From the August 18, 1972 edition of the Vineyard Gazette, by Joseph Chase Allen:
When, half a year ago or more, the report of the annual meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society was carried in the Gazette and it stated that Colbert’s Carnival would not be invited to return this year, there were certain old-timers who smiled in satisfaction. Not that they held anything against carnivals, which certainly entertain the youngsters, but they thought that this year, at least, there would be an absence of the hoopla and canned band music that has shaken the ancient echoes around the fairgrounds for several years and that, once more, the fair would return to its traditional Old Home Week attitude and atmosphere.
The reason given in the society’s report for not having Colbert’s show return seemed reasonable enough — that local people wanted the space for their own booths and projects, having been badly crowded since the carnival came, with the latter obtaining a few yards more space each year.
But it was not to be so. Colbert’s Carnival was not there yesterday, but Larry Cushing’s Carnival of Wilmington was, and its rides, booths and vans the size of boxcars took up more space than Colbert ever had, and, if one heard right, their canned music included the same old time favorite of Colbert’s, Sioux City Sue.
The booths of local interest did indeed occupy a sort of midway along the west side of the grounds, and perhaps there was ample space for those who desired it, for certainly there were no audible complaints, but there was no return to the old-time atmosphere outside the hall.
Inside, there were things worth even more than a second look, however. The antique booth, which had been set up and closely screened with poultry netting against any light-fingered gentry, was undoubtedly the finest one that antique exhibitors have ever arranged and displayed. The representation of the old parlor, for example, in an early Victorian style was not more crowded than it would have been in reality, and the items in it were all excellent.
Pictures, dolls, utensils, dishes of china, pewter and glass, a painting of the schooner Alice Wentworth, lamps and lanterns and a warming pan of polished brass caught the eye at once, and there were more.
Effects of the heavy rainfall early in the season were clearly revealed in the finest exhibit of vegetables that the fair has shown in many years. As one man observed, “We are swamped with vegetables!” And it was true. But after all, the exhibit of farm produce was one of the original purposes of the fair.
The same applied to the flowers which were shown in profusion by organizations and the young and old.
There was much jelly and jam and other foods. Many of these edibles were protected in closed closets where they were viewed through glass. This has not been done before, and there seemed no need, for stealing of such good things is rare indeed, and for some reason there never seem to be any files in the hall at fair time.
If the potatoes and onions in the vegetable exhibits would have gladdened the hearts of the old-timers, there were some animals at the cattle show which would have sent them into spasms of admiration. The stock show was admittedly small, but it was larger than it has been in some years. About 40 head of cattle were tied in the new sheds and four goats.
There was a string of noble milch cows, a few heifers and calves, all fine animals. One pair of bull calves from Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm will eventually be broken to the yoke. The Holstein steers of Leonard Athearn were handsome and well-trained animals, and the Durham steers of Robert Woodruff were stock catalogue types, “smooth as a mole and light-stepping as a deer.” Other steers, Herefords, from Herring Creek Farm, were also promising animals.
But the cattle show was stolen by the mature working oxen of Leonard Athearn. They were Holstein, but showing more than the traditional amount of black, perhaps because of a touch of Angus. These cattle, weighed a few days earlier, tipped the beam at 2,800 pounds each! Over two and a half tons of beef on the hoof, and trained as draft animals! These oxen came to the fair, drawing the traditional, high-wheeled oxcart that came to this country with the pioneers and continued in use as long as oxen were employed on the Island roads and farms.
The attendance promised to be heavy on the opening day yesterday, to judge from the queue at the ticket booth at 10:30. But viewed from any angle, it was not the sort of fair that is recalled by the older inhabitants. Those who looked for a place to sit and rest had to really look, and they remembered how the big veranda was once used for rest and relaxation.
Compiled by Alison Mead