Ten Things We Love About the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair – including our Blue Ribbon Cherry Tomatoes!

If you don’t want to be kept awake by bloodcurdling screams three August nights in a row, you’d best not live directly across the street from the fairgrounds, as we do. If you don’t like fried dough, cute farm animals, antique tractors, or watching grown women throw skillets in the air, probably the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re like us and the idea of nonstop animal oogling and fair-food snarfing, combined with the chance to revel in a grand celebration of traditional crafts—from pickling and pie-baking and flower-arranging to sheep-shearing and wood-cutting and draft-horse pulling—you’d be pretty happy with the free four-day passes we got to the Fair this year. (All abutting neighbors get free tickets, an entirely effective antidote to listening to ride screams and merry-go-round music for four days! And I must say, not having to brave traffic, pay for parking, or pay an entrance fee really improves one’s attitude to a crowded event.)

Libby and Roy and I are shameless. We’ve been every day (and it’s not over yet). Our friend Katie Hutchison joined us for a day and a half, and together we covered a lot of ground. I thought it would be fun to let you know our very random and unofficial top ten (oops, turned out to be twelve) things we love about the Fair—this year, at least. And that’s not even including the cool parade the organizers added this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Fair. We enjoyed that last Tuesday night. The Fair itself began on Thursday.

1. The Oxen. I’ve been infatuated with these big beasts since the day I first met a pair at my farmer friend Liz Packer’s place in my early days on the Island. Raised in pairs as a team, these hard-working cattle pull heavy loads, including rocks, logs, and plows, and the Fair offers a chance for teams to compete against each other. This year, Libby made friends with a handsome white fellow (photo at top of blog), and we watched a little of the pulling competition (above).

2. The Hall. When the doors to the Agricultural Hall open around 2 pm on Thursday, it’s like Christmas. Everyone wants to know if Santa (aka The Judges) left a ribbon on his or her Fair entry—whether it’s a work of art, a carefully cultivated vegetable, a quilt, a flower arrangement, or a collection of eggs. This year, again we weren’t disappointed. Though we didn’t enter as many categories as last year, we took a blue ribbon for our red cherry tomatoes, and a red ribbon for both our green beans and onions (all in the commercial, or professional category. I still think there is much stiffer competition in the home-growers catgory!). We were psyched.

3. Root Beer Floats. Our favorite snack, hands-down, comes from The Floaters booth.

4. Goats. We all (Katie included) have a thing about goats. This one pictured here is a totatally cool Alpine dairy goat owned by Matthew Dix and Rebecca Miller of North Tabor Farm. I think she won a blue ribbon for her fine form.

5. The Rides. Watching them, that is. I am not a ride person, but I got a big kick out of watching Libby and Roy on the Octopus. From solid ground, with my camera.

6. Local Smoke. My favorite food booth by far. Locally raised pigs and chickens smoked by Island native Everett Whiting, served as killer sandwiches with bright, fresh slaw, just a bit of tangy sauce, and a side of corn and tomato salad. Awesome.

7. Chowing Down. I admit, we didn’t get every bite to eat from Local Smoke. We indulged in some pretty bad-for-you stuff, including veggie tempura, eggrolls, fries, and pork ribs (for Libby—her favorite). We also sampled fruit smoothies, candy apples, cupcakes, lemonade, and grilled corn on the cob (another Libby favorite). We didn’t all eat all of these things, and certainly not altogether, but it was a pig-out nonetheless.

8. Piglets and Baby Chicks. Libby and I could spend hours at the barn staring at the baby animals. (In fact, we’re going back for one more look a little later.) In particular, we noticed that a prize-winning hen had just hatched some baby chicks the other night, and we couldn’t take our eyes off them. And who doesn’t love piglets? An especially cute bunch of Gloucester Old Spots (and their mama), owned by Grey Barn farm, got our attention—and a few pats from Libby.

9. The Fiber Tent. None of us knit or spin wool or anything like that, but you can’t help but be inspired by the gorgeous colors and textures – and the folks who practive this art – when you walk through this arena. Of course, there are live sheep and lambs  hanging around as well!

10. The Draft Horses. Like the oxen, these awe-inspiring horses (one breed is descended from horses believed to live 30,000 years ago, depicted in cave drawings) are also stunning to watch when they compete in a weight-pulling contest, too. (I think they even look impressive from behind, standing still…)

11. The Pet Show. Maybe our favorite event this year. (Yes, there’s a theme here. In our family, we’re all about the food and the animals!) We sat in front of the stage and watched nearly a full hour of this quirky event. Dr. Milk Bone, a 27-year veteran of the pet show, interviews small children (and sometimes adults) who present their family pets, from garden snakes and goats to shy cats and Happy Birthday-singing dogs (above), and coax them into performing tricks (or not, sometimes).

12. Family Time. When I told Libby I was writing up our favorite things about the Fair, she told me that number one on her list would be that it’s a fun way to spend time all together. There you have it. We might not be the healthiest eaters, but we do know how to have a good time!

7 thoughts on “Ten Things We Love About the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair – including our Blue Ribbon Cherry Tomatoes!”

  1. I have to confess I almost skipped reading this post, but I’m glad I didn’t! I have always enjoyed our state fair in Minnesota, but as the years have gone by, it’s gotten less and less agricultural. Your fair out there in the NE looks so quaint and truly more traditional — amazing. Love the oxen, love the buildings, love the Local Smoke… So much to love. Wish I could see it IRL! Congrats on your prize tomatoes.

  2. Thank you for sharing all this fun. I truly enjoyed photos & text, and wish more than ever to return to your beautiful island, where the people are so wonderful too! Did the Obamas attend the fair?

  3. Thanks for all of the fair fun. Next time, I simply must sample the deep-fried Twinkie or deep-fried Snickers bar. How did we manage to skip those?

  4. Hey Katie, that’s true…secretly I am curious, but even if I could work myself up to try one, I think I might not admit to it on the blog!!!

  5. I can personally attest that your green beans deserved a blue ribbon. What were those judges thinking? Great post.

  6. Hey Margo — you’re funny! Well, we were in good company, I’ll just say that, so I was happy to get second place! First place next year!

Comments are closed.