On opening day of the 151st Agricultural Fair, Joseph and Jonathan Ruzzo, ages seven and four respectively, ran back and forth from the big barn to the judging stand, each time carrying a new set of goats in their arms. They wore knee-high rain boots and looked like seasoned pros, although this was their first time participating in the fair.

“I didn’t want anything to do with goats two years ago,” said Melissa Manter, the boys’ soon-to-be stepmother. But after some convincing from her fiancé, Timothy Ruzzo, the couple purchased four pregnant goats from off-Island. Each goat turned out to be quite fertile, birthing an above-average number of babies. Ms. Manter now helps take care of 33 goats in total, and the family brought 16 to the fair.

After the judging ended, Ms. Manter helped the boys corral the goats, laughing about the sweat sticking to her T-shirt, which read, appropriately, “I suffer from M.G.S. (Multiple Goat Syndrome).” Goat wranglers, Joseph and Jonathan, took a breather on a pile of hay.

The fair, as everyone refers to it, arrived on the Vineyard as it always does near the end of summer. It is a chance for both summer folks and Islanders to take a breather from the busy season and spend a moment enjoying a tradition that dates back to the 19th century. To place it in a historical context, the Civil War still raged on when the fair first began. Over the years, it has retained many of its early agricultural traditions while embarking on some new ones.

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Pulled pork smoking, rides churning, animals braying — so much bustle looks serene from high up above. — Peter Simon

One example of a very popular, yet relative newcomer, is Robinson’s Racing Pigs. They performed their first show this year on Thursday at noon to a full crowd. Along the perimeter of the ring, small children weaved in and out of adult legs trying to get a better view of the “paddling porkers” bolting around the ring in hot pursuit of an Oreo cookie prize. A three-month old race pig named “Lindsay Slohan” was the first winner of the day, narrowly edging out her competitors, Christina Hoguilera and Britney Spare Ribs.

Rachel Parks and her seven-year-old daughter, Alison, decided to start their day by getting a birds-eye view of the proceedings atop the Ferris wheel.

“It’s a wonderful view of the fair, it was efficiently loaded,” Ms. Parks said. “It was everything I imagined it would be.” Her daughter Alison jumped up and down at her mother’s side, eager to get to the giant slide.

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Round and round they go on the ever-popular, always present Ferris wheel. — Ray Ewing

At the food court, Heather Norwood, a first-time fairgoer along with her four boys and husband, took a bite out of a caramel-covered Granny Smith apple. “How’s this for lunch?” she said, passing the apple to her smallest son, Brandon, who extracted a long, dangling glop of caramel, which landed across his face and shirt. “Ooopsie,” he said as his brothers laughed.

The maze masters from the Oak Bluffs School were back on site this year setting up two sections of their giant maze early Thursday morning. Students from the school worked on the maze during the school year, and will continue with the project next year.

“We’re going for the world record!” exclaimed Sean O’Malley, a rising seventh grader. Sean and his twin brother, Ryan, helped to unfold the maze alongside assistant teacher, Alex Palmer.

Back at the animal judging arena, Steve Devan, who teaches agriculture at the University of New Hampshire, adjusted his cow-spotted cap and matching tie. Mr. Devan has been judging the fair for four years. His favorite category is the oxen, the animals he “knew the least about,” when he first came to the Vineyard to be a judge. He fears he may have short-changed the oxen during his first year as a judge due to his ignorance, so ever since he’s tried to make up for it.

“I studied like crazy... I think if they take the time and expense of coming here, the least we can do is judge them well,” he said.

They don’t call it the fun slide for nothing. — Ray Ewing

Near the barn, the first-ever water buffalo to appear on the fairgounds cooled off under a flowing water hose. The one and two-year-old animals, named Bear and Mouse, displayed a bit of rookie nervousness, resisting their trainer, Scottie Brown.

“It’s an extremely green team,” Ms. Brown admitted.

Alex Mott, 12, watched intently as Ms. Brown tried to yoke the large animals. “I knew they weren’t cows,” he yelled excitedly. Alex has been coming to the fair for as long as he can remember. He comes “because it’s fun,” and because sometimes he enters a pie in the competition. Last year he won second place for his key lime pie, but this year he’s taking a more laid-back approach and “enjoying other people’s entries,” he said.

Although the Ruzzo goat herd would have seemed plentiful enough to carry the entire competition, as the day progressed there were other goats to judge, too. Marjorie Rogers, 84, sat in her wheelchair cheering on her niece who had entered a young goat. Ms. Rogers grew up in West Tisbury and has been coming to the fair her entire life. Over the years, the fair has changed a lot, she said.

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Zoie Hower and Rosemary Drinka watch the ox pull. — Ray Ewing

“The buildings and places for the animals to stay are much nicer,” she said. “And there’s more variety of animals.”

Opening day at the fair coincided with Ms. Rogers’s birthday. “I don’t mind celebrating it here,” she said.


The Agricultural Fair continues through Sunday, open today and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. A corn husking contest, new this year, will take place in the hall today at 2 p.m. Oyster and clam shucking begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Vegetable car races also take place in the building at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The judging of farm animals continues this morning at 10 a.m. for poultry and rabbits, and at 11:30 a.m. for the sheep, llamas and alpacas.

In the show ring, the Frisbee dogs will continue to perform periodically throughout the day today. The draft horses take the ring on Sunday morning for a show.

There are 52 participants registered this year for Saturday’s woodsmen’s contest (record number), including 11 women.