There was record turnout at the start of the 143rd annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair, which began yesterday. Overcast skies kept people away from the beach, so they came to the fair instead, said Eleanor Neubert, fair manager.
Yesterday's opening day was full of fun and a few glitches. The ever popular Ferris wheel, which gives riders a skyline view of the fairgrounds, broke down in the first hours of the fair. The apparatus had to be hand cranked so riders could get off. "They've ordered a part," said Ms. Neubert.
Oxen team members Gus and Mike were winners in yesterday's ox pull. Noah Lewis, 15, of North Stonington, Conn., led the two to a fair record. The oxen pulled 9,400 pounds yesterday afternoon, 1,200 pounds more than last year, and last year was a record.
Ms. Neubert said this year is a big year for oxen. A dozen teams are participating in the fair competitions.
Bob Shaw of Falmouth arrived yesterday afternoon with three shire horses. These are among the largest of all horse breeds. They will be a big part of this weekend's four-day fair. Mr. Shaw said: "I like this fair. It is better than the Barnstable County fair and as good as the Osterville village festival," he said. "It is the people and the scenery" who make the event, Mr. Shaw said. His horses will be entered in the horse pull contest.
This is Ms. Neubert 21st year of being involved in running the fair. "There are more rides for the kids and more local booths," she said. The Round Up, a favorite carnival ride, is back. The pink device spins its patrons inside a cage, and then centrifugal force pins them while the device tilts. You sort of have to be there.
This year is a first appearance for the Blue Hill Brass Quintet from Brunswick, Me. The trumpet, trombone and tuba ensemble wandered across the fairgrounds playing John Phillip Souza tunes. Ms. Neubert said that society member Jim Athearn heard them at a fair in Maine. She invited them to come to the Island to do the same.
In the society barn, Kathy Lobb, hall manager, walked around carrying labels and stickers. Thousands of items had been entered in the competition from the best pie to the biggest zucchini. But this has not been a good year for red ripening tomatoes, she said. "There were a lot of green tomatoes entered this year."
On the other hand, it seems to have been a gangbusters season for growing beets. Pimpneymouse Farm won a blue ribbon with a beet almost as big as a baseball.
Judges were sympathetic to Norma Holmes of Edgartown. The largest zucchini is a highly competitive part of the vegetable competition. Earlier in the week, Ms. Holmes registered in the fair and claimed she had the biggest zucchini of all. And there were a few who agreed. To get the most of the growing vegetable she left it growing in her garden to the last possible minute. But on Wednesday morning when she went out to pick her prize vegetable, said Mrs. Lobb, she found that a deer had eaten most of it. Pointing to remnants of the giant zucchini plant on the plate, Mrs. Lobb said sympathetic judges gave the grower an honorable mention. It's been suggested that next year there might be a category for plants and vegetables partially consumed by deer on the night before the fair.
This was a great year for quilts. Mrs. Lobb said there were six large quilts entered in the judging. They all hang overhead, adding color to the hall. She said the entries were painstakingly positioned to draw the favor of the judges.
Clover, a beloved brown Swiss cow from West Tisbury that died last March at the age of 19, was given a tribute in the animal barn. A large poster hung inside showing pictures of the cow, which for years was an entrant in the fair.
Looking ahead, here are some of the highlights of the weekend at the agricultural fair:
Friday, August 20
The focus of today's events is the fair barn and the fields beside it. Judging of poultry and rabbits takes place in the barn at 10 a.m., and the Dale Perkins Horse Show begins in the ring at 11 a.m. Judging of sheep, llamas and alpacas takes place at 11:30 a.m., and the popular draft horse pulling contest begins at 1 p.m.
There will be music by the Blue Strangers on the fair stage beginning at 4 p.m., and the Sting Rays will play from 7 to 9. The annual clam and oyster shucking contest takes place at 4 p.m. The hall with its exhibits closes at 10 p.m.; the fairgrounds remain open until 11.
Saturday, August 21
The Dale Perkins Horse Show continues in the ring at 11 a.m. on Saturday, and the 28th annual Woodsmens Contest, including a loud and colorful chainsaw sculpture demonstration, is set for 1 p.m. Carly Goodwin provides musical entertainment on the fair stage from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and John Barleycorn and the Social Drinkers take over from 8 to 9:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., Island Gymnastics will give a live demonstration on the lawns of the fair. The hall closes at 10 p.m. and the fairgrounds remain open until 11.
Sunday, August 22
The final day of the fair features the draft horse show at 10 a.m. and, for the first time on Sunday, the dog show, featuring breeds followed by obedience competition and canine good citizens certification, begins at 10:30 a.m. The women's skillet throw competition begins at 3 p.m. in the horse pull ring, while onstage, a hip-hop demonstration is planned. Another Roadside Attraction will provide live music from the fair stage from 5:30 to 7 p.m., when the fairgrounds will close.