and blend healthy smoothies. You won’t be able to miss Mermaid Farm’s gleaming Airstream kitchen trailer, with fried chicken, beef pockets, salads, side dishes, and more. The Mermaid Farm trailer will also be the place to get breakfast at the fair this year — the West Tisbury Fire Department volunteers are stepping down from that role, but they’re still making burgers and hot dogs. You’ll also still find tempura, but with a behind-the-scenes change — the booth will be run by Poppie’s (which is also selling french fries and fried dough in other booths) instead of the Touchdown Club.
While you’re enjoying all that food, you can check out some new music in the shade. Ukes at the fair, on Thursday afternoon, may include as many as 50 ukulele players. On Friday afternoon, Open Mic with Andy Herr will showcase some of the regulars from the year-round open mic nights at Island Music in Vineyard Haven. That evening, Annie Cook’s new band, the Sixes, brings together six “unusual suspects” for an all-ages dance party, playing some classic cover songs. “We’re trying to get the kids out to dance,” Cook says. “It’s a toddler mosh pit.” The final show on the music stage, on Sunday afternoon, is the Holy Rock & Roll Revival, with Americana, rock, and dance music with spirit, soul, and grit by the Brothers McMahon, Sean and Griffin, with their “honorary cousin” Ted McInnes on drums.
The four days of the fair promise something for everyone, from morning until night. There’s plenty to eat, lots to do, and friends to meet as you take in the sights. Make sure to enjoy something new along with the old!