Anticipation is building for the 160th annual agricultural fair, but in this year’s winning poster design it is not just humans getting excited. In a colored pencil illustration by Island artist Saundra LaBell, families of pigs, sheep and poultry all stand in line, anxiously awaiting entry to the fairgrounds through a ticket booth manned by a braying donkey.

“The jackass in the ticket booth really seems to symbolize some of the chaos of the event,” said Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society executive director Lauren Lynch. “The poster has humor, sincerity, and a sense of family from the animal groups.”

This was the first year that Ms. Lynch, who joined the society in 2021, was able to participate in the poster selection, a tradition stretching back to 1976.

“It was so wonderful to see all the submissions,” she said, “with every interpretation of the fair and what it means to them. There is just nothing like it.”

All roads lead to the fair. — Saundra LaBell

Ms. LaBell’s submission was a front runner from the beginning, said Ms. Lynch.

“It really seemed to strike everyone in such a visceral place.”

The selection committee was impressed not only with its emotional resonance, but also its richly layered composition.

The two components are, in fact, related. Mrs. LaBell’s design was inspired by her experience waiting in line at the fair as a child, and waiting with her two daughters as a parent.

“My favorite part of the fair now is watching my kids get so excited about everything,” Ms. Labell said, and she tried to capture that anticipation in her design.

But that same youthful energy has made her favored medium of acrylic paint more difficult to work with.

“Acrylic is a really fast drying medium,” she explained, “so I’ll pour some paint, then someone needs a snack, then someone’s shoe needs to be tied, and before long the paint is all dried up.”

As a result, Ms. LaBell has begun to experiment with colored pencil, which allows her to take more time while adding layers of color. She completed the first design for the poster over a two-week period of juggling the kids while her husband was out of town. In addition to acrylic and color pencil art, Ms. LaBell also creates decorative pillows inspired by the houses in cottage city, which she sells at the Oak Bluffs open market.

While her daughters most look forward the fair’s rides and treats, Ms. LaBell said she now enjoys a leisurely stroll through the barn to look at the animals, especially the huge horses that come in to show from off-Island.

This year's fair takes place August 18 to 21.