Grange Fair showcases Dartmouth’s rural charm

Sep 7, 2018

The Grange Fair has been an annual tradition since the late nineteenth century, and it’s still just as fun, even though it has changed with the times and Dartmouth. 

Held across two days from September 7-8, the fair boasted many attractions: a country store, a huge penny sale, judged exhibits of all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, many quilts, food, and games. Entry is always free. 

“It was originally a place for farmers to showcase their crops and animals,” said Sam Manley, the president of the Grange.

He said that now, most of the exhibitors are home gardeners, and the fair is more about community outreach and celebrating the town’s rural heritage.

“It’s fun to see the generations that come up at the fair,” said Manley. He said that it’s likely that one of the kids running the games will someday be running the whole Grange.

Inside the Grange Hall, an array of local produce was laid out across tables, ready to be judged on Saturday morning. On the stage, rows of flowers were on display.

“The flowers are the most competitive,” said Elizabeth Newton, who has been involved with the fair for ten years. “It’s so detailed, and the flower judges are so particular. They take it very seriously, and they love doing it.”

The flowers on display were judged in several categories, including arrangements in a container not meant for flowers, small arrangements, best stems, and a special dahlia exhibit.

Newton said that many exhibitors begin planning for the fair in the spring when they are planting, and said someone complained to her several weeks ago that they had great things in their garden, but it was too early for the fair. 

Paskamansett Quilt Guild was also on hand with a display of more than a dozen quilts, along with handicrafts, canned goods, and baked goods.

The Quilt Guild has been displaying quilts for the past four years at the fair. This year’s display was notable for the variety of work on show, including baby quilts, hand-pieced quilts, hand-embroidered quilts. Some of the quilts are quite traditional, while others draw from pop culture -- including one “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” quilt.

The members of the guild put on demonstrations, including one of wool rug braiding by Joyce Winship. Bee Bettencourt was demonstrating applique work on Friday afternoon, and Betty Parisean and Annette Garant were also working on quilts.

The games outside are the highlight for the fair’s younger attendees, and there was plenty of variety.

“Some of these games are older than I am,” Sam Manley said.

There are, of course, the classic fair games like darts and a ring toss, but there are also milk cans to throw balls into, a muffin pan game, and one game that involved throwing soft balls at dolls in an attempt to knock them backwards.

That game, said Lauren Miller-Donnelly, was recently resurrected from the Grange’s basement. With a fresh coat of paint and a quick wash for the doll’s dresses, it was ready to go again.

This year’s grange fair was dedicated to the memory of Wendy Holmes, in honor of her commitment to community service and her friendship.