Notes on the fair from Gazette reporters.

For hall manager Janice Haynes, every Agricultural Fair has its stories. This year is no different.

Horse pull Friday was a traditional crowd pleaser. — Maria Thibodeau

“There’s always a person I meet, a story I hear . . . This year, well, take a look,” she said pointing to a quilt hanging from the rafters of the reclaimed old barn that is Agricultural Hall.

A quilt by Joan Glodis depicting the seasons had two ribbons, a blue one for first prize quilt and purple one for best in show.

The centerpiece of the prize-winning quilt is a well-known West Tisbury tree. “I carved my initials in that tree,” Mrs. Haynes said . . . It’s a special piece, this quilt.”

The hall was brimming with prize-winning vegetables, flower arrangements, eggs, cakes, pies and gleaming jams and jellies, all on display for the hundreds of fair-goers who streamed onto the grounds off Panhandle Road in West Tisbury for the 158th annual fair.

In the junior natural resources and conservation category, a paper mache earth diorama by Stella Cowen highlighted global warming’s effect on the world’s oceans. The display won the June Cronig Kapell award, given by Tisbury Waterways Inc. for the exhibit that shows the most dedication to conserving waterways.

Outside under Island Grown Initiative’s waste station tent Ethan Knight a fourth grader at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and Aiden Christiansen, a fifth grader at the Oak Bluffs School, sorted items for composting, the landfill and recycling.

The fair is a zero-waste event.

Ethan said he would be back on Sunday.

“We weren’t really friends before. I think we are now,” he said.

— Caroline Kaplan

Fair Food

You can only eat so much fried dough; thankfully the 2019 fair had more fresh local food options than ever.

Anchoring a prime spot at the start of the first food row was Island chef Aaron Zender’s distinctive gray Airstream trailer outfitted with a commercial kitchen. Zender partnered with Mermaid Farm to introduce Flocco’s Local Chicken to the fair this year.

He raised the chickens himself on Island and used a classic buttermilk, salt and pepper soak and a flour and cornstarch coating to make super-crispy fried chicken. Side dishes, including a deeply flavorful dish of Beetlebung Farm baby potatoes and Mermaid Farm feta, were all made from locally grown vegetables.

“But the best thing about this,” Zender said, “Is the kids.”

Aaron Zender's fried chicken. — Susie Middleton

He had rounded up a cadre of young Islanders, including Kent Healy, Otto Osmers, Joey Huang and son Jasper Zender to help out in the truck. Islander Augusta Dillon was the friendly face taking the orders.

Anchoring the other end of the row was the distinctive turquoise Frankie’s Flatbread truck. Already popular on the Island after debuting only a few weeks ago, chef Kyleen Keenan’s gluten-free, plant-based flatbreads featured toppings including Frankie’s Classic — organic marinara with cashew cheese, extra virgin olive oil and arugula — and the Baja ‘Shroom with MV Mycological shiitakes, homemade Baja sauce, red cabbage and cucumbers.

Maybe the hottest new local addition was Hot Bakes, stonemason John McCormick’s baked potato booth. McCormick coated the potatoes in oil, coarse salt and pepper, and then roasted them at 500 degrees until crispy on the outside and fully steamed. He demonstrated how a fork piercing the giant potatoes let’s out a squeaky puff of steam when the potatoes are done.

Other newcomers to the fair, including Katama Kombucha and Rockfish restaurant, added to the popular options already offered by vendors like Loco Taco, Chef Deon’s, Bill Smith’s Clambake, and of course that fair staple: the West Tisbury Firefighter’s Civic Association.

— Susie Middleton

Tractor Pull, Lumberjills

Farm animals win hearts as well as ribbons at the fair, but agricultural equipment stirs feelings as well — especially in live competition. Under the trees on either side of the livestock rings, Saturday’s antique tractor pull and 43rd annual woodsmen’s contest each drew an all-ages crowd of spectators who cheered and groaned with the fortunes of their favorite competitors.

The tractor pull area was a mechanical fantasy straight from a children’s book, with tractors of many colors and makes parked or idling ready: a bright red McCormick Farmall, an orange Minneapolis-Moline, a scarlet Cockshutt, a hunter green Oliver.

Tractors entered in the competition must be at least 25 years old, but many were far more venerable, such as the 1939 Ford 9N and the postwar model that followed it, the 2N from 1946.

Greetings from the horse barn. — Jeanna Shepard

The machines varied in size as well, from petite to imposing. One jockey bounced in the seat of a small green steed weighing less than 1,500 pounds — with driver aboard — pulling three 600-pound blocks. Tractor, driver and load together weighed less than a pair of Percheron draft horses, but larger engines and heavier weights were still to come — up to 10,000 pounds and more.

Across the fairgrounds, the woodsmen’s competition revved up some engines as well, when contestants wielded souped-up chainsaws retrofitted with high-powered motors. The mostly human-powered events in the competition included crowd-pleasers like the axe throw — the bullseye, a can of seltzer in the center of the target—and crosscut sawing with male, female and mixed teams.

The saws and axes used in lumber sports competition are pricey and hard to come by, according to Peg Engasser, a top lumberjill who announced Saturday’s contests.

“These saws cost about $1,800 and take three years,” she said, because only a few small companies worldwide make contest-quality equipment.

— Louisa Hufstader

Dog Show

There’s pretty much only one difference between the Westminster Dog Show and the Sunday iteration of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. Both have bustling show rings. Both have professional judges. Both have moments of high drama punctuated by intermittent barks, howls, and woofs.

But Westminster doesn’t have a mixed-breed category. That’s a Vineyard thing.

“I love it because it makes a statement,” said show judge Kerry Scott while watching a herd of mutts prance through the fairgrounds. “All dogs are good dogs.”

That was the spirit at the last day of the Agricultural Fair Sunday morning, as hundreds of Vineyarders showed the Island their canine best friends during the fair’s annual dog show. Some categories, like the Gordon setters, were tight competitions. Chester beat out his cousin Cooper in a two-dog race for the blue ribbon. The competition in the Welsh springer spaniel breed was even tighter. Frankie, also known as Frank-the-Tank, took the first place prize for the fourth year in a row. There was no second place. There were no other dogs.

Of course, that didn’t mean Frankie was guaranteed a prize.

“It’s important to remember that just because yours is the only dog in the category, it doesn’t mean that it is guaranteed a blue ribbon,” longtime judge and emcee Rosemarie Hagazian said. “God forbid the dog should bite the judge.”

Tug of war. — Maria Thibodeau

Carolyn McCafferty, trainer for Frankie, said the winning hasn’t gotten to his head, insisting that in spite of the publicity he remains a humble beast.

“This is his exclusive showing,” Ms. McCafferty said. “He likes to keep the paparazzi away.”

On Sunday, the puparazzi were out in force, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the immeasurable cuteness of the competitors. Marcy Pepper, who lives in West Tisbury for the summer, brought her entire household to show. It included a 200-pound Newfoundland named Aquinnah, a Bernese mountain dog, and a French bulldog.

“The French bulldog runs the house,” Ms. Pepper said.

But it was the Newfoundland that got the blue ribbon, edging everybody else out of the category. When you’re 200 pounds, you’re in a league of your own. Mainly because there’s no room for anyone else.

The big prize of the day — best in show — went to a fluffy Samoyed named Ella, trained by Linda Everly.

“This is an 11-year old Northern Spitz dog,” said judge Tom Shelby, outfitted in his Dogfather shirt. “It’s hot for her. I was very impressed by her behavior. This dog wants to be in a snow drift. And I liked the gait. I liked the confirmation. And she’s beautiful.”

— Noah Asimow

More pictures.