As a four-piece horn band serenaded the crowd to the tune of America the Beautiful yesterday morning, kids hurried over to the booth to buy ride tickets, parents applied sunscreen and food vendors began to fire up the grills. With a clear blue sky backdrop, the 149th annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society fair opened for fun times and long-lasting memories.
Although judging was still taking place in the morning, and will continue well into the next few days, the barns holding pigs, goats, horses, chickens and other livestock were swarming with fair-goers. Nip ’n Tuck Farm took first place for cattle, North Tabor Farm for goats, and eighth grader Mia Arenburg won the blue ribbon for her four-year-old miniature mare pony.
“I feel good,” Mia said after showing her horse Coco Puff. She and her mom, Kris Arenburg, of Frosty Hollow Farm had just put Coco Puff back into her stall. “We’ve been up here since the beginning,” Ms. Arenburg said. “We always take part in the fair as much as possible.”
Outside the barn, a large crowd gathered around a five-month-old Dutch Belted Galloway named May. When May mooed at the crowd, one little girl said, “No, it’s May, not moo!”
The fiber tent had 10 different exhibitors, many with goats and of course llamas, who were making their peculiar high-pitched noise. One woman said to her friend, “Hey, you make that sound.” The friend agreed.
“We’re off to a very smooth start,” fair manager Eleanor Neubert said, checking on the animals in the barn. “It’s a beautiful day.”
And it was. Rides opened at 11 a.m. and soon squeals of excitement floated across the fair grounds from the top of the Ferris wheel; lines began to form for the super high slide and kids on the chair swing ride let their arms hang out like wings in the warm morning air.
The smell of barbecue sauce mingled with the sweet smell of hay. Lunchtime meant egg rolls, tempura, or maybe a hamburger cooked by a member of the West Tisbury fire department — or new to this year’s fair, a pork sandwich.
Best friends Tim Laursen and Everett Whiting raised 18 pigs on-Island just for their fair booth this year. They began building their smoker back in June. Yesterday they were serving roasted pork sandwiches, Morning Glory Farm tri-potato salad, Flat Point Farm tomato salad and fresh lemon-verbena mint iced tea. There were smiles all around.
“This is a pig roast and that means a party,” Mr. Laursen said before serving up sandwiches. “We’ll be putting pigs on all day. We started the fire at 12 a.m. and put the pigs on at 3 a.m. [Thursday].” The pigs were slaughtered just five days ago; Mr. Laursen said by today they will be serving chicken from the Good Farm as well. Full dinner plates will also be available.
Some people were patient and waited at picnic tables outside for the hall to open; others decided to sneak a peek at the back of the hall before it opened to the public. The quilts were hung, photographs decorated the walls, sunflowers were bending over from their height and jams glistened in the morning sun. The front room of the hall, opened in the morning, displayed a best-in-show bouquet of flowers from Sue Silva, as well as wheelbarrows displaying summer’s bounty and bonsai trees down the center of the room.
Others watched the ox pull in the main ring before venturing into the hall to see the winning ribbons. Judge Steve Devan looked on as the oxen pairs maneuvered through cones and standing logs to see who would have not only the best time but the best match.
“You judge for the teamwork, ability, them being a good match together and muscle strength,” the three-time ag fair judge said outside the ring. He was wearing a cow-print baseball hat and a tie covered with cows. “It’s hard to pick a winner, it’s pretty much subjective, but they work hard to prepare them.”
The oxen were divided into two classes, under 3,200 pounds and above, something Mr. Devan said made it easier for him to judge all 14 pairs. He explained that the yoke is attached to the pair, making it not so much a pull as a push. “I gauge on match of the pair and confirmation,” he added.
At 1 p.m. the pet show was set to start, and all ages gathered behind the main stage tent, ready to show their best friends to the crowd. Dogs, fish, cats, hamsters and other furry (and not so furry) friends were lined up. Two kittens played on a table, gearing up for show time.
But part of the fun of the fair isn’t so much the judging as it is the face painting, the henna tattoos, the ice cream dripping down your chin, the corn dog you might regret later on in the day, watching your kids play with a blowup air guitar, or maybe just sitting in the relief of the shade with a fresh lemonade in hand.
The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair opens today and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.