Remembrance of the Fair Stock Room Dude — Dad

The following piece was originally published on Aug. 31, 2015. It is being re-run, with changes only in the amount of years that have passed, in memory of my father, Bill Van Develde, former longtime Fair Haven Fire Company member, president and captain of the  Fire Police and chairman of the stock room at the fair, on the anniversary of his death on Aug. 31, 1983. RIP, Dad. You are missed. 

Retro Fair Haven Firemen's Fair stock room days in the 1970s Photo/FHFD booklet
Retro Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair stock room days in the 1970s
Photo/FHFD booklet

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s been 33 years, but I can still see his face and that kooky Brylcreemed hairdo. I can still hear his crazy belly laugh and that signature “Take ‘er easy, buddy!” I can still see him slapping kids on the back, forever clutching his trusty clipboard, pencil perched behind his ear, sweat on the brow and finger wagging.

That’s the vivid, comforting ghost image of Bill Van Develde I still see and hear roaming around on the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair grounds. He was chairman of the stockroom back in the 1970s and 80s and he was my quirky, big-hearted dad.

He drove the kids nuts, running them all over the fair grounds, shuttling stuff from the stock room to the booths and back. It was rare to see him sitting down.

He loved the fair; and he was all about the business of keeping things stocked.

He loved the Fair Haven Fire Department. He loved his compadres there. He loved those kids. He loved Fair Haven.

And 33 years ago on Aug. 31, he died at the age of 57. It was fair time. He didn’t make it that year. It was a first. The fair grounds that were usually robust with the nuances of yet another fair character seemed still and sullen.

Some of those kids he had regaled with his bad jokes, drove a little loopy in the name of the fair and back-slapped into a fair oblivion were now young men. One was there in the ambulance with the First Aid Squad rushing him to the hospital days before. A few ended up being teary-eyed pallbearers, missing his annoyingly caring way.

The notion that such simple gestures of volunteerism and community compassion mattered became very clear when I — a 23-year-old a little too impressed with pretense for Dad’s taste — was smacked upside the head with poignant gratitude the day of his funeral.

The tears and heads bowed in sadness, casket hoisted into that shiny, white, flower-laden firetruck — the far-reaching impact of one simple guy who just gave a crap, as his no-frills self would have said.

He just did what he did because it was the right thing to do to be part of a community, he enjoyed it and he cared. A lot. And he cared the right way — just because. He didn’t want, even rejected, any public accolades and even as much as a pat on the back.

He used to joke that when he “croaked,” he wanted “no damn rigamarole.” Sorry, Dad, they couldn’t help it. You deserved it.

Yes, it’s been 33 years.

I still see him darting past me at the fair, pencil poised for that checklist, hooting, hollering and hurrying. Check! And he always turns around when he sees me out of the corner of his eye and shouts, “Hey, Eya, did ya get yourself some supper? Hows about a hot dog? Got any tickets left from working with your mother? Always make sure you have a dollar in your pocket. Need a dollar?”

No, Dad, just hearing your voice and seeing your face again is priceless.

Thank you, Bill Van Develde, for bringing me to Fair Haven and giving me many fair times ever after. You are missed. And, yeah, I know, calling you a dude is just plain ornery of me.

A Fair Meet with Olympic Swimmer Connor Jaeger

Not only is Wednesday night Firemen’s Night at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, it’s also Olympian night this year.

Connor Jaeger, who recently won the silver medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle swim in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is back home and set to meet, greet and do some selfies with hometown friends and fans. He will be appearing at the fair, in front of the firehouse, from 7 to 9 p.m..

He said it himself on Instagram …

“This Wednesday 8/31 from 7-9pm please come and meet me at Fair Haven’s Fireman’s Fair for a selfie booth. Please come to meet me and give me an opportunity to thank you all for the unbelievable support you have shown me.”

There was talk of a parade, which is what transpired when Jaeger came in sixth in the same Olympic event in 2012. However, officials decided to wait and see what was most amenable to Jaeger.

So, selfies and socializing at the fair it is.

“We hope to see you tomorrow night,” Councilwoman Susan Sorensen said in a Facebook post after thanking officials, including Connor Jaeger’s father, Eric, a fellow councilman, for coordinating the “meet-and-greet.”

