A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

History: Trials and Tribulations in Running the Monmouth County Fair (1907-1916)

The 19 Sep 1907 edition of The Matawan Journal announced the incorporation of the Monmouth County Fair Association on Saturday 14 September, with capital stock of $2,000. Mayor C O McFaddin was named president and twenty members stood on the board. The association leased Elkwood Park for its first fair, to be held three days during the first week of October 1908.

The 20 Aug 1908 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the Monmouth County Fair would be held at Elkwood Park in Long Branch, opening on 31 August and then running all week, including Labor Day. Events would include the Grand Circuit Races. "[M]ost of the fastest trotting and pacing horses in training will compete for the big money prizes offered by the association." Stands to accommodate 5,000 people were being erected. Midway attractions would entertain the thousands expected to attend. 

The 27 May 1909 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the Monmouth County Fair Association planned to hold its annual fair in Red Bank on 3-4 and 6 September. Improvements had been made to the track and many races would be contested.

The 5 Aug 1909 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the Monmouth County Fair Association would hold its second annual fair on Labor Day at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Newman Springs Road. Firemen from thirteen companies in the shore area would participate in the day's parade and then attend the fair.

The 11 Sep 1913 edition of The Matawan Journal listed the Matawan contest winners at the recent Monmouth County fair.

The 13 Aug 1914 edition of The Matawan Journal railed against the Monmouth County Fair Association's proposed sale of beer at the annual fair. The editor claimed that representatives of the Monmouth County Federation of Churches were treated discourteously at a recent hearing on the matter in Red Bank, adding that pulpits would likely be referencing the affair from pulpits across the county and a boycott of the event could include hundreds if not thousands.

The 10 Sep 1914 edition of The Matawan Journal told of a local prosecutor's campaign against games of chance at the Monmouth County Fair. Wheels of fortune were banished, as were shell games and a Japanese rolling ball game, possibly pachinko. The game operators quickly discerned that they could sell chances on the co-operative plan and avoid arrest.

The 17 Jun 1915 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 4 col 2) includes an open letter from The Red Bank Standard about the possible end of the Monmouth County fair because the association hasn't been able to raise a $1,000 guarantee fund against possible losses. Under the title "The Truth At Last," The Standard's letter complained that the Red Bank Register shamelessly promoted the previous year's fair as being the most successful ever because of the beer and rum being sold there. Plus, The Standard claimed that The Register grossly exaggerated the attendance size, suggesting that half a million had visited the fair when reasonable people would have said thousands attended. The Standard concluded  that 1) the disgusting portrayals of the fair no doubt led investors away from the fair, and 2) the boycott of last year's county fair had necessitated the association's effort to secure a guarantee fund, thus the threat to not conduct a fair at all in 1915.

The 27 Jul 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 2) announced that the Monmouth County Fair Association would hold the annual fair at the new fairgrounds in Middletown Township on 31 August, 1-2 September and 4 September.

I guess Red Bank had its fill of the fair and abandoned its early zeal for hosting the event -- the Prosecutor's Office prohibiting games of chance on the midway, religious officials decrying the sale of liquor in a time of increased temperance, and a local boycott. It's a wonder the association could find any municipality eager to take over the hosting the county fair after the uproar and turmoil of the early years.


  1. Love the stuff you find - keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks! I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Digging around in the old Matawan Journals is actually quite addictive.