It was the late summer of 1960, and even as storm watchers were keeping tabs on a tropical depression named Donna, the thoughts of most folks were with squeezing the last bit of enjoyment out of another hard-earned vacation season.
The American Football League was still a week or two away from kicking off its first game, and precious few people were aware of a little band named the Beatles, but taking advantage of a change in state laws governing raffles and midway-style games of chance, volunteer firefighters in launched an event that returns for its 58th annual edition this week: the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.
Beginning Friday evening and continuing every night (except for August 27) through September 2, the oldest — and, many would argue, greatest — of all Shore area fairs commandeers the grounds of the borough firehouse for an eight-day extravaganza that transforms River Road into a festival of lights and happy crowds.
At the same time, the event can’t help but strike a somewhat melancholy note — a last bittersweet blast against the encroaching season of back-to-school supplies, summer-love goodbyes, and that first hint of sweater-weather in the air.
All the long-time favorite features will be present and accounted for, from the fire truck excursions, kiddie-ride corridor, “big kid” rides (Zipper, Wipeout, Rainbow) and prize-packed games, to the “Out Back” snack bar, strolling Super 50/50 ticket vendors, back-lot beer wagon, and that justifiably famous fresh seafood kitchen and dining room; a beyond-busy operation overseen by the fire department’s auxiliary, and an attraction for which folks start lining up right about now.
As always, all proceeds from food sales, raffles, games and ride tickets are dedicated to the operations of the borough’s century-old, all-volunteer fire department — and all vendors, volunteers and food prep personnel are hometown neighbors from right here in the community.
Whether maintaining a tradition of reconnecting with family and friends — or taking in the lights, sights, sounds and smells for the first time — there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the fair, which runs from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. And to whet your appetite, check out redbankgreen‘s coverage of past editions, including a colorful slideshow from 2010; a 2011 photo essay on the making of the fair’s clam chowder, and a 2014 inside look at the seafood kitchen by PieHole’s Susan Ericson.