The Hunt. The Hunt. It was the annual October social gathering of the century in Monmouth County — from 1932 until 1996.
The Hunt, really the Haskell Hunt or Monmouth County Hunt Race Meet. It was where all good Rumson-Fair Haven area hob-knobbers, uppercrusters and hill voyeurs of the famously elite lifestyle gathered on the Amory Haskell Estate in Middletown, pretended to watch horses race and chase a fox, clinked crystal champagne flutes, donned designer duds, and sometimes did a little tipsy debutante tumble in the mud — all in good company. And there were many cheers to the festivity of it all!
OK, so there actually were horse lovers. And there was an actual meet. And there was a fox (I swore I saw one … ahem.). And there were actual races. But the races are not what most Hunt aficionados recall.
The ole society monocle usually honed in on the fine white linen table cloths, ornate settings, tweed, pleats, Fair Isles, turtle necks, Eitienne Aigner boots and bags, blindingly bright men’s pants, and, yes, who’s tailgate was the most grande.
Then, somewhere along the way, the event became less formal, but with no less societal pressure to make the date. Amory Haskell died in 1966. The Haskell Estate had packed thousands onto the grounds by the carload. Not necessarily wannabes, more like had-to-gos, cliques of friends piled into cars to get to The Hunt.
There was payment for spot on the estate and the funds went to charity. Each had his/her assigned tailgate food or drink and decoration duty. There were still candelabras sometimes set on the rear end of a wood paneled Chevy wagon, fine tailgate caviar plated with chicken wings and celery sticks, champagne corking and Budweiser chugging, and Levi-clad ladies mingled with diehard designer divas — until 1996 when the party was over.
But, the clomping and clinking lives on in the minds of many a Hunt ritualist. Most “arrived” Hunt style at least once in the gala’s lifetime.
And what a lifetime it was … Wait. Is that a horse that just whipped by on the track or a fleeting memory of chicken bones and duds in the mud? Hot sauce, anyone?
Tell us about it! What’s your favorite Hunt memory? What did you wear? Food? Decor? What kind of car did you tailgate in?
Share your Hunt pics with us by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will feature them all week. The featured photo comes from former Fair Havenite Hetty Tegen and RFH grad husband, Carl.
— Elaine Van Develde