The 144th annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair set records in attendance, and participation, resulting in shortages in unexpected ways.

"This is even better than the Clinton years," said fair manager Eleanor Neubert, who reported attendance of 29,022 over the four-day fair, up more than a thousand from last year.


Other numbers tell the tale as well. Three hundred and seventy animals from pigs to goats were up for prizes. The high number presented challenges for those in charge of the animal barn.

"We ran out of poultry cages," said entry clerk Ella Heyman, who reported 120 chickens and roosters.

Over in the exhibition hall, Vineyarders of all ages entered 3,110 items for judging, from photographs and handmade quilts to vegetables, fruit and freshly baked pies.

The fair, which opened Thursday and closed Sunday, saw warm and clear weather throughout, with only a few drops of rain on Friday night. Friday was also the slowest day of the fair, and understandably so, with the fireworks in Oak Bluffs competing for attention. But with more room to move and less lines to wait on, no one was complaining.

The draft horse pulling contest, one of the signature events of the fair, was held in the afternoon.

"These are the greatest draft horses of New England," said Oak Bluffs resident Zeke Wilkins, master of ceremonies. "Each horse weighs over 1,600 pounds. Those horses will pull all day if you let them. Those are the horses that built a nation."


Dale McClure, president of the agricultural society, ran the bucket loader for the event. For every horse that pulled a sled loaded with thousands of pounds of cement blocks, Mr. McClure had to climb into the cabin of his bucket loader and pull the sled back beyond the starting line.

John (Chip) Mancuso, a society trustee member, also assisted. Together the two men called themselves the Chip and Dale show.

Watching the draft horse pull, Fred Fisher Jr. of West Tisbury lamented the low number of contestants. "It is hard getting people here. There are a lot of fairs throughout New England on the third weekend of August," Mr. Fisher said.

In the front row of the viewing area, three-year-old Jackson Frame of Washington, D.C., stood with his head up against the rail watching closely. This was his first fair, and he had already identified his two favorite animals: cows and horses.

"I like the horses best," the young boy said. "They can pull." He looked up at his grandmother, Janice Frame, an art teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.

Raymond Smart, 79, of Chester, N.H., brought four generations of his family to watch him compete in the horse pull. As they waited for his turn, Garrett Smart, 3, stood holding the leather rein to a draft horse far bigger than himself. His father, Skip Smart, 28, waited nearby.


Raymond Smart wore his usual bright red farmer's hat and suspenders. Speaking with a toothpick between his teeth, he said: "If I felt any better I'd be dangerous."

Also watching was Elisha Smith, 82, who runs a farm in Oak Bluffs. He said he was up late the night before assisting with the birth of a calf at a Chilmark yard.

"Have you had the strawberry shortcake?" he asked. "It's great." He said he had already made three trips to the booth.

Among the maze of food booths, James Pringle, assistant harbor master in Vineyard Haven, handed out slices of his blue ribbon chocolate cake. Mr. Pringle ran Cozy's Last Stand, a booth specializing in sausage, onions and pepper submarine sandwiches.

"It is a secret recipe," he said of the winning cake, which he has entered in the fair for 30 years. He added that he learned how to bake it from scratch from his 95-year-old Aunt Gertrude of Brockway, Pa.

Even with the blue ribbon, Mr. Pringle holds himself to a still higher standard: "I've made it over and over again and I haven't yet made it as good as her," he said.

That night a chicken got loose in the animal barn and drew all kinds of attention. It took a fisherman's net to catch her. While there was ruckus in the animal barn, the band John Barleycorn and the Social Drinkers kept playing.


Saturday was intense. Attendance brought back memories of the first fair held at the Panhandle Road site. Ms. Neubert recorded 9,308 in attendance. "The last time it was that high for a single day was on opening day 1995," she said.

The early afternoon saw the 29th annual woodsmen's contest. Ed Brightman, 47, of Assonet captured the title woodsman of the year. Mr. Brightman, wearing a long pony tail, said he has competed at the fair for at least 15 years. He also competed with a noisy modified chainsaw valued at $5,000.

Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes 3rd, the master of ceremonies, kept up the patter during the competition like a veteran sportscaster. "This man is a great tree killer," Mr. Barnes said of Mr. Brightman.

"This man is the Godfather of chainsaws," Mr. Barnes said, referring to John Postenski, 72.

With a shiny double bit axe, Tom Kass, 48, of Holyoke hit the bull's-eye twice out of four throws. "This guy is really crazy here," said Mr. Barnes.

Mr. Kass runs a tree service. "I started throwing an axe in 1975 when I became a member of the University of Maine Woodsmen's Team," he said.

Jordan Clements, a 23-year-old female axe thrower, smiled at the audience of 200 people as she walked out on the dusty field carrying a big axe.

"The audience loves you," said Mr. Barnes.


Ms. Clements works at Humphreys in Oak Bluffs and has been throwing in the contest for five years. How often does she practice?

"Once a year," she said, matter-of-factly. "And it is today."

Making a triumphant return this year was Jerry Alves, 60, of Dighton, who last summer was carried off the fairground by stretcher after seriously injuring his foot with an axe while cutting down a tree. This year he won the event, putting the tip of the tree right on the peg. He was the only lumberjack on Saturday to fell a pine tree with that kind of accuracy.

As exhibitors gathered to see how well they did indoors, Joe Costa, 75, of Vineyard Haven showed friends an entry he made with the help of Steve Walker of Nantucket. The two built a riverboat steam engine smaller than a shoe box. Mr. Costa, a retired purser for the Steamship Authority, received third place for his tropical wood and brass engine. "It works," Mr. Costa said.

Right next to Mr. Costa's model stood a handsome walnut Pennsylvania spice box, with a blue ribbon. The intricate dove-tail box with 11 drawers was handmade by Susan B. Murphy of Chilmark, a former postmaster for the town.

A 54-year-old West Tisbury resident who won first place in the junior blueberry division was clearly mortified by his award. "I filled the form wrong," said Rick Karney of West Tisbury.


Mr. Karney discovered he was in trouble when he looked for his blueberries among the other entries submitted by adults. "I couldn't find them," he said, adding that he notified fair authorities immediately. "I am so embarrassed."

The Island Children's School sold all their ice cream on Saturday and again on Sunday, hours before closing time. The West Tisbury Firefighter's Civic Association, which runs the burger booth, also went through their stock quicker than usual. On Saturday night the firemen almost ran out, having sold 4,900 burgers.

"It is a record for us," said Jesse Oliver, fireman and top dog at the booth. By noon Sunday, they had reached 5,100 hamburgers.

Sunday morning was the annual dog show.

"This is my favorite day of the year," declared Rosemarie Haigazian, an Edgartown attorney who was celebrating her 30th anniversary as dog show master of ceremonies.

Two hundred and twelve dogs were entered in the contest, and a two-year-old golden retriever named Jack was awarded best in show.

Jack belongs to Nancy and Rob Brigham of Basking Ridge, N.J. Mrs. Brigham said they had a hint the dog was going to win. "He looked so good," she said.


Earlier, Jack had bested nine other males and eight females competing for best of breed.

"Look at those golden retrievers," said Ms. Haigazian, during the judging. "They are the hardest to judge."