EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - As the summer draws to a close, East Brunswick and its surrounding towns have one last hurrah before its residents go back to school and work - the Middlesex County Fair. 2019 marks the 81st anniversary of the fair’s founding, and it promises to be a bigger event than ever. From August 5th to August 11th, county residents will be able to enjoy fair food, thrilling rides, and local entertainment, along with an exciting fireworks show.
While the fair may be most often visited for its rides, it also helps to promote local artists, farmers, and charitable causes. Craft demonstrations and vendors are common, as the county fair provides an opportunity for artists to show off and sell their work. Local farmers do the same with their crops and livestock, along with honoring the “Farmer of the Year” - an award that has been presented to an exemplary farmer by the Middlesex County Board of Agriculture at the fair since 1992.
Many also look forward to the fair as a time for giving. The fair’s yearly Charity Challenge is a hotly anticipated event in which charities compete to see who can earn the most for their cause. The winning charity gets an additional $500 to add to their earnings, and in the past, charities have raised several hundred dollars just from participating. It’s a very effective way for charities to spread the word about their cause and raise money while doing so.
Planning the fair is a labor of love for its trustees and the many people involved in making the event what it is. According to Michelle Durlew, the county fair’s office manager and one of its trustees, planning for the next year’s fair starts only two weeks after the last one has ended. “It’s a 12-month thing,” she said of the process. The most difficult part is actually the things that they cannot control, such as the weather.
According to her, part of what keeps the fair running after all these years is tradition. “People who grew up with the fair are coming, and getting their kids involved.” And though people’s fond memories of going to the fair as children may be what keeps them coming back, the Middlesex County Fair doesn’t solely rely on nostalgia to draw in fairgoers. “We take the things that go well, and we try to come up with improvements for the year to come,” said Durlew. “Our partnership with 4H has [also] evolved a lot through the years. It started out as mainly being for farming-related events, but they’re more involved in things like STEM, too, so their involvement in the fair has changed a lot.”
Many returning favorites can be expected to appear at the fair, such as the Amish Outlaws band as one of its performers, but new faces and shows will be present as well. In addition to a few new performers, there is also “Ready, Set, Grow!”, an agriculture-themed magic show for younger attendees. The fair opens today at 5:00 PM, with opening ceremonies taking place at 6:00.