From the August 17, 1971 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Joseph Chase Allen:

It was more than 70 years ago; how much more is impossible to say. This week being fair week, it is a good time for reminiscences.

The day was hot, and horsedrawn rigs stood lined against the cedar bars, and over all there hung the smell of peanuts, soda and cigars, except down where the cattle stood.

Inside the hall, there were displayed, the cakes, the pies and marmalade, and well upholstered judges plied the knives and spoons as each one tried the food and jellies, leisurely. Their appetites seemed good, to me, as thus they argued in debated, “No, we can’t give this prize to Kate. Her pie is good, but still I feel that there is too much orange peel!”

Among the vegetables, old men and young, would look, write with a pen, and ‘twas Bill Rotch, who wrote this down, “Ten cents for every boy in town who brings a cucumber or squash. We must encourage ‘em, by gosh!”

Among the animals, they strolled, the judge and owners, young and old, and Alfred Norton, 90-odd, says “What, third prize for me? By God, there ain’t a bull here in the lot as big and fat as my old Spot!”

I walked about, I ate mince pie and boyish-like, it made me cry when filled to top capacity, I couldn’t finish it, you see, and there was no one anywhere to whom I could present a share, and it seemed wicked on that day when I had pie to throw away!

‘Twas there, at tender age of eight, I lost my heart upon that date, when Mindwell Littlefield passed by, her rustling garments filled the eye, and bright blue sash, an angel seemed, such beauty I had never dreamed!

Came chore time, night was near at hand, I stood and listened to the band and when drove up the Democrat and Dad called, I refused him flat and ignominiously was towed and carted back up North Road. In peevishness, I left the scene still thinking of Sweet Seventeen, who banished grief with thrilling glee, for Mindwell turned and smiled at me!

The annual fair and livestock show was going on and, according to custom, there was a series of horse races at the Whiting Farm track, which was in that lot to be seen today in the angle of the State Road and the Panhandle.

In advance of the fair, Johnson Whiting had seen to the harrowing of the track, the sprinkling and rolling of the soft earth to cause it to pack, and it laid smooth and pleasantly springy to the feet of racing horses, and the word had circulated around the fairgrounds that the races were about to take place.

There was a wild and rapid exodus from the fairgrounds as pedestrians and bicycle riders headed out to the track. There were even a few carriages and buggies full of fans who paid extra to drive their rigs into the enclosure to watch and speculate, perhaps to wager on the outcome. But the majority of the fans stood, and there must have been a few hundred of them.

Four horses were entered for this particular race, in which the best three heats out of five would take first money.

As for the horses and owners, some names have been forgotten, but the tall, dark bay pacer of Clofus Gonyon, probably an importation from Canada, may have been Domino. Colonel Kip was owned by Prentiss Bodfish. Little Rocket was a mainland entry and Black Serpent was a stallion, owned and driven by Bartlett Mayhew.

Chairman of the judges was Judge Everett Allen Davis, whose voice was large and loud enough to make a megaphone unnecessary and when he tolled the big bell in three lusty strokes and spoke, everyone heard.

“Bring up those horses for the three-quarter-mile trot in 10 minutes!”

And out they came from the Whiting stable. The drivers scored up, starting from behind the starting line and trying to keep their horses in line as they went under the wire which marked the start as well as the finish.

The fans rushed across the inside of the oval to watch the position of the horses, and then back again to watch the approach to the finish which was along a straight stretch. The order of finish was announced by the judge, “Domino, one; Colonel Kip, two; Little Rocket, three; Black Serpent, four. Bring those horses back in 10 minutes!”

The fine points of sulky racing at this time cannot be described. This writer was too young to know much about such things, but it is recalled that Mr. Gonyon was a consistent winner, and that Colonel Kip made second place in each heat.

When the racing was over, the crowd melted away, the majority returning to the fairgrounds and the workmen at the Whiting Farm were soon out with their harrows, smoothing the track, while the hanglers and owners went to the stables to rub their horses, and sponge them, giving them water to drink and bandaging their legs. All of this was, of course, interesting to a small boy who loved horses and who hoped for a future in which horses would be significantly prominent. That future was not realized, but the memory of this first race has never faded.

Compiled by Hilary Wall