From the August 12, 1975 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Douglas Cabral:

“Ho for the Annual County Fair,” says the Gazette’s front page, talking through its ears. “All Roads Lead to the County Fair.”

John Alley girds himself for battle with the uninhibited four-wheel horde that’s determined at this time each summer to invade his store-side parking lot.

All hands are filling lungs in preparation for the traditional after-the-fair dispute over whether things have gone downhill or uphill with the fair — has it gotten too carnivally? Too crowded? Too much beside the point?

Walter Bettencourt’s zucchini is near a foot long.

Virginia Stanley is wondering how many thousands of hand-stuffed tacos hungry fairgoers can consume. She’s vacationing in New Hampshire to prepare herself.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission staff has taken up Magic Marker, placard, pastepot and Scotch tape to prepare the “visuals” that will tell us whatever it is the commission members have been up to since they became commission members in December.

Oxen and cattle, horses, sheep, swine, chickens, whatever gets grown or raised, is being readied for the judging.

The draft horses are on their way for the pulling contest.

The children are grooming Leviathan the Peeper, Freddy the Gerbil, Harry the Mutt and all the Abigails and Kaisers and Kings and Freds that hop and waddle and prance through the trails of the pet show.

The Vineyard is gearing up for the fair. Country style.

For a few days, before summer makes its kick for the tape, we can turn our backs on the beaches, the shops, the tumble of a seashore resort and look on ourselves. Rural. Country. Plain people just plain having fun.

“It is the intention of the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission that its efforts be directed toward the preservation and enhancement of the rural quality of life on Martha’s Vineyard and the unique character of each town. In choosing the word rural to describe the quality of life here, the commission intends to make clear its rejection of all that gathers under the adjective suburban and urban.”

[From the commission’s Policies to be Used in Considering Development Proposals Whose Impact Is of a Regional Nature, the first official adopted statement of the new commission, approved June 5.]

The commissioners in their debate were not of one mind. Leaving aside the problem of describing what’s rural about the way we live here several points of view were represented.

It was worried whether rural meant rustic, with the latter term’s air of rudeness and privation. Are we deprived of the pleasant, polished refinements of the town or city? By preserving the rural quality of life here (whatever it is) do you mean to cast us forever in the role of untutored and unhappy rubes?

So some wondered. Poor rubes, at that.

In language like this people worried too that to use the word was to ignore reality:

“I and many of my friends and visitors don’t think of the Vineyard as rural at all. We think of it as more sophisticated than that.”

What are we? What do we want to save? Are we fooling ourselves?

And the spirit of the county fair, the spirit of the country and its life close to the land, is for a moment, a weekend, the spirit of our home.

To discuss the preservation of Island land for agricultural purposes, consequently to scheme to keep much of it open, free of houses, waiting for the plow or the grazing animal, is to incite cynicism. The more charitable will argue that the farmer is a passing if not a bygone breed, that the ones who remain are for the most part gentlemen farmers who find the work an interest, not a vocation. Sherman Hoar said so the other night.

Others find the prospect of Islanders’ being turned back upon the land or the sea just silly. The future is in tourism, in second home construction, and the land needed to meet the demands of these two industries will cost beyond the farmer’s means. So goes their argument.

Well, there’s certainly room for disagreement, as there’s room for compromise. There is, though, no time left for delusion. If the feeling of the country fair, the wholesome fun of it, the good fellowship of neighbors, is the feeling we not only imagine but cherish for ourselves, an answer must be given soon.

“Well, the July people have gone and the August people have come,” said someone on the street corner to someone else.

“How can you tell?” rejoined someone else. “What with the in-and-out, come-and-go people?”

“I remember way back when we had season people. Then we had split-season people. Now we have split-month people,” said someone.

“It doesn’t matter as between July and August people, anyway,” said someone. “It’s the automobiles.”

“Yes,” cried everyone on the street corner. “It’s the automobiles!”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox