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.
The area’s longest-running community carnival returns as the 57th annual Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair gets underway Friday night. (Photo and video by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Generations on the Greater Red Bank Green have known it as a bittersweet occasion — a last dance with the devil-may-care pleasures of the season before that inevitable pivot to thoughts of “back to school” and “where’s my sweater?”
The Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair is all of that and more, and when this oldest (and, many agree, greatest) of all local carnivals puts down stakes for a 57th annual edition that begins Friday evening, it will hold as many different meanings (and represent as many vivid memories) as there are people who have thrilled to its rides, vied for its prizes and stood in line for an order from its celebrated seafood café.
The rides and midway that transform River Road into a festival of lights and happy crowds. The tantalizing aromas that waft forth from the on-site seafood cafe. The fire truck excursions, “Out Back” snack bar, strolling Super 50/50 ticket vendors, and all of the other sights, sounds and smells that have come to define summertime’s grandest hurrah on the Navesink are back — as the annual Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair returns for an incredible 56th consecutive edition this weekend.
Beginning Friday evening and continuing every night (except for August 30) through September 5, the community tradition commandeers the grounds of the borough firehouse for an eight-day extravaganza that’s come to be described as an “iconic” signpost of summer along the Navesink. At the same time, the fair represents one last bittersweet blast against the encroaching season of back-to-school supplies, summer-love goodbyes, and that first sweater-weather breath of breeze through the window.
By SUSAN ERICSON
It’s time for the first seating in the dining tent at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, and the members of the all-volunteer fire department’s Auxiliary are once again organized and ready for the challenge.
It’s 6 p.m., and already there are more people in line for dinner than there are tables and seats. But they patiently wait their turn, some holding plastic cups of beer while chatting with neighbors, many with small children eager to hit the rides. A long line of baby strollers stands parked between the cashier and takeout window.
While there’s still technically plenty of summer sand left in the hourglass, the coming of the Fair Haven Firemens Fair to the greater Red Bank Green adds an ever so slightly melancholy touch to the senior-diet Dog Days of August. We detect a nagging hint of Back to School seriousness; a wrapping up of outdoor entertainments; a change of gears and seasons that’s keynoted by a tuneful tribute, a look ahead to Halloween and a merrily Menopausal musical.
redbankgreen has assembled an even dozen diversions in this pre-Labor Day interlude, starting with a handful of things going on beneath the setting sun and stars.
The Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair kicks off its traditional week-plus run Friday night.
Touted as the biggest firemen’s fair in New Jersey, the event boasts feel-good qualities galore: brimming bowls of clam chowder, bird’s-eye views from atop a Ferris wheel, dizzying rides and a much-anticipated “super 50-50” drawing. Upwards of 10,000 visitors are expected.
The fair runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. It’s closed on Sunday, and wraps up Saturday, September 3.
A slideshow of photos from last year’s fair is here. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
For many, it’s the last shot at summer fun a chance to scarf down cotton candy and hop into a bucket on the Ferris wheel.
For most, though, Andy Schrank says it’s more like a family reunion.
“Time flies,” said Schrank, a 30-year veteran of Fair Haven’s fire department. “A whole year goes by and now, all of a sudden, all these people are coming out of the woodwork.”
They come each year for the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, and whatever reason brings them out of the woodwork, the area’s spirited summer closeout gets into action tonight.