59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

EOD2015

1992

Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society

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Since 1858, with only a few years off because of World War II, the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society's fair has been "the holiday of the County." To this day it reflects the rural character of Up Island Vineyard living. Soon after the fair began, it became the social event of the year, a time for neighbors to get together, engage in vigorous friendly competition, and demonstrate their skill at farming, animal husbandry, and useful crafts.

One of the founding members of the Agricultural Society was Henry Whiting, a surveyor with the Coastal and Geodetic Survey, who was sent to map the Island and decided to remain. His great-granddaughter Jane Newhall (1913–2011) was the fair's entry clerk for more than five decades beginning in 1947.

In a 1995 oral history interview, she described in detail the fair she knew so well, how it had changed and grown over the years, and how it remained the same. "Holding the book for the judge in the ring when they're judging the animals, well, that's the fun part. And writing down who gets what, and handing out all the ribbons. It's all handwritten still. No, they talk about there should be a simpler way to do this, but we haven't found a simpler way yet. So we're still doing it the old way."

Every year since 1976 the fair has issued a poster featuring the artwork of a local painter or designer. In 1992 Thomas Hart Benton's painting of the fair illustrated the theme of West Tisbury's centennial.

With thanks to the following individuals who have adopted this object for one year:
Lee Ornati