On the year without the fair … We look back to a story originally published in 2015 all about just how the largest firemen’s fair in the state was run and a bit about that famous clam chowder. The details come straight from a longtime fair chairman and his son years later … RIP, Jim Acker. All’s fair ….
There was a time when there was one. Now there are three. We’re talking Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair chairmen. Yes, there was one person in charge of all that’s fair, getting it started and keeping it going. That guy was James Acker back in the day a few decades ago from the late 1960s to early ’80s. Then it was Gary Verwilt, former longtime Knollwood School teacher.
Just when the guy in charge of the kitchen has retired, a pandemic comes along and obliterates the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and all that annual fine fair food. So, on the year without a fair, we look back again to our 2015 story of fair food, who did it all back in the day, what was done, how and who’s still cooking. Can you wait another year? The absence of fair food wafting through the air likely has everyone drooling for the next fair already … No one’s in the kitchen this year but the ghosts. They’re always there …
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.
The following piece was originally published in August of 2015. Here it is again, on the year without a fair, in honor of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and my mom, Sally Van Develde, to whom this site is dedicated along with my dad, Bill …
Growing up in Fair Haven with parents in the fire company, Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair time meant time spent inflating punch balls during the day and helium balloons at night.
On the historic year without the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, we offer a look back at some classic moments of the past five years, since R-FH Retro has been roving the grounds freezing snippets of time.
To anyone who has grown up in the Rumson-Fair Haven area, the fair is a reuniter, an end-of-summer community anchor, a generous memory giver. So, on the year without the fair, here’s a look back at the more recent past and best of moments among friends who became family in a place called home. Take the ride with us …
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 would have been running this week. On a historic summer without the fair, we remember how some fair traditions got started, like lost fair art of candy apple making, waffle ice cream sandwiches. Then there’s the art of spinning cotton candy, something that was formerly mastered and commandeered by the late Millie Felsmann, also the champ of candy apple making. This is how they did it and continue to do it at the fair … Until we meet again at the Out Back in 2021 …
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 from 2015, we touted her as the candy apple lady.
Well, she was — she was Candy, the candy apple lady. Yes, Candy had a lot do do with those candy apples — but Millie was the boss. She, along with her troupe of kids and Candy, Betty Acker and Mrs. Frank, started work on those apples as early as 6:30 a.m.. And, even further back, to 1965 or 66, Mrs. Topfer made those apples, too.
It’s something to steep in … the thought of any sort of Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair food. Many do all fair week long. This year the steeping is limited to visions of fried seafood combo, steamers and clam chowder dancing in their heads. They’re the kind of dreams a seasoned fair goer needs to dive into.
The bustle is hushed. The night remains still at the firehouse grounds. Trucks are in their place. There are no empty carnival rides, no tents, no fresh, sweet scents of cotton candy and fried fish wafting through the air. No one is cooking in the kitchen. All is quiet. Lights are out. A beacon in the mind’s eye casts shadows of decades before. The ghosts are all there, snuggled together on their grounds. They still came home. They are everywhere as we remember opening night of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, which would have been this Friday BB, on a historic year without the fair ...
The night is still. A light is on. Trucks are out of the bays. Cartoony faces and ghosts in empty seats on unassembled carnival rides stare back in the dark. Someone’s cooking at the Fair Haven firehouse. It’s fair time.