During the last hour of the 152nd Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair on Sunday, a drizzly rain began to patter the ground. The exhibit hall closed and the animals in the barn and fiber tent were loaded into their trailers. Someone played Taps on a bugle. But the midway remained open and active, and rides still zipped and zoomed, flashing their colorful lights. Fairgoers continued to roam the booth area, eating corn on the cob, burgers and cotton candy. The fair comes only once a year, after all, and it was only a little bit of rain.
“People didn’t want to go home,” fair manager Eleanor Neubert said on Monday morning as those who entered exhibits stopped by the Agricultural Hall one last time to pick up their entries and, in many cases, a ribbon or two.
Some ribbons were picked up during the fair itself — Kara Shemeth of Edgartown won the top prize in the women’s skillet throw with her toss of 54 feet, 5 inches. Martha Scheffer of Edgartown had the longest throw of the day (55 feet in her age division), but fell short of Ms. Shemeth in the final championship round. Morning Glory Farm walked away with the blue ribbon in the first annual Tug-o-War, and a fluffy white Samoyed named Chara won Best in Show in the dog ring. Purple ribbons, like the one affixed to Kate Taylor’s reversible wampum necklace, denoted a Best in Show among the exhibits.
Other prizes were given out just for enjoying a cold drink: Ryan Cabral won free root beer floats for life courtesy Floater’s root beer stand. Tim Laursen and Everett Whiting of Local Smoke won the Best Food Booth award, and Jim Brooks of Island Trading Company earned Best Non-Food Booth. Mr. Brooks’s tropical straw hats were the fashion craze of this year’s fair. There was no word on whether Bill Murray or Marisa Tomei, both spotted (separately) at the fair on Friday, purchased one.
Concern arose last week that detour signs placed on South and State Roads might deter fairgoers. The signs were placed there to warn of a road closure near President Obama’s vacation home. Yet this year’s extravaganza was one for the books, Mrs. Neubert said. A total of 30,360 tickets were sold over the four-day affair — the second highest attendance in the history of the fair, and shy of breaking 2007’s record by only 20 tickets.
“[People] were up for the challenge of getting here,” Mrs. Neubert said. The fair staff received permission to place signs at key intersections as a reminder that no matter the occasion, all roads lead to the fair.
Fair staff kept up a lively virtual presence as well. Last year, the fair’s Facebook page won an award at the annual Massachusetts fair convention in Fitchburg, and this year social media whiz Eve Heyman added Instagram and Twitter to the lineup, posting updates throughout the day and inviting fairgoers to share their own memories.
“It definitely caught on this year,” Mrs. Heyman said.
At the far end of the livestock barn, kids and adults alike leaned over a short metal fence to snap — and then share — photos of the youngest fair citizens. A litter of 10 piglets was born on the fair’s opening night. The piglets and their mother, owned by Fred Fisher of Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm, received a special award from the state of Massachusetts.
Having newborn piglets at the fair “was a first, certainly to my knowledge,” Mrs. Neubert said. In 2009 and 2010, baby calves were born in the barn.
The fair has always been welcoming to the younger set, and this year was no exception: staffers worked to add more free activities for kids, including sack races, pony rides courtesy the Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council, and a visit from Buddy the Clown, who traversed the grounds riding in his green bubble car and making balloon hats. Much like the Pied Piper, kids followed him wherever he went. Corn husking contests and vegetable car races were also well attended, and Robinson’s Racing Pigs drew consistently large crowds.
Wandering bards — everyone from the Blue Hills Brass Quartet to the Vineyard Sound — kept fairgoers tapping their toes, and each night a different band — The Daytrippers, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Serendipity, Entrain and Seanote — took the stage. The popular Acoustic Corner returned as well.
Police and fire departments, along with EMTs, provided increased yet low-key security, Mrs. Neubert said, while 25 adult staffers and more than 70 youngsters worked behind the scenes to make the fair the best it could be.
“It was one of the smoothest-running fairs that we’ve had,” Mrs. Neubert said. “I saw happy people everywhere.”
For more photos, see our gallery A Fair to Remember.