Every August, Vineyarders flood the fair grounds at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Hall in West Tisbury. Every fall, we are treated to the harvest festival to celebrate the season’s bounty, and every winter we have Island artisans’ fairs, community potlucks or most recently the winter farmers’ markets. The Vineyard is a place of tradition, and the Ag Hall is a beacon of that.
None of these Island traditions could be possible without the volunteers who helped raise the new hall 16 years ago. The original barn-raisers’ ball celebrated those who worked on deconstructing the barn in Woodsville, N.H., and reconstructed it at its current Panhandle Road location.
Tomorrow the celebration continues for the annual social, but the event has taken on a different form over the years: the ball no longer only celebrates those who helped hammer the nails and shingle the sides, but the community it has brought together under the old post-and-beam structure. The ball begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Ag Hall; admission is a dessert to share.
“Over the years, it’s surprising but a lot of the [original] people, they don’t come anymore, and there’s a lot of new people that come,” the ag society’s president, Dale McClure, said earlier this week. “It’s an evening of potluck and dancing and partying after that.”
Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish were at the first barn-raisers’ ball 16 years ago, and they’ll move dancers across the barn floor Saturday night. Refreshments are available for those who really work up a sweat on the dance floor.
“The very first [ball] had everyone involved with it,” Mr. McClure said. “When we first did it, there were so many people and it was a big celebration.”
In May 1994, nearly 40 Vineyarders traveled to a town in the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire to take down the 1905 dairy barn; after five days, the crew packed up the trucks and headed back to West Tisbury. In November of the same year, hundreds of Islanders turned out to help hoist the barn into place.
“We started the barn-raising on a Friday afternoon and the first bent was the most difficult,” Mr. McClure recalled. “Once that was up and braced, Saturday morning everyone showed up and put up the other 14. By Sunday afternoon we had it up and it really went fast. It was all because of the efforts of lots of people.”
The original crew returned that night for dinner and dancing to celebrate their accomplishment, filling an impromptu table of plywood with treats after a long weekend of work. Tomorrow night, the same community will come together after a long and hot summer and bountiful fall, ringing in the cooler weather with festive flair.
The 16th annual Barn-Raisers’ Ball is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Hall on Panhandle Road in West Tisbury. All are welcome and encouraged to bring a dessert to share.