Over the generations, local families keep the state fair running

Here are just a few of the individuals who have been involved with the NJ state fair over the decades

Newton /
| 21 Jul 2021 | 05:03

Allison McDermott, Manager of NJ State Fair Agricultural Division

How long have you been involved with the fair?

This will be my 50th year at the fair, since my first time here was when I was 3 weeks old. My parents were and still are deeply involved. My mom was a groomer at the fair when I was a baby and she used to place me in a calf box when she worked. I pretty much grew up in the Sussex 4H club.

What’s your favorite part of the fair?

My favorite part of the fair is the agriculture. I remember the days when there were more cows than people in Sussex County. I love watching the 4-H kids show and seeing our future farmers.

What’s a favorite memory?

One of my favorite memories is the traditional rooster crowing that happens every year. It marks the start of the fair, since our mascot is the rooster. A gentleman comes up and crows like a rooster...one of those quirky things that makes the fair so much fun.

Mike Richards, Fairgrounds Manager

How long have you been involved with the fair?

I spent my childhood at the fair. My grandfather was part of the executive board of the fair in the 1970s and was heavily involved until the 90s. He helped to create the first permanent structure in fairgrounds, which is now named after him, called the Richards Building.

I am a retired police officer in Newton and have always assisted as a volunteer. In November 2019 I heard there was an opportunity as the manager of the fair, and threw my name in the hat, and then retired as a police officer.

What’s a favorite memory?

The time I spent with my grandfather. I remember he would walk at a really fast pace around the grounds, and he’d fix all different kinds of things on his way. He was a really cool guy to be around, and he always had stories and these witty remarks.

Jane Phillips, Cow Kids Showmanship Leader

How long have you been involved with the fair?

I’ve been working within the fairgrounds for around 45 years. My family are dairy farmers. About 35 years ago my older brother started showing off cattle and I started a little after him, and then my younger brother after me. When the next generation came along, my two nephews and niece even did dairy cows and beef cattle. We’ve all won a fair amount of prizes.

Joan Smith, NJ State Fair President

How long have you and your family been involved with the fair?

My family has been involved in the Fair since my father and his siblings were young 4-Hers. My Aunt, Vivian Hough, who is 94, saved all her ribbons and awards from the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show. They’ll be on display.

My father was a dairy farmer in Lafayette and with my mother they were members of the Sussex County Agricultural Society, SC Milk Producers and SC Board of Agriculture and planned many events at the Fair. They were part of the Livestock Committee that built all the barns, Livestock Pavilion and other permanent structures in the Agriculture Area.

The Snook Museum was built in memory of my father, Jack Snook, and was remodeled in memory of my mother, Barbara. The SC Ag Society has curated one of the largest displays of antique farm implements and equipment in NJ. My brother, Steve, and I oversee the museum along with the members of the Ag Society.

Tell us about your responsibilities.

As the President of the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show Association (the Fair), Covid presented many new challenges and roadblocks to the Fair Association, but I’m proud that we have overcome many and at the same time were able to help our community. Our goal is to educate and provide family friendly entertainment in the most inclusive way possible.

Dave Wright, Landscape Architect

Tell us about your involvement with the fair.

I have been actively involved with the fair since the early 1990’s. I grew up on a dairy farm and was in 4-H Dairy club. Most days were spent working on the farm. The fair was the closest thing to a vacation we had. We looked forward to showing our cows, riding the rides. Now I’m a Landscape Architect, involved with the landscape gardens show at the fair, and I was involved with the Creation of the Springfest Flower and Garden show, and served as Chairman for 20 years.

What’s your favorite part of the fair?

I always look forward to the Art show and the photography.

Lisa Chammings, Forage Division Director & 4-H Advisory Committee Vice Chair

How are you involved with the fair?

Originally my involvement was with the horse show and 4-H portion. I competed and my parents were always there to support me. My father, Ed, loved the tractor pull competitions and we often competed as a father/daughter team. I’m glad to see it is back this year.

What’s a favorite memory?

Honestly, one of my favorite memories would be watching how much my Mom loved to be behind the scenes working for something she believed was essential to our county and community. Her love spilled over to me.

Janice Bathgate, History Committee

How long has your family been involved with the fair?

My family has been involved since 1957 at the old fairgrounds in Branchville.

What’s a favorite memory?

In 1963 I sat on the hill by the Selective Risks Building and a young lady from Beemerville was crowned Queen of the Fair. I swear I saw the Mt. View Food Booth jump right up in the air with excitement!