SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, in partnership with New Jersey State Police, race event organizers, New Jersey Transit, and the Borough of Far Hills, plans a major crackdown on underage drinking at the Far Hills Race Meeting Saturday, Oct. 21.
"The Far Hills Race Meeting is one of the oldest traditions that takes place each fall here in Somerset County. I have attended the race myself over many years and have enjoyed the people and great atmosphere; however, law enforcement, as well as the Far Hills Race Meeting committee, are concerned about the underage drinking that exists at this event," Robertson said. "This year we are taking a new approach in an effort to curtail the abuse of alcohol by minors and provide a safe atmosphere for all the attendees.”
The event has been plagued in recent years by public intoxication, public urination, drug offenses and disorderly conduct; over the past five years, the number of people arrested has ranged between 24 and 55, according to police. The race draws a crowd of 35,000 each year.
State, county and local law enforcement officers will be conducting identification checks of underage individuals suspected of drinking alcoholic beverages on the race grounds. Those individuals that are identified as underage will be taken into custody, charged and will have to be released to a non-intoxicated adult.
As part of this year’s initiative, any individual entering the event who is visibly intoxicated will be turned away.
Additionally, all individuals over the age of 21 will receive an identification wrist band indicating that they are of legal age to consume alcohol. If an individual is observed consuming alcohol and does not have a wrist band, they will be required to show identification to law enforcement, otherwise they will be escorted off the property, according to Robertson.
Officers will conduct roving patrols throughout the day on the race grounds to identify individuals who are highly intoxicated and being disruptive. Any individual found to be causing a disturbance, endangering the safety and welfare of others, or otherwise not complying with this initiative, will be escorted from the property.
Race organizer Guy Torsilieri said the latest initiative is the next step in the committee’s ongoing efforts to curb underage and excessive drinking at the annual race. In addition to added efforts at barring underage patrons from drinking, this year the committee has partnered with a ride-sharing company and others as part of an overall goal of making the race safe for all visitors.
“In past years, we have made significant strides in curtailing alcohol abuse at our event,” Torsilieri said. “But with underage drinking on the rise, particularly at events that draw significant numbers of college-aged visitors, we are determined to ensure that our event remains a fun, family event to be enjoyed by all.”
Far Hills Mayor Paul Vallone welcomed the partnership with law enforcement and race organizers, saying the Far Hills Race Meeting is an asset to the borough.
“The annual race draws thousands of people from all over the region to our beautiful borough to experience the pageantry and tradition of steeplechase racing,” Vallone said. “It is our goal that by working collaboratively with law enforcement and FHRMA, each patron who visits will be offered a safe, friendly atmosphere in which to enjoy themselves.”
The notification concerning the rules and regulations will be distributed via social media outlets and direct email notifications to those participants who purchased a reserved spot, as well as ticket holders.
“We want people to have fun and enjoy the day, however, if you are not 21 you cannot consume alcohol, it’s the law,” Robertson said.