Retro Fair Cotton Candy & Candy Apple Boss Lady

Millie Felsmann making cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair circa early 1990s Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Millie Felsmann making cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair circa early 1990s
Photo/Elaine Van Develde



Millie Felsmann and her candy apples back in the 1960s Photo/courtesy of Monica Felsmann
Millie Felsmann and her candy apples back in the 1960s
Photo/courtesy of Monica Felsmann






This Retro Pic(s) of the Day story was originally published on Aug. 25, 2015. It is being run again in honor of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, which is running now through Saturday night. This is how they did it and continue to do it at the fair … 


By Elaine Van Develde

When it came to cotton candy — that fluffy spun light blue and pink sugar on a cone that melts in your mouth, on your mouth and many times on your hands, too — Millie Felsmann was the pro at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.

Don’t get us wrong, here. We know that Millie also commandeered the candy apple making. Yes, Candy Bennett was there, too — for many hours a day, making and selling those candy apples, apropos name and all. And, in another Retro Pic of the Day, we touted her as the candy apple lady.

Well, she was — she was Candy, the candy apple lady.  Continue reading Retro Fair Cotton Candy & Candy Apple Boss Lady

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair’s Start

The scents, sights and sounds of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair are in the air.

The end-of-summer tradition in the Rumson-Fair Haven area, the largest community fair in the state, started on Friday night.

Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect did the usual stroll of the grounds on Saturday.

Here’s a glimpse into the night …

— Elaine Van Develde

Continue reading Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair’s Start

Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair: An Opening Night Remembrance

Sometimes I can still smell the lingering scent of funnel cake in my mother’s hair. I can still see her blue-striped Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair apron draped over the kitchen chair. I can see her tying those apron strings. I can see her checking her hair and lipstick in the mirror by the door. I can hear her voice calling to me upstairs to hurry up as I tried to get my pigtails even and the puffy yarn bows tied just right. I’m always late.

And sometimes I can still see us walking down the street, her scurrying, brushing her hair to the side, still yelling back to me to hurry up.

Continue reading Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair: An Opening Night Remembrance

Retro Springsteen Fair Fun

Springsteen at the 1995 Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Photo/Elaine Van Develde

Today is the 41st anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic Born to Run album.

The Boss, who until recent years made Rumson his primary home,  has been a known fan of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair. He’s been seen countless times casually roaming the grounds — though more often when his kids were little.

Continue reading Retro Springsteen Fair Fun

Retro Fair Kitchen & Dining Room Folks

The following piece was originally published on Aug. 27, 2015. It’s fair time again, so it’s time to take a look back at how things were and are done a pivotal place at the fair — the kitchen and dining room.

By Elaine Van Develde

Someone’s in the kitchen at Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair grounds.

And while they may have, at one point another been with someone named Dinah, as the old ditty goes, it’s a definite they’ve been with someone named Mike, Dale, Sue (x2), Raquel, Ethel (x2), Mary, Anne, Amanda, Skippy, Hodgie, Mary Ellen, Joe, Evie, and, oh, yeah, Andy and a few others.

And they certainly haven’t been strummin’ on any ol’ banjo. They’ve been way too busy — cutting, peeling, filling, flouring, husking and just plain cooking.

Except there’s nothing plain about what’s cooking in the fair kitchen, who’s cooking it, when, where, why or how.

Continue reading Retro Fair Kitchen & Dining Room Folks

Simple Summer: Crabbing & Catching a Sunset

It doesn’t get much more simple in the summer than hanging a cage filled with raw chicken bait over the side of the Fair Haven Dock, netting crabs and catching a prime sunset view in the mix.

That’s what this Simple Summer photo gallery is all about.

Sometimes, too, you run into a small business owner everyone in the area knows. Anyone know who this is pictured crabbing a few days ago?

Hint: He’s known for putting people in stitches.

— Elaine Van Develde

Retro Rumson Firemen Fair Moment

Rumson Fire Department folks at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair 2015 Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Rumson Fire Department folks at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair 2015
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

Yes, the rides have arrived and the Fair Haven Fire Department is getting set for the fair.

It’s a tradition for end-of-summer socializing, spending and volunteering to support the volunteer fire company.

A tradition within the fair tradition is Firemen’s Night. Fire departments from across the state flock to the fair, most with reps riding into town on their towns’ fire trucks.

So, the Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse into Firemen’s Night 2015 with a photo of guys and gals from the neighboring Rumson Fire Department.

A big thank you to all our volunteer firefighters.

Recognize anyone in this crew?  Have you thanked a firefighter today?

— Elaine Van Develde