Tuesday’s agricultural fair parade was 150 years in the making, lasted half an hour and was worth the wait. Hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets and stone walls of the historic route that began at the town hall, wound down Music street and Panhandle Road and ended at a packed viewing stand in front of the Ag Hall.
It was a small-town classic and onlookers arrived early with beach chairs and blankets at the final bend in Panhandle Road to stake out the best seat.
The parade began with the standards hoisted aloft by the American Legion, followed by Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack in all his sartorial splendor. Then came Agricultural Society President Dale McClure on the first of many tractors, with the weather-beaten faces of the agricultural society trustees (a.k.a. the Hayseed Royalty) in tow.
Any parade is a logistical challenge but Mr. McClure says this one took especially long to plan. “A hundred and fifty years,” he reckoned, laughing.
At seven years the fair’s junior the Vineyard Haven band, founded in 1868, was next, playing America the Beautiful, followed by Brian Athearn in a 1926 Model T that his uncle Leonard restored. As Mr. Athearn pulled around the final bend in the mile-long parade route, the venerable automobile sputtered and died.
“Almost!” Mr. Athearn cried before hopping out and pushing the car off the parade route. Tractors and cars of every vintage followed in Mr. Athearn’s wake with more success, including some newer models like Chilmark resident Andy Goldman’s all-electric buggy which carried his town’s selectmen. After some tinkering Mr. Athearn’s Model T revived and pulled back onto the road, finishing the trip to the roar of the crowd.
The Farm Institute’s float reminded parade-goers that other towns share in the Island’s farming legacy. The fields at Katama Farm were first put into agricultural use in the 1860s. The float almost didn’t make it to the proceedings, though, after enduring a harrowing trip to the fair that included a flat tire on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
And it was a poignant trip through West Tisbury for farmers from the Beetlebung Farm who dedicated their float to the “loving memory of Ozzie Fischer” and tossed flowers into the crowd. The lifelong Chilmark farmer died late last month. His grandson, Chris Fischer, traveled the parade route with his goat, Kale. Signifying the bond between man and beast, Kale wore one of Chris’ shirts, while Chris donned a shirt that read Kale.
Everyone had a favorite in the parade, from civicly-engaged eight-year-olds like Beatrix Coleman (“My favorite was the white car with [Edgartown selectman] Michael Donaroma,”) to animal lovers everywhere, including sisters Kaila and Jorianna Riester Graham, 10 and 7, who preferred the parade’s horses and car-pooling alpacas, or Emmitt Silva, four, of Norfolk, Va., and West Tisbury who most enjoyed “the baby goat part.”
The conveyance of the West Tisbury selectmen had been the subject of robust debate at recent meetings in town hall as selectmen Cynthia Mitchell, who brought her grandson Sam along for the ride, explained.
“We we’re going to do a goat cart, then it was going to be a horse and buggy, but then we found we were the only two on a 12-person buckboard,” she said.
Instead the board, minus selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter who worked the police detail, opted to be towed in a hay wagon by Fred Fisher’s horses of Nip ’n’ Tuck Farm.
After the jaunt down Panhandle Road Ms. Mitchell was invigorated by the sight of the Vineyard’s youthful yeomen.
“It is so great that there are so many young Vineyarders involved in farming and agriculture,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing. It’s great to see the old-timers too but really heartening and encouraging to see the number of young people who are either making it their living or who are involved in some other way.”
By all accounts onlookers went home satisfied, sated by a steady diet of rusting antique tractors and cars and preening, limelight-soaking Island livestock.
With the 150th fair underway organizers hope it is as successful as its one-off parade.
“Bring us some nice weather and we’ll have a great time,” said Mr. McClure.