From the August 15, 1986 edition of the Gazette:

The opening of the 125th Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society fair yesterday found the best-of-show cattle basking under the unclouded sun of noon and the approving gaze of a livestock judge named Marcel Rondeau. But only the sun could peek into the nearby West Tisbury agricultural hall, where the judges traditionally taste, view and study produce, art exhibits and group environmental projects with neither competitors nor spectators present.

“They’re in executive session,” fair manager Eleanor Neubert explained to a wishful reporter. Added an assistant: “But you can go get some sacred cows out in the show ring.”

Paying little mind to the whir and drone and swinging and swirling of the nearby carnival rides or to the screams of the riders, and less to the intrigue indoors, Mim Douglas of Rainbow Farm stood proudly by her Charolais heifer Heiress and Harold Lawry of Meadow View Farm held fast to his Brown Swiss heifer Clover, while Mr. Rondeau poked and prodded them and the neighboring Jerseys, Guernseys, Holsteins, Charolais and Herefords - some of them barnmates of the champions, others from farms named Herring Creek and Brookside and Nip ‘n Tuck.

All wore blue ribbons for their age and class (beef or dairy).

Before bestowing the best-of-show blue on Heiress and the reserve champion prize on Clover, Mr. Rondeau stepped to the microphone to declare himself pleased by the progress Island livestock farmers have made in the several summers since he last assessed the hooks and pins and barrels of Island beef and dairy cattle in the show ring of the West Tisbury fairgrounds.

Particularly at Bob Douglas’ Rainbow Farm in West Tisbury, for which Mim Douglas has tended and shown livestock around the Northeast for 10 years. Of a young Rainbow bull, Mr. Rondeau said: “This is a tremendous prospect, ladies and gentlemen. He carries himself very, very well; see it in the rippling muscles.”

Some of the cows and heifers back in the barn could have told you that, and many did, mooing and lowing with particular intensity as the bull strutted into and around the show ring.

Earlier in the morning, in the shade of livestock stalls, Mim Douglas talked about Heiress with passing fairgoers, while she primped her heifer for the show, and while fair major-domo Fred Fisher of Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm supervised the mucking of the stalls by young farmhands (“Keep ‘em bedded and keep ‘em clean and keep the cowflaps away from ‘em”).

“It’s originally a French breed,” Miss Douglas explained. “She’s 19 months old.

“These are all breeding stock. They won’t be used for meat.”

As Miss Douglas sprayed the crown of hair of Heiress with Hamm’s Body Adhesive, a mother told her small daughter, “They’re making a punker out of her.”

“Dippity-Doo,” a Rainbow farmhand joked as Miss Douglas sprayed the Hamm’s, then began applying baby powder from stern to stern.

Nearby, a little blond girl led one of Albert Fischer Jr.’s workhorse Saanen goat, Freda, to the ring for judging. Or tried. Freda had other ideas, alternately having to do with the greenery on the hedge behind the barn, and the inviting targets for butting posed by other little girls.

“Daddy,” Freda’s tender said, “I need help.”

Manner’s aside, Freda and her younger colleague Flower both won blue ribbons and plenty of applause.

Meanwhile, Bill Honey led a Brookside Guernsey to the ring, just behind Jenny Oliver and her Meadow View Guernsey, for the five to ten-year-old dairy cow judging.

“Yay!” Mr. Fisher called to the Meadow View milker. “There goes Day Lily Hurray!”

Behind him, the Holstein Roberta and her stallmate sought to siesta after their grooming session. Mr. Fisher booted both of them to their feet, an act for which Roberta exacted revenge by unloading her processed brunch in the fresh straw and sawdust.

“Quick! Get a shovel!” Mr. Fisher cried. “Well, wait a minute. Maybe I can get it with a fork.”

As he did so, Day Lily received a blue ribbon in her category.

By now, contestants in the hall displays were learning of their successes. Nancy Harris of West Tisbury won a first for her wild blueberries, and Evelyn Vanderhoop of Gay Head took a blue ribbon for her watercolor painting of the Keith Farm in Chilmark.

Yesterday, Nicole Alley of West Tisbury didn’t want to fiddle with or otherwise have anything to do with the line of burly polled Herefords being led to the show ring by their Herring Creek Farm hands.

“You don’t like those big cows?” Mrs. Alley asked as her daughter jumped into Mom’s arms.

“No,” the budding equestrienne replied, “because I can’t ride them.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox