Carnival rides have begun to invade into the hayfield beside Martha’s Vineyard agricultural hall, forerunners to the horses, oxen, goats, quilts, vegetables, and a host of other attractions for this year’s 160th annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair from August 18 to 21. “It’s a hive of activity over here,” said Lauren Lynch, executive director of the Agricultural Society. “Everything is all fair all the time.” Ms. Lynch accepted the position in April 2021 and organized her debut fair last minute under Covid-19 restrictions.

“Thankfully, everyone knew what to do,” she said. “The beauty of the fair is that it’s such a well-oiled machine…people just put their fair hats back on and got back to business.”

This year’s festivities will be a return to form, said Ms. Lynch. Cozy’s Last Stand will return with sausages, meatballs and lemonade at their three-man-stand, as will Tony Holand with his handmade metal sculptures and weathervanes. The football booster club’s beloved tempura will not return to the fair, due to long-term staffing issues, however two new vendors selling Brazilian cuisine are joining the roster.

Local non-profits will also have a significant presence at this year’s fair, including stands from Health Care Access, the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Island Autism, BiodiversityWorks, and the Charter School, which is raising money for a trip to Scotland.

“It really is an all-Island event,” said Ms. Lynch. “It’s like we’re throwing a party for 40,000 of our closest friends.”

Crews have already been hard at work setting up. — Mark Alan Lovewell

But throwing such a barnburner is not without its challenges.

“It’s coming together pretty much like it does every year,” Agricultural Society President Brian Athearn said. “It’s some form of controlled chaos that always seems to come together.”

Two of the biggest attractions are the ox and horse pull, though the latter will be a couple horses lighter this year, Mr. Athearn said, after two long-time participants “moved off to draft horse Shangri-la in upstate New York.”

And when society VP and fair barn manager Julie Scott says that planning for the animals starts “from the ground up,” she means it literally.

“It starts with the dirt,” she said, “cleaning out all the stalls and the cages.”

While mammals are showing up in full-force this year, feathery friends will be absent due to an abundance of caution concerning recent avian illnesses. The cages won’t remain empty, however, as children participating in Vineyard Haven Library’s bird-making craft on Thursday and Friday will display their results there in honor of the quarantined poultry.

At the heart of the fair is the hall, where the Island community gathers to present the bounties of their gardens, farms, kitchens and workshops. More than 100 judges will participate this year, and hall manager Janice Haynes anticipates entry levels that match or exceed pre-Covid fairs. Competitors can submit everything from needlework and preserves to photography and vegetable sculptures.

The hall is where some of the most lasting memories of the fair are made.

See you at the fair! — Mark Alan Lovewell

“People come up to me and talk about a second-place ribbon they got when they were 12,” said Ms. Lynch.

The closing bell for fair submission forms ends on Sunday, Aug. 14, so it’s not too late to make a few memories of your own.

The fair is critical to the society’s year-long operation, Mr. Athearn said. With the fair as their only major fundraiser, proceeds contribute to funding the grounds and building, scholarships, the 4-H program, and the establishment of the MV Farm Bureau.

“It’s the first farm bureau ... added in the U.S. in the last 44 years, and the Agricultural Society managed to pull it off,” said Mr. Athearn. “It’s the real backbone of the agricultural support community.”

Farm education is also a major component of the fair.

“Our focus is really on connecting people to agriculture,” Ms. Scott said. “[T]here aren’t a lot of fairs in the country still doing this stuff.”

As for the festivities, Mr. Athearn said, “you have to come and visit to find out yourself.”

Ticketing and submission details can be found at