The grounds of the Agricultural Society are still mostly empty save for a few carnival trailers that trickled in Wednesday morning, along with the beginnings of the popular West Tisbury firemen’s burger stand.

But in the coming days rides will arrive from off-Island along with fried dough stands and amiable livestock. The 161st edition of the Agricultural Fair takes place Thursday, August 17 through Sunday, August 20. Agricultural Society executive director Lauren Lynch said she hopes to make it onto the midway this year.

“Last year, things were so busy I was afraid to leave the office,” she said on Wednesday while coordinating fair entries as well as the Farmers’ Market.

Her six-year-old son Teddy isn’t taking any excuses this season, and is looking to help his mother out.

Getting a head start on the fun. — Jeanna Shepard

“Why every time there’s the fair you stay inside while we do all the fun stuff?” Teddy recently asked his mother.

The “fun stuff” includes four days of rides, food, competitions in hundreds of categories — from best pie to tallest sunflower — as well as agrarian offerings of all kinds.

Ms. Lynch said last year’s fair marked a “return to form” after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This year is about strengthening what we’ve done,” she said.

Chickens will be back in full force this summer after a year hiatus — having been tested for avian flu earlier this year. Fire-dancing with Miss Molly will also return — as long as Ms. Lynch secures a fire permit.

Pig-riding, however, remains on the chopping block after organizers canceled the event due to Covid concerns several years prior.

“People love it, so we’d like to see if it can come back,” Ms. Lynch said.

All roads lead to the fair.

Inside the wood-paneled hall, deputy hall manager Susanne Cronin had just finished organizing hundreds of blue ribbons. She’s been attending the fair since 1987, when it took place at the Grange Hall.

“It’s next to Christmas for me,” she said. “Like all of us [organizers], we just live for the fair.”

Planning begins in October, when organizers from the Agricultural Society meet for a debrief and begin reserving slots on the Steamship Authority ferry. This year, there were about 100 reservations total — 50 trailers for the rides and roughly 50 for off-Island livestock.

Event setup begins in earnest at the start of August, with organizers going

full throttle until cleanup the final day.

“It’s like childbirth,” Ms. Lynch said. “It’s coming no matter what.”

Chris Lyons, facilities and maintenance manager of the Agricultural Society, is one of the main people responsible for turning the hall and fields into the spectacle visitors know and love every year. On Wednesday, he was stationed near the entrance of the Ag Hall grounds, corralling a truck carrying an alligator-shaped choo-choo train into the dirt lot.

“Anything that needs to get done around here I have my hands in,” he said.

Mr. Lyons has lived on the Island for 30 years but only started working at the fair in 2017, when he became the event’s carpenter. He sees the fair as an important way to stay connected with the community. “I was talking to the president of the Agricultural Society [Brian Athearn] the other day, and we decided that we may not change the world, we may not change our country, we may not change our state, but we can positively affect our town,” he said. “The fair is one way we can make an impact.”