BERKELEY – The Ocean County Fair remains a place where everyone in Ocean County is welcome to a day or evening out to enjoy some old-fashioned fun.
While some of it has changed over the years, it still retains the feel of a neighborhood event of wholesome entertainment, said fair manager Jeff Adams.
Volunteers are always hard at work reinvesting in their community. The board putting it together is all volunteer. The ticket gates are run by the Toms River Mariners Marching Band as a fundraiser for them. Explorer youth cadets from the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department and surrounding towns will serve as parking attendants.
Inside, it hearkens back to the kind of fairs that you visited as a kid. Boardwalk-style games of chance and skill will fill the midway. The sound of carnival rides – and people on them – echo from the treeline. Lines of community groups and small businesses set up in booths, mixed in with food vendors. It all still has a classic feel to it.
“We trace our lineage back to 1947,” Adams said. It was an agriculture day, back then, when farmers would show off their crops that year. It was called the “4-H Achievement and Agricultural Ocean County Field Day.” Held on September 6, there were contests for entries like highest yield or largest corn. You could also attend seminars to get information from seed companies. There were an estimated 500 attendees.
It was originally held at Ocean County Park in Lakewood, but in 1982 it was moved to its current location, at the Robert J. Miller Air Park in Berkeley. This allowed more room for amusements, horse riding, and more.
While the venue has changed, and the audience is mostly not farmers, there are certain things that have not. There are still awards and expositions for agriculture. This comes from the still-intact connection to the 4-H after all these decades.
Amusements of America will be bringing the rides. They are the same outfit that has come the last few years, Adams said. Like everything else in the fair, their rides will be a balance of favorites and new things. Unfortunately, they retired the ferris wheel they had. That was a crowd pleaser.
There are several acts that are performing throughout the fair, often more than once. “Some of these people are sought after” and are hard to book, Adams said. Scott DeCarlo, in particular, couldn’t be fit into the schedule last year. “This year, we had to fight to get him because he’s in demand.”
The Amish Outlaws, the fair’s headliner, are performing in the main tent on Wednesday, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Doc Swan’s Magical Comedy Act is on Thursday, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. He was a staple of the fair for a few years, and has now returned.
Country band After the Reign is performing on Friday, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Cowboy Larry’s Wild, Wild West Show will be on Friday and Saturday nights as well.
R&B Express, performing Doo-Wop and oldies, will be on the stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Country singer Scott DeCarlo will be performing on Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Kaotic Control will be performing at 1 p.m on Sunday.
Rock N Roll Chorus, from Long Branch, will also be performing.
These shows are being done at various times from Wednesday to Sunday: RC Car demonstrations, and a Chainsaw Carver. The carver has won awards internationally. He will be doing demonstrations, where he takes a block of wood and gives it new life in about 20-30 minutes.
What’s a county fair without animal shows? There are several going on throughout the week.
A western gaming horse show will be in the horse show ring at 5 p.m. on Friday. At 5 p.m. on Saturday, there will be the Team Sorting Horse Event.
Marvelous Mutts, Commerford Zoo, and the Pig Races will be scheduled throughout the fair, from Wednesday to Sunday.
Marvelous Mutts has trained dogs perform such feats as races and swimming pool acrobatics.
Commerford features an exotic petting zoo, with creatures such as lemurs and yaks. They have an elephant and camel ride.
The pig races is just what you imagine they would be, a track with packs of piglets running through them, all given ridiculous names.
And of course there must be fair food. Corn dogs and funnel cake as far as the eye can see. But wait, there’s more!
Just as the other festivities are a mix of classics and new, the food selections will be a mix of traditional fair food and new selections.
You’ll see kettle corn on the traditional side, and falafel on the nontraditional side. With the popularity of food trucks, there will be more of them making appearances.
The Ocean County Fair will be from July 12 through July 16 at the Robert J. Miller Air Park on Route 530 in Berkeley Township. The hours are as follows:
Wednesday, July 12, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday, July 13, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday, July 14, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, July 15, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, July 16, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fair admission is $8. Children younger than 10 are free.
For more information, visit oceancountyfair.com.