The time came to raise the frame. Dale McClure, John Packer, Andrew Woodruff, Tucker Hubbell and many more volunteers stood at the ready. With their full weight behind it, the heavy structure began to rise slowly as volunteers with long poles waited for the right moment to thrust teeth into the rising beams.
It was Nov. 3, 1994, and the new Agricultural Hall barn was being constructed. Hundreds of volunteers turned out for the construction on Panhandle Road in West Tisbury.
“Wait! The right side is going faster than the left side,” the Gazette account detailed. “Hurry,” some pole bearers urged, “This is heavy.” The professional builders moved in to secure the frame with braces and in the quiet of a fall day, a barn rose.
It was heralded as a “testament to all that is good and special” about the Island community.
The wood came from a dairy barn in New Hampshire, originally built in 1905. A crew of 30 Vineyarders traveled to Woodsville, N.H., to dismantle the barn, bring it back to the Island and reassemble it at the new fair grounds. The barn is made entirely of wood, right down to its pegs.
“The raising of this great old barn represents a proud moment not only for the century old agricultural society but also for the entire citizenry of the Vineyard,” a Gazette editorial said in the days following the great barn raising.
A “festival of community spirit” followed that Sunday night at 5 p.m. with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish and an impromptu table made from sheets of plywood held up desserts, cider, coffee and hot chocolate. The first Barn Raisers' Ball was under way.
This Saturday, Nov. 2, marks the 20th annual Barn Raisers' Ball and just like at the first one, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish will lay down the tunes. The event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. Bring a dessert to share. Beverages will be provided.
The hall has been home to the fair, festivals, weddings, potlucks, celebrations, and with its cathedral-like ceilings has always been a home for the Island community. The Barn Raisers' Ball celebrates this spirit.