During the dizzying peak of summer, when intersections are thick with cars, celebrity sightings keep Islanders buzzing, and long lines stretch from ice cream counters, post offices and ferry terminals, another line begins to form in West Tisbury on the grounds of the Agricultural Hall. In fact, on opening day of the 156th annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair, a small crowd began to gather even before the ticketers had arrived.

Brian and Noreen Flanders, who have worked at the fair for 17 years, were there on Thursday morning to greet the masses and help out. After a problem with the credit card machine was fixed, the line moved along. “Got to get those bugs sorted out early,” Mr. Flanders said as he welcomed the first fairgoers into the grounds.

This year the fair stretches from Thursday, August 17 to Sunday, August 20. The grounds are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. All the thrills and spills will take place at 35 Panhandle Road in West Tisbury.

Next ride I get to drive, okay? — Maria Thibodeau

Along with the rides brought in from Cushing Amusements, over 20 booths will be selling snacks and treats. Young and old can show off at an array of competitions from the skillet toss to the tractor pull. The Island’s best zucchini and tallest sunflower will be hung with ribbons, and animals from rabbits to oxen will be on display.

A little after 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, vendors and performers were warming up. Robinson’s Racing Pigs and the Paddling Porkers took their first dip. “I know you all know it’s a test run,” said the handler to her pigs. One by one, four round pigs splashed into a narrow pool, swam across and climbed up the other side to scattered applause.

Steve Devan judged a small herd of children’s goats. A surprising number of the goats came in first place. “Well, they’re kids,” said a woman.

Islander Robin Brown said she came to the fair for the animals but the goats in particular made her nostalgic. “One day, after 11 years, my goat just walked out the back door, laid down and died,” Ms. Brown said, referring to her goat Sally, a Nubian/Alpine crossbreed.

Hey dad, can I take that one home? — Maria Thibodeau

Past the oxen preparing for their upcoming obstacle course was a 16-foot flower with solar-panel petals. Bill Bennett’s Island-based Solar Invictus com pany brought the Smartflower to the fair for the first time this year. Wagner Pereira stood by to tell fair-goers that with the Smartflower planted in your yard, “you can zero out your meter or even spin your meter backwards.” Demonstrations of the flower’s tracking and unfurling are scheduled throughout the fair. Marsha Winsryg made some adjustments in her World Market Mondays tent. This year the tent houses five non profits including a project called Her Future Coalition which helps survivors of human trafficking support themselves by selling handmade jewelry.

Around the grounds, teenagers ate fries for breakfast and a young girl had the ferris wheel all to herself.

In the days leading up to Thursday, a team of women — the Fair Ladies as they call themselves — were working hard on the preparations. On the Tuesday before opening day, fair manager Eleanor Neubert enjoyed some blueberry pie made by the Pie Chicks, one of this year’s vendors. Ms. Neubert has been chief fair lady for over 30 years. She is well versed in the year-long preparations, but it hasn’t always been this way.

The Ag Fair began in 1858 and was moved from West Tisbury’s Grange Hall to the Agricultural Hall in 1995. Ms. Neubert took over as manager in 1984. The first years in the new location were the rockiest, she said.

Rope ladder climb is often a wiggly walk toward failure. — Maria Thibodeau

“Each year we had a crisis,” Ms. Neubert said. In 1995, it was the dust. The kids who volunteer to clean up trash had to wear bandanas over their mouths and noses, she said. In 1996, there was a problem with the well. There were torrential downpours the year after and the committee asked the selectmen to extend the festivities to Sunday, thus beginning the four-day fair.

This year, things are expected to run smoothly. But as to why no men are on the team? “Well, if you want the job done...” Kathy Lobb said while sorting entry tags. Ms. Lobb is the longtime hall manager and oversees the fair’s judging.

“The judging is fun but the thing that sends chills down my spine is when they hang the quilts,” Ms. Lobb said. The quilts are hung high in the rafters and unfurl down into the barn.

Traditions are the backbone of a fair that celebrates a way of life mostly unreliant on contemporary technology. Ms. Lobb said they were happy to keep the fair relatively uncommercial. “You can’t buy a set of knives or a vacuum cleaner,” she said. Instead, time-honored farming practices take center stage.

Where there are farms, there are tractors. — Maria Thibodeau

Ms. Lobb said that the jelly and jam category was one of the most heated competitions in the hall. A great-grandmother’s legacy may be at stake, after all. The jelly judges never open the jars, and instead hold them up to the light to look for clarity and even fruit distribution.

“People know what they’re doing here,” Ms. Lobb said. She is inspired by the focus of the judges and the dedication of home farmers and gardeners.

Although the Ag Fair has stayed true to its roots, the rides and amusements are just as much of a draw for many attendees. And to make sure they are clean and ready, a crew of laborers and technicians travels along with them.

Just outside the hall, with the morning sun already beating down, Mike Grant and Bowe Leroy Murphy washed a portion of the ferris wheel, rotated the wheel and washed another part. Mr. Grant and Mr. Murphy are both in their thirties and, like most of the workers traveling with Cushing Amusements, are from the same town in Maine.

Water gun games are for any age. — Maria Thibodeau

“Almost everyone here is from Lewiston-Auburn,” Mr. Murphy said. The crew includes Mr. Grant’s aunt, uncle and sister. Mr. Grant said the job involved a six-to-eight month season touring the rides to fairs all over New England. Neither of them knew where they were headed after the Vineyard but that a fair in Clinton, Maine was scheduled for the fall. “It’s a good job. The bosses are really compassionate,” Mr. Murphy said. “It keeps you out of trouble,” added Mr. Grant.

On Wednesday, with one day to go before opening, the fairgrounds were busy again. Meg Athearn of the Morning Glory Farm family and her children Clara, Zeb and Penny were loading entries into the hall, but things weren’t going smoothly. Zeb had made a scarecrow but the tag he received said scrapbook. Clara and her father Dan had made peach-raspberry pies, but the pies had been baked in glass dishes instead of disposable ones. Nancy Abbott of the fair committee scanned a rule book for that specification but couldn’t find it.

“The judges will keep them and decide if they can be entered,” Ms. Abbott said.

“Oh, well,” said Ms. Athearn, then helped Zeb haul in his scarecrow.

Another mother, Sarah Waldman, came out of the hall carrying a large drawing done on particle board. Ms. Waldman held the hand of her young son Gray, with her other son Dylan close behind. Ms. Waldman entered a tomato pie, husband Nick entered a sourdough loaf, Dylan entered “a bear sculpture and its habitat,” he said, and a popsicle stick cage was contributed by Gray.

Lights on the Midway as first day of fair comes to close. — Larry Glick

As for the drawing, “It was too big,” Ms. Waldman said. Maybe they could have cut it in half, she offered.

Inside the hall, Bobby Brown and his daughter Kristen erected a tall ladder next to an even taller sunflower. But no one knew exactly how tall.

“Well, I’m six feet,” said Mr. Brown, standing beside the stalk. “So, 12 feet?” he ventured.

All around the hall, staff and volunteers inspected paintings and tomatoes. Fair ladies could be seen making room for one more vegetable sculpture or one more floral arrangement. As the evening came to a close, the doors were shut. Then on Thursday morning, while the first fair visitors strolled around the grassy field, sipping lemonade, the judges got to work hanging ribbons on the best of what the Island’s gardeners, crafters and picklers had to offer.