The 153rd Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair was one for the books.
“Each of the last three days was up from last year,” said fair manager Eleanor Neubert on Sunday evening as the fair wound down on its fourth and final day. Total attendance this year was 30,221, about the same as last year which was one of the most heavily attended fairs in history.
On Saturday the firemen’s parking lot behind the midway closed for more than an hour because it was full.
“Everywhere you looked, there was a good crowd,” Mrs. Neubert said.
In the exhibit hall, people craned their necks upward to study the patchwork quilts hung from sturdy barn beams, stooped low to see whose giant white pumpkins those were (fair mainstay Paul Jackson), and stepped back to take in the full effect of Ghost Island Farm’s elaborate vegetable display. They played Jim Feiner’s Recycle-o-Phone, which made futuristic-sounding echoes, and jotted fair memories in the notebook left just inside the entrance. “I’m so hungry,” said one left on the final day of the fair.
“Aye yi yi, you almost got a bath,” a dad said to his son as he picked up two overflowing root beer floats from the counter of Floaters’ booth. Floaters, now in its fifth year, earned another green Best Food Booth ribbon, while the African crafts tent across the way was tops in Non-Food Booths.
At night on the midway lines were long — “Too big,” one youngster declared of the wait for the Sizzler — but people waited anyway, queuing for the Gravitron’s centrifuge and the Zipper’s flips. It was easy to get lost in the crowd, and at least one child temporarily misplaced his parents.
By day there were corn husking, oyster shucking, and skillet tossing competitions. Vineyarder Maggie Riseborough was tops in the latter, with an impressive throw of 59 feet, seven inches. On Sunday there seemed to be as many dogs as people on the grounds as canines and their owners waited for their turn in the dog show. A black Belgian shepherd named Tashtego was Best in Show.
Some dogs, though, were working.
“It’s a wiggler,” Andy Rice said, clipping long brown locks from one of his sheep, which flopped on the shearing mat. From her nearby pen his border collie Meg barked, anxious to help. Mr. Rice and Meg, who made the trip down from Vermont, gave herding demonstrations throughout the fair, with Meg effortlessly maneuvering around a chatty flock of ducks.
Displays of animal might took place throughout the fair, with the oxen pull on Thursday and the draft horse pull Friday. But on Saturday machine power and manpower were in the spotlight: tractors rumbled at the antique tractor pull and chain saws buzzed in the adjacent show ring, where lumberjacks and lumberjills tested their skills.
A sow named Olivia and her seven piglets, owned by Fred Fisher, commanded everyone’s attention. The Rooney family of West Tisbury brought home ribbons of every color for their fluffy rabbit brood. Chili, a sheep best known for his wintertime escape antics, earned a blue ribbon for his new owner Brian Athearn, of Run Amok Farm in Vineyard Haven.
On Sunday afternoon Mr. Athearn and his family loaded Chili and the rest of the flock into a trailer, then returned to the barn for their geese, which honked in protest as they were moved.
At 7 p.m. Mrs. Neubert announced the close of the fair. “Thank you, and good night,” she said over the loudspeaker, after reminding fairgoers of the dates for the 2015 event.
Reporting the numbers on Monday, Mrs. Neubert said like attendance, fair entries ran about the same as last year. The total number of entries was 3,897, with 3,691 hall entries and 206 barn entries.