Tomorrow, Jennifer Gardner will be hurling heavy old skillets around her backyard. David Scott will unbolt the middle seat from his van to make room for Ruby and Maggie May, and Cathy Weiss will be elbow-deep in pastry flour with her game face on.

In case you didn't know, the fair is coming.

Ms. Gardner is toning the biceps to defend her skillet-tossing title. Mr. Scott is taking two pure-bred goats to the fair barn. And Ms. Weiss is gunning to bake a pie worthy of a blue ribbon.

The 143rd Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show & Fair opens Thursday morning, and while the rest of us are content to stroll the midway and exhibit halls, gnosh on hunks of fried dough, ride the ferris wheel and peel off ten-dollar bills for the kids, the serious ones are already rolling up their sleeves.

"I'm usually up at four or five o'clock on Thursday morning to make the pies. My house is a total hurricane and no one wants to come near me," said Ms. Weiss, a schoolteacher from West Tisbury who's been baking for fair judges for 15 years.

She's hauled in her share of ribbons and knows the secret to winning high marks from the tasters.

"It's chocolate. The judges loves chocolate. I go for the jugular," she said.

Judging starts at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Ms. Gardner, the reigning champion of the women's skillet throw, will have to wait until the last day of the fair - Sunday at 3 p.m. - to see if she can hold on to her cast-iron crown.

A veteran of the boot camp over at Vineyard Tennis Center Spa, she's confident of her upper body strength.

"I work out a lot," she said yesterday.

But the right gear is critical for training.

"You have to have friends with a lot of old cookware," she said. "I throw skillets with my kids. We broke three. They're easy to break."

The women toss regulation-sized steel skillets, weighing three pounds, 11 ounces. Last year, Ms. Gardner sent one flying almost 55 feet, beating every other woman in the competition.

The muscle required of such an entry is obvious. What's not so visible is the effort it takes to transport an animal to the fair.

"It's an experience," said Mr. Scott, a retired probation officer with a penchant for raising goats.

He's taking two of them to the Ag Hall Wednesday night.

"They go to the fair in the back of my van. I just open the door and they jump right in, but it can be chaotic," he said.

Fairgrounds aren't open to the public tomorrow night, but Mr. Scott said it's one of his favorite moments, watching the livestock arrive.

"Allen Whiting brings a lot of sheep, and his sheepdog herds them into the stalls," he said. "It's a barrel of fun. There's quite a camaraderie with the Wednesday night group up there."

Mr. Scott started raising his first goat when he was just 10 years old, growing up in Milton. "I kept her until I was in college," he said.

Now he's 70 years old, and goats are an integral part of his life. "They're fascinating animals. They're inquisitive, and unlike the stereotypes, fastidiously clean and great companions," he said.

But why bother loading them into the van for the trip across town?

"It's amazing how many kids don't even know what a goat is," Mr. Scott said. "It's an introduction to farm animals, and they're very popular."

Over at Blackwater Farm near Lambert's Cove, Debbie Farber is contemplating bringing in the calves, Hereford Jersey crosses, and a Belted Galloway.

"I'm looking forward to shampooing her because I think the white will come out really nice," she said Saturday afternoon while cleaning out horse stalls.

"They look so mellow from here, but try to catch one and forget it," she said.

Unlike Ms. Farber's cattle, three alpacas from West Tisbury pose little challenge when it comes to the annual four-day migration, maybe because they're lonely.

"They get to see some other alpacas," said Dr. Terry Kriedman, the obstetrician-gynecologist whose alter ego is a farmer.

Dr. Kriedman and her husband, Dr. Deurward Hughes, also tend a flock of 19 chickens. For them, the fair is a high point of the year.

"We couldn't have alpacas in Philadelphia," she said. "When we moved here and bought a house, we made sure it was zoned agricultural."

Quincy, Danny and Rusty are all headed for the fiber tent at the fair where they can mingle with other alpacas, standing in as live props while experts talk about spinning and weaving wool.

Dr. Kriedman's alpacas are shorn each year for their highly-prized soft wool, but she's no knitter.

"I leave my suturing to the office," said the doctor.

Fair participants appear to work as a team, more often as part of a family. The Thibaults, who spend half the year in Edgartown and the other half in Washington, D.C., are working on a special entry to commemorate the 60th year of bringing huckleberry pies, jams, jellies and photographs to the fair.

"The kids always plan their vacation to come at fair time," said Sally Thibault. "The fair is a constant for us. It doesn't change."

Without a doubt, the fair is a pivotal event in the lives of the Fisher family who run Nip 'N' Tuck Farm in West Tisbury.

Everybody lends a hand, said Betsy Fisher.

The boys - 15-year-old Brett and 17-year-old Shane - will lead the cows into the ring. Fred Fisher Jr. will take charge of corralling the various critters into trailers for the short ride up State Road.

"We have systems," said Mrs. Fisher.

But she admits it's not easy to fit the fair into a busy summer. "It's nerve-wracking. We're all working," she said.

But talk about planning ahead: Mr. Fisher succeeded this year again in timing the pig breeding. There are a dozen spanking new piglets at Nip 'N' Tuck, just a day away from their public debut at the fair.

If the piglet behavior on display this past weekend at the farm is any indicator, they should be a huge hit. They are the definition of cute, pink pods collectively wagging their curly tails.

Finally, the other big event on tap from the Fishers will come from the youngest member of the family, 13-year-old Prudence.

Sunday at 10 a.m., she'll climb on one of those big draft horses and start racing.

"To let off steam, they take these big workhorses and ride them bareback around the barrels. Prudence will do it," said Mrs. Fisher, a sense of pride in her voice. "You can barely stay on them."