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One of our favorite times of year is the annual Agricultural Fair on Martha’s Vineyard. Every August, for four days, empty fields, barns, and the AG Hall are transformed into an all-American, old-fashioned, neighborly fairground. Here’s why we think the fair on Martha’s Vineyard is one of the sweetest summer joys of all.

what’s so special about the summer fair on martha’s vineyard?

August involves many micro-luxuries: sunflowers, fresh lemonade, the smell of suntan lotion, watermelon, and the joys of going to a state fair. What’s that, you say? How can attending a state fair be a luxury? You’re kidding, right? Nope.

Here at Dandelion Chandelier we love agricultural fairs, state fairs, street fairs, and carnivals of all kinds.

We particularly love the annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. What’s not to like? The smell of barns full of hay and lowing cows. The sound of carnival barkers and a septuagenarian Dixieland band. The cries of roosters and happy little kids. And cotton candy. We are all about pink cotton candy.

10 reasons we love the martha’s vineyard ag fair

For the skeptics, doubters, cynics and naysayers, here’s our list of 10 reasons that a visit to a state fair during the month of August is one of life’s sweetest luxuries:

1. Pie for lunch is perfectly acceptable.

On our recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard, we had cherry and peach pie for our noontime meal at the annual Agricultural Fair in West Tisbury. You know how we feel about pie. In our experience, the only thing better than pie for dessert is pie for lunch. Nothing more needs be said.

2. Chickens, rabbits, goats, and horses. And llamas!

Once a year, it’s a fine thing to be in the company of chickens. Their feathers are stunningly beautiful, and we find it inspiring to think about how we might rock their color palette in the fall when we return to the real world. Black, white, deep caramel and red – gorgeous.

A state fair always has a collection of chickens, along with rabbits, goats, donkeys, horses, cows, sheep and other animals. They get judged for prizes, but we ignore the ribbons – or lack thereof – and just go for the ones showing the most spirit. We dig the badass attitude of the roosters. And we love the serenity of the sheep. The llamas and alpacas are adorable. We don’t want to live on a farm, but we love being in a barnyard on an annual basis.


3. Piglet races.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen little piglets racing in a small maze covered in hay. So. Cute. We were worried that they might be stressed by the experience, but they seemed really happy. They certainly made us smile.

4. Competitions involving perfectly useless skills.

A true escape from urban life is possible when confronted with a series of spirited contests in which the combatants do things that are completely unnecessary in modern life (we’re not sure that some of these skills were ever actually necessary): last week, we observed a log-sawing contest, a skillet-throwing contest, a tractor-pull and a pie-eating contest. Is it important to be good at these things? Who cares?

5. Fresh squeezed lemonade, made to order.

Every August, at just about precisely the same day and time every year, we amble over to the lemonade stand at the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair and order up a tray of icy-cold fresh-squeezed glasses of lemonade. If you haven’t had it made fresh right before your eyes on a hot sunny day, then you haven’t really ever had lemonade. It tastes like summer. Like the best summer you’ve ever had.

6. Carnival rides.

Where to start? The Tilt-a-Whirl, the Ferris wheel, the flying swings, the giant slide. You can do these with your family. Or with your romantic partner. By day. Or under the stars. Doesn’t matter. It’s always gonna be good.

7. Games of skill.

We know they can be frustrating, a waste of money, even humiliating under certain circumstances. But how much fun are those carnival games of skill? Throwing balls, tossing rings, aiming at targets, all that silly macho stuff. Those huge stuffed animals that you win are probably worth one-twentieth of what it cost you to win it, but how cool are you for being able to claim it and bestow it upon your suitably impressed companion? Our personal favorite in this genre is Dunk the Clown. If you want to hear some world-class trash talk, just hang around that booth. It’s better than a Red Sox game.

8. Prize winners.

There’s something really sweet about seeing just how many categories of human endeavor can be awarded a prize at a state fair: tallest sunflower, largest pumpkin, best pie, best photography, best quilt, finest wool, tastiest honey, best cheese, and even best pickle.

9. Deep-fried everything.

There’s an artery-clogging arms race underway to see just how many items can be successfully deep-fried and sold to the fair-going public. Three Musketeers bars. Snickers bars. Twinkies. There can be no guilt at a state fair. Those are the rules. So eat up.

10. Finding common ground with your fellow citizens.

Quite often it seems that we are living in a time when very little holds us together as a nation. The good news? Wandering through a state fair will restore your belief that we can still find at least a few things in common.

The guy wearing the “Trump 2020” shirt and the woman in the “Resist” shirt are not going to sing together about brotherhood and harmony just because they’re at the same event (although how great is it that at least they are at the same event) – but they’ll probably both laugh in delight when a performer makes a hero out of an adorable 5-year old by teaching him to juggle.

We all want to belong to something. We all like acknowledgement of our hard work. Nearly all of us seem to like corn on the cob. We have to start somewhere. It won’t heal everything, but it’s not out of the question that a return to common national values might start over a shared deep fried candy bar. Stranger things have already happened.

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Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.