BERKELEY – The rides. The games. The funnel cakes. Yes, it’s finally back.
After a two-year hiatus, the Ocean County Fair made its return at its usual location: the Robert J. Miller Airpark on Route 530.
A healthy crowd was there on Thursday night, the second evening of the fair, to meet farm animals, try their hands at skills, and take in the best the county has to offer.
Rides lit up the evening sky as hair bands played from the speakers. Smoke from the grills hissed and filled the air with the scent of barbecue. Booths sold clothes, toys, and stuffed animals. Still other booths were there to spread the word about their products or county organizations.
Kids could make sand art. For those who wanted to be an art project, they could go to the henna tattoo or face painting booths.
“We haven’t had it for two years. We didn’t want to see it go away,” said Helen Ferraro, a long-time volunteer with the fair. She became acting Fair Chairperson after the death Jeff Adams a few months ago. Sadly, he did not get to see the fair come back.
The 2020 fair would have been the 73rd year of the fair. The only years they missed were 2020 and 2021.
“There are some staples that people ask for every year,” she said, like Bwana Jim, the wildlife expert who lets kids get up close and personal with snakes and other critters.
Even though it still had its familiar feeling, there were some fresh attractions. Hatchet throwing and laser tag hadn’t been done before. There had been dog shows, but this year’s Dynamo Dogs was new. There was a new ride vendor, Campy’s Blue Star Amusements.
The 4-H was looking forward to being back as well, said Amelia Valente, 4-H Program Associate and Laura Ferrie, 4-H Program Assistant.
“It’s the capstone to our year. The kids work really hard on their projects and now they can show them off,” Valente said. “It’s a fun time for them to feel proud and accomplished.”
As a leader in the organization, she said it’s rewarding to have a kid who is shy in September and watch them talk to the public about their pet or craft.
The fair is a great recruitment tool, as local children see what the group is all about, she said. Whatever interests the child has, 4-H can find some kind of youth development for them. Without the fair, it was hard to meet prospective members.
The 4-H tent had a score of projects the kids have been working on all year. Cages and pens contained fowl, rabbits, goats, and more. The air was humid and dense from a very brief rain storm earlier in the day, but there was a nice breath of cool air as you walked past the fans. The presentations were educational as well, teaching people such topics as how to prepare your pets for an emergency evacuation.
The remaining times for the fair (and some of the entertainment planned) are:
Friday: 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Whippoorwill Bluegrass Band; After the Reign
Saturday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Strictly 60s; Jersey Jukebox; Magic of Marco
Sunday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Unlimited ride wristbands available. Cowboy Larry’s Wild West Show
The midway will have performances throughout the fair, with times to be announced. Many of them will be there every day, such as Dynamo Dogs, Bwana Jim’s Wildlife Show, Pig Races, Chainsaw carver, pony rides, and the Mermaids Show.