From the August 17, 1954 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The initial venture of the Steamship Authority into the entertainment business, which took the form of a moonlight dance on Saturday night, can be tagged as no less than an unqualified success. The official count of tickets sold was 277, and according to the purser’s count, all were used.

To this number should be added about thirty of the employees off duty, who did not require tickets. Thus, if it was true that the run cost the Authority some four hundred dollars, there was a gain on ticket sales plus whatever was derived from the lunch counter and bar.

The captain and crew of the ferry were the perfect hosts, and this was not strange in view of the fact that it was they, headed by Capt. Walter Kszystyniak, who suggested the trial run by moonlight. They overlooked nothing which might add to the comfort of the passengers and indeed Capt. K. told some of the passengers, that they were to consider the ferry as their own private yacht for the time being.

The activities taking place entirely on the upper deck, the engines were slowed to reduce the noise of the exhaust, that the passengers might better hear the music. Added to all this was the weather, which was beautiful, with a huge full moon, and there was reason to be thankful that the night was not hot, bringing a crowd that would have taxed the space aboard the ferry.

The run was from Vineyard Haven, easterly, along the East Chop and Oak Bluffs shore to the Cape Pogue Buoy, off which ends were shifted for the return trip up the coastal channel.

The crowed was a representative mixture of late middle age and every age group below, up to senior high school students. While the majority were summer guests, there was a substantial sprinkling of year-round Island residents in which all or nearly all Island towns were represented.

The ages of these various groups were reflected in their activities aboard. No more than half danced, at any one time, there were some cozy beer parties, and there was a gallery of those who neither danced nor drank beer, but who seemed to be enjoying themselves. And all was orderly. The special police officer who came along and the patrolling ship’s officers who were constantly on alert had nothing to do.

There will probably be no more moonlight dances on the ferry this summer, despite the success of the first. Capt. K. said that it was tried as an experiment, and that another year the practice might become regular. On the other hand it was learned unofficially, that protests were made against it by certain Island business proprietors. But whatever is done, it is quite proper to say of this trip that a good time was had by all.

The Island’s summer season has reached that stage at which the annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society’s Cattle Show and Fair is coming up.

If the fairs of the past few years are a reliable guide, between 4,000 and 5,000 persons of all ages will pass through the gates during the three days, or the equivalent, generally speaking, of the active year-round population of the Vineyard.

The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society was founded on April 14, 1858, with Leavitt Thaxter of Edgartown was the first president. The first fair, an experiment, was held in tents and proved so successful that a campaign was begun to raise $1,000 so that the society could be chartered by the state. Between Dec. 3, 1858, and Feb. 11, 1858, the necessary amount was raised and that April plans were under way for the purchase of the fair ground and erection of the building. A good many people objected to the location of the grounds because, it was said, they were so remote from the other towns. But West Tisbury is not only central, it was also in the real agricultural heart of the Island, and it was the home of Prof. Henry L. Whiting, one of the moving spirits in the enterprise.

The new building was completed and ready for use in the fall of 1858. At that time these words were painted on the front of the structure: “Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the first fruits of all thine increase, so shall thy barns be filled with plenty.” Through the years, this inscription was suffered to disappear under weather and change, but when the fair becomes a hundred years old perhaps the words will be painted again.

The early fairs contained many articles on display that were brought home from far parts of the world by sea captains or their wives, the products of home industry and of the old mills, and interesting produce grown by Islanders in the face of warning that it could not be done.

Shoes from the plant of Dukes County Boot and Shoe Co. at Edgartown were exhibited, candles from the sperm oil refinery of Dr. Daniel Fisher, and bricks from Mudgett and Andrews’ brick kiln. These old industries are gone, but there are new enterprises, and the displays of home crafts and prowess are enhanced today by the remarkable exhibits of the 4-H Clubs.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox