Masters of the Midway Brought the Fair to Life

Excerpted from Bountiful: A History of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society and the Livestock Show and Fair, by Susan Klein, with photographs by Alan Brigish (Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, 2012).

This excerpt is taken from chapter 9 which tells the story of the midway and how it came to play an integral part of the annual Island tradition.

“My favorite was the Scrambler! It was really fun!”

— Dylan Biggs, 7 years of age

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At Last, Fair History Explored and Explained
Sara Brown

The first Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair was held on October 26, 1858: it was announced on September 15 of that year. And thus began a pilgrimage that would be unfamiliar in nature though familiar in spirit to modern-day fairgoers: 1,800 people made their way to the Grange Hall in West Tisbury by horseback, in wagons or on foot.

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Crescendo Builds for Agricultural Fair
Olivia Hull and Tara Keegan

Standing before the Enter sign at the Agricultural Society fairgrounds the week before the annual fair, there is a strong sense of anticipation. There’s not much to see. Foot-tall pink flags mark the spots for the vendors that will sell food and goods on the lawn. A few rides sit folded in the corner of the property. People drift in and out of the hall, submitting entries. The commotion is only beginning.

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They'll Be the Judge of That at the Fair
Remy Tumin

The names of judges at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair are largely kept anonymous for fear of bullying, bribery or heckling. There is one livestock judge from off-Island who goes by Steve, although no one can recall his last name. But a handful of judges agreed to talk to the Gazette before they assume judging duties on the fair grounds in West Tisbury later this week as the 151st annual fair gets under way.

Fair entrees will begin arriving on Wednesday afternoon, judging taking place that evening and Thursday morning in the main hall.

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Annual Agricultural Fair Opens Thursday Morning in West Tisbury

An excited, yet not quite frantic, bustle around West Tisbury's Agricultural Hall suggests that it's that time again. Just in case the hectic scene isn't enough of a sign, a yellow, blue, green and pink merry-go-round sits empty in the grass semicircle in front of the Agricultural Hall, waiting to take kids for a spin.

The 140th Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society's Livestock and Fair will kick off Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

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Agricultural Fair Opens to Music Along Midway

Even the sun decided to make an appearance yesterday morning for the opening of the 140th Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair.

Fifteen minutes before the fair officially opened, carloads of big and little kids lined Panhandle Road, anxious to be the first riders on the 18 carnival rides.

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Vineyard Livestock Show and Fair Set for Grand Start Along Magical Midway

The ferris wheel's been planted, the entry forms returned, the dogs bathed, allowances saved, curfews set.

In the final days before the 141st annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair begins, volunteers are plugging through the fair's "to do" list. It's a list that Eleanor Neubert - fair manager for 19 years - knows well.

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Agricultural Fair Stages Grand Opening; 30,000 Visitors Expected Over Four Days

The activity filling the roadways in West Tisbury yesterday morning could only mean one thing: The 141st annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair had opened its gates at 10 a.m. for the first of four eventful days.

Groups of kids stood at nearby bus stops, people walked along the road toward the event, cars full of parents and children began to back up for the field parking - and the fair had only just begun.

A father and son, after parking, sprinted to the ticket booth with smiles on their faces, laughing all the way there.

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Hottest Fair in History Wins Cheers from Public
Alexis Tonti

Hottest Fair in History Wins Cheers from Public

Sweltering Weather Drops Attendance to 25,000 Visitors


Two days after the close of the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair, the blue reentry stamp still won't quite wash off. The ink's durability through sweat and swim and shower is pretty amazing - and a bit frustrating - but ultimately a good thing. Most everyone left and returned, and that stamp was their ticket back in.

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All Roads Lead to the Agricultural Fair; Pets and Pies, Rides and Rap Await
Mandy Locke
All bets were off for those who planned to pace themselves during the opening morning of the 142nd Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair.
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