FLEMINGTON, NJ – The Hunterdon County 4-H and Agricultural Fair will open Aug. 23.
The fair is the successor to the Flemington Fair, and this year will be its 18th staging. For 13 years it's been held at the county park on Route 179, which was once the site of the Ringoes Drive-In movie theater.
But this year will be a little different, because it won’t be happening at the South County Park. That’s because Hunterdon’s Freeholders voted yesterday to rename the park, which will now be known as Roger K. Everitt Memorial Fairgrounds.
Roger Everitt was “the heart and soul, the foundation of this county’s successful 4-H Fair,” said Freeholder Director John Lanza. “He’ s every bit one of the iconic figures of Hunterdon County When you think of the fair, you think of the name Roger Everitt.”
Everitt died in March at the age of 86.
Everitt was the leader of a group of farmers and 4-H alumni who came together in 1999 in hopes of starting a fair. That was shortly after the privately-owned Flemington Fair decided to stop holding its event where Lowe’s and Walmart are now on Route 31 in Raritan Township.
When that happened, Everitt and several other members of the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture formed a committee to continue the local exhibition of 4-H and agricultural displays. It chose Everitt president, a position he was elected to annually and held until his death.
The new Hunterdon group held its first fairs on the Flemington Fairgrounds while a new location was sought. Playing key roles with Everitt early on were George Conard and Ken Totten. They approached the county Freeholders and got their financial support.
The Freeholders yesterday were unanimous in their support of the change, with Freeholder Matt holt noting it had the “full support of a former 4H-er.”
Freeholder Rob Walton recalled that every time he went to the fair there were “a thousand things going on.” But no matter the excitement, “You walk up to Roger, he always had a smile on his face,” Walton said. “No matter how much chaos there seemed to be, he had time for you, had a smile, he shook your hand and gave you an earful about what was going on at the fair and how wonderful it would be. It made the day brighter. He’s sorely missed.”
Many members of Everitt’s family attended yesterday’s Freeholder meeting, prompting Lanza to proclaim it the most-attended Freeholder meeting he could recall.
“My dad knew that to make your dream happen, it requires planning, hard work and asking friends and leaders for help and guidance on how to make it happen,” his daughter, Kathy Kovacs said. “And it happened ... it was always my dad’s thrill to see family and friends come together and enjoy a good old-fashioned day at the fair.
“If you think he is not here today, you are sadly mistaken,” she added, “because if it had to do with the fair, he was there. Always."
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct when the fair first was held at the South County Park.