Story and Photos by Scott D. Longfield
FREEHOLD — The Monmouth County Fair never had a chance to open for the last day on Sunday, July 29.
A fast-moving supercell storm that devastated parts of Freehold Township and Freehold Borough on Saturday, July 28, also caused heavy damage at the fairgrounds to the large tents that housed the entertainment venues and the 4H tents that sheltered animals and reptiles. No injuries were reported.
According to Karen Livingstone, a public information officer for the Monmouth County Park System, wind damaged 12 tents at the fairgrounds and made it impossible to repair them all by the next day so they had to close the fair on Sunday.
Early Saturday, storms started rolling in and by 12:30 p.m. the park system’s emergency weather team evacuated people attending the event. While some attendees waited in their cars, others left, perhaps hoping to be able to return later in the day or Sunday. The county fair was able to reopen at 5 p.m. Saturday but it was shut down again at 9:05 p.m. with the approach of more severe weather. An emergency evacuation plan was used and the fairgrounds were emptied out by 9:40 p.m.
By all accounts the storm was right out of a Hollywood movie. Heavy rains with winds more than 60 mph hit the fairgrounds so fast and intense that Herb Levens, a father with his kids and a corrall of 4H animals, said, “It sounded like a freight train coming through. The power went on and off. It was really scary.”
Levens’ children said one of their pigs got loose in the commotion. That in turn frightened one of their goats and everyone had a chore getting them both back into the safety of the pen.
All of the animals were safely evacuated from the fairgrounds by 1 a.m. Sunday.
Tom Sell, tent vendor from Fredrick, Md., had a close call during the storm. Sell’s house trailer was parked under some very large trees at the back of the fairgrounds and he escaped the fury with the clothes on his back.
Sell was getting up to check on the tents “when all hell broke loose. I heard the trees cracking, and within seconds a large tree smashed into my trailer and blew it apart,” he said. “Luckily I was not standing up or the story could have been worse.
“It was an experience that I will not forget,” Sell said.