BERKELEY – There was a lot to see at the Ocean County Fair – and a lot to learn, touch, and talk about, too.
The fair, which runs for five days at the Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley, expanded offerings to be more hands-on this year.
Sure, there was still the usual rides and boardwalk-style games. And fair food like popcorn, roasted peanuts, Italian sausage, cotton candy and ice cream. Vendors were selling clothing and jewelry, and booths were set up for government services, politicians, and political hopefuls.
But this year, there was more of an interactive feel to it.
The 4-H Club, which has long had a close association with the fair, had made some changes. While there had always been a horse demonstration, this time there was a fenced in area closer to where people could see them. A child talked about the horses and answered questions. There were activities about horses nearby.
All of the 4-H exhibits were under one huge tent. Instead of specific squares where the rabbits or fowl are, for example, the cages now snaked along one side, creating a natural flow of traffic. The seeing eye dog demonstrations also told visitors about their training.
These moments were not lost on the fairgoers.
Deen Dougherty of Manahawkin shared what she learned from the seeing eye demo, and happily was able to pet one of the dogs. She was able to take time with the trainer, and speak one-on-one with her about the animals. She was there with her sister, Joyce Sullivan of Manahawkin.
One event was a little too interactive except for the most brave.
This was the High Flying Pages thrill show. This featured acrobats and two motorcyclists riding inside a metal sphere. In one instance, they brought an audience member into the sphere. A staff member kept her safe while the motorcyclist ran circles around her.
“We come every year. It’s a nice family tradition,” said Bernie Meyer of Berkeley. His family was at a booth where people could walk through a butterfly garden. They had sponges soaked with sugar water and were taught how to interact safely with the delicate creatures.
The butterfly show was the most commented about attraction this year, reported Jeff Adams, fair manager.
“We lost Thursday with the rain,” he said. “But even with the heat, people came out” on the other days. He estimated there were at least 50,000 guests coming through the fair over the five days.
The chainsaw carver, Dennis Beach, provided several pieces to the fair and people were able to watch him work. As people bought the pieces at the fair’s main table, several said they had looked him up online to see what kind of work he does, Adams said. He won an international competition in 2017. So, even with this rustic hobby, people are using the internet to learn more.