From the August 22, 1972 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Great draft horses, their fine array glistening in the sun, lunged, and thousands of pounds of stone slid forward, sending a mist of dirt in the hot, heavy air. The stentorian voice of a hawker announce, “Hey, anyone can play!” Just a quarter a chance!” as he competed with the loud, tuneless, jolly carnival music. Spools of cotton candy, fragile as silk, gave the atmosphere a sweet incense. It was obvious: the 111th annual Live Stock Show and Fair had arrived in West Tisbury; and for three days last week, record crowds visited the rollicking event. Mrs. Allen H. Mathewson noted that there were “considerably larger” crowds this year then ever before, with perhaps more than 3,000 arriving Thursday, 2,000 Friday, and 1,500 Saturday. She said that there were more outdoor exhibits than ever before.

There were plenty of things to eat, rides to experience, chances to be taken, and exhibits to be scrutinized, and the many persons who came brought cars aplenty, particularly on Thursday and Friday. According to George W. Manter, West Tisbury chief of police, cars were parked three quarters of the way up Music street on both sides, filled the schoolyard parking lots, streamed up South Road past Daniel Bryant’s home in Chilmark, and even extended to the town office, on the Edgartown to West Tisbury road.

There were about seven rides at the fair, the most popular a new one called the Round Up, in which persons are swung, standing up, in a circle that approaches 90 degrees off the horizon. One could also be propelled around the merry-go-round, hurtled in speeding carts, and cranked around the Ferris wheel. Screams of delight and horror from these rides spiced the fair’s atmosphere.

The games demanded that persons be agile or have psychic assistance. Money or dolls could be won by winning a game of checkers, putting a ball through a basket, or knocking over three leaden milk bottles. There was also free entertainment provided Friday night by a rock band, and on Saturday evening, the Vineyard Haven band.

All variety of edibles could be purchased. There were gaily decorated booths selling Greek food, candied apples, shrimp egg rolls, and soups. On Friday night, 125 persons enjoyed a clam bake, consuming clams, lobsters, onions, sausages, potatoes, corn, watermelon, and ice cream.

But most people found the work of the fair the Live Stock Show, and the projects displayed inside the Agricultural Hall. Inside, scrumptious-looking baked goods were penned in glass cases, and there were homemade ceramics, soaps, games, clothing, preserves, fruits, flowers and vegetables displayed.

About the only thing the fair offered less of than in other years, Mrs. Mathewson said, was noise. This, she said, was because the merry-go-round this year was much less raucous than it used to be, a fact that the Rev. Elden H. Mills, and the couple he was marrying next door Saturday afternoon, as well as many West Tisbury residents, greatly appreciated.

And, for the first time in anyone’s memory, the visiting entertainers left with little visible commotion. They packed their wares and booths late Saturday night, and rumbled onto the Steamship Authority boats early Sunday morning. Sunday in West Tisbury was so quiet and tranquil, some people wondered whether there had ever been a fair or not.


As West Tisbury looks to the future with its plans for a new school, the town and the Island will look both to the past and to the future for the role of the present school building. This was the third home of the historic Dukes County Academy before it became the school of present-day memory. With the church on the other side of Music street and the Agricultural Hall a bit to the west, it embodies the serene identity of the town.

There is quite a feeling of Currier & Ives about the upright structure with its mansard roof — “French roof” used to be the Vineyard term. The overworked adjective “quaint” might be employed unashamedly here, though only in moderation. Character is what the building really has, a genuine character dating from its completion in 1870 and ripened throughout the ensuing century.

Lillian Norton, later to become Madame Nordica of operatie history, attended a session or so of school when she and the building were young. She was a Vineyard Norton, of course, though her parents moved to the Smoky River Valley near Farmington, Me., and her grandfather was Camp Meeting John Allen whose tent was pitched in Wesleyan Grove from which grew the town of Oak Bluffs.

There are many such snatches of history, but mainly the building belongs to the common ancestry of West Tisbury and hence of the Island. It ought to remain in its representative capacity, continuing to be an adornment of the community’s uniqueness, along with the library, church, and Agricultural Hall. Future uses for it can surely be discovered which will preserve so significant an architectural monument.

Compiled by Hilary Wall