Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair


…Ah, now that I’ve caught my breath, on with August events. It is those of you that spend the last two weeks of the month with us who are the most adventurous and inexhaustible. I decided long ago that you all must go home and have another week of vacation to recuperate before returning to regular life and obligations.

The events that dominate the end of the season are three of the most family-friendly fun times you can imagine. Wednesday, August 19th, is the 137th annual Grand Illumination Night in Oak Bluffs. The tradition of Grand Illumination began in 1869 in honor of Governor’s Day. This year, start the night with an early dinner of lobster and fried clams on the harbor, then wander over to the Tabernacle in the campground by 7 to enjoy the Community Sing and the Vineyard Haven Band Concert that precedes the Illumination. Really, when was the last time you and the kids sang “Oh, Suzanna” together? As the evening grows dimmer, the tension and expectation mounts. The miracle occurs when it’s finally dark. In perfect synchronization, hundreds of Chinese paper lanterns light up the night, creating an absolutely magical spectacle. Outfit the kids with glow sticks to add to the magic, stroll the campground, compare the lanterns (many antique and unique), and chat with the owners of these incredible, colorful gingerbread cottages. Some residents even dress in period costume for you, and most have colorful tales to share. It’s a night you’ll never forget.

If you’re ready for more activity on Thursday the 20th, hop in the car or on the bus and head to West Tisbury for the opening of the 148th annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. It gets underway at 10 AM. (If you’re totally done in from the night before, don’t despair. The Fair continues through Sunday.) They don’t make country fairs like this anymore. Ride the rides, watch the horse pull and woodsmen competition, join the contests (don’t forget everyone’s favorite – the skillet toss), view the blue-ribbon livestock and luscious home-baked goods, and eat local delicacies until you burst. Hint to those who love the fair, but have a difficult time with crowds: go on Friday night when the rest of the island is at the fireworks.

The fireworks: the grand finale of the Vineyard summer season. Sponsored and skillfully executed by the Oak Bluffs Fireman’s Civic Association, this event is a must for young and old. Bring your picnic baskets to Ocean Park on Friday the 21st and claim your spot for a spectacular display. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is some small town, low budget offering. I’d match it against Boston any day. Of course, some of us remember the year it had been rain-dated twice, eventually taking place on a night when the cloud cover was so low, you couldn’t see anything bursting above it. We figure it can’t happen twice in the same place. The Vineyard Haven Band entertains from the gazebo, starting at 8 PM, and the main show goes on at about 9. You won’t be sorry.

You may be tired after all of this, though, so I’m happy to inform you that that is the end of a very busy week. The summer goes out with a bang! So head home, relax, laugh and reminisce about your 2009 August adventures, and rest up for 2010’s, because after experiencing them once, you’ll be hooked forever.

Image courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Assoc.


